The Nevada primaries of the current presidential election cycle have proved to have complex and drawn-out consequences for the Democratic Party. This sample politics essay explores the Nevada primaries and what the implications are as the election cycle moves into the future. The essay will have five main parts.
- Consider the results of the Nevada primaries on the Republican side
- Describe the results of the original primaries on the Democratic side
- Consider what happened at the county convention that followed the original primaries
- Discuss what happened at the state convention that followed the county convention
- Reflect on what this all means for the Democratic Party as the current election cycle moves forward
The Republican side
On the Republican side, the Nevada primary turned into a huge victory for Trump. This is how Silver and Enten have summarized the matter:
Let’s get right to the point: Donald Trump had a great night, easily winning the Nevada GOP caucuses on Tuesday. The 46 percent of the vote he received is by far the highest share won by Trump, or any other Republican, in any state so far. (paragraph 1)
This is a fairly straightforward and uncontroversial result. (It is uncontroversial at the technical level, anyway, leaving aside the controversy inherent in Trump meeting with such success in the first place.) Little further discussion is needed in order to understand the significance of these results.
More generally, Trump’s 2016 campaign grew support over the course of the past few months as the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. This has caused excitement among the grassroots supporters of Trump; on the other hand, it has also provoked laments from a wide range of stakeholders across the political spectrum, including the Republican Party itself. Indeed, the intelligentsia within the GOP—that is, the people who are actually committed to the Party at the ideological level—have begun to state that the GOP is now actually dead, due to the hostile takeover of the Party that Trump has successfully carried out. (A quick scan of Google reveals tragicomic images of dead elephants.)
On the other hand, the enemies of the Republican Party may feel a certain kind of sardonic glee over the success that Trump has experienced, due to the perception that there is no way that Trump would actually be able to win the general election come November. However, Trump has defied all expectations thus far, and it would clearly be unwise for the Democrats to take him too lightly over the course of the following months leading up to the general election for the next president of the United States.
The Original primaries
The results of the Democratic primary in Nevada, on the other hand, has proven to be much more complex and fraught. The two candidates competing for the Democratic nomination for the presidency are, of course, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The original primary in Nevada occurred back in February.
Gill has written, “in February, 55% of the people who caucused in Clark County picked Clinton; 45% picked Sanders. Clark County counts for more than two-thirds of the state delegates” (paragraph 7).
So, Clinton beat Sanders at the original primary within this major county by a margin of 10 percentage points; and this meant that she won the delegates from this county, thereby defeating Sanders within the state of Nevada as a whole.
cThe county Convention
The nature of the Democratic caucus process in Nevada, however, is such that in order for the candidate who won the delegates to actually receive those delegates, the delegates must show up at their relevant county convention and cast their vote in accordance with the votes received by each candidate in the original February primary. And this is where the race between Hillary Clinton and Sanders has become highly contested and controversial. As Snyder has put the matter:
Ideally, the process is supposed to look like a Matroyshka doll—smaller amounts of delegates at each step of the process, but retaining the same proportions of the initial February caucus. . . . But that didn’t happen at the Clark County (Las Vegas) convention in early April, as the Sanders campaign had 2,964 delegates show up compared to 2,386 for Clinton. (paragraph 11)
For one reason or another, many of the delegates who were pledged to Clinton actually failed to show up at the county convention.
There has been a great deal of acrimony between the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign regarding this turn of events. The practical result, though, was Sanders now had more delegates attending the state level convention (where the Nevada votes would formally be awarded to one candidate or the other) than Clinton. This led Sanders’ supporters to make claims that Sanders had “actually” won Nevada.
Factually speaking, though, this claim was somewhat misleading. For one thing, it was still the case that Clinton had defeated Sanders by 10 percentage points during the original primary in February. If Sanders were to have won Nevada, then, this would have been due more to strange irregularities in the Nevada Democratic primary process than anything else. Moreover, it was unclear whether even this flip would have been able to lead Sanders to an actual numerical victory in terms of delegate count at the final Nevada state convention.
The state convention
By all accounts, the Nevada Democratic state convention that occurred in May was a ruckus. The event went on for at least three hours longer than it was supposed to, and Stuart has indicated:
“According to various reports, Sanders supporters yelled, threw chairs and booed Clinton surrogate Barbara Boxer, incensed by a process they saw as rigged in Clinton’s favor. Clinton backers responded by calling for the disruptive Sanders delegates’ arrest” (paragraph 2).
This was unusually violent and acrimonious even for a closely contested electoral race of this kind. This anger would seem to be a broader part of the basic view of the Sanders campaign that all of society is essentially corrupt, and that Sanders, as an outsider candidate, is being locked out of a fair fight for the Democratic presidential nomination due to the entrenched Democratic establishment’s overwhelming support for the insider candidate Clinton. Some consider Clinton’s background in politics as proof she will be the best choice.
In any event, it would seem that Clinton did win the Nevada state convention. As Foran has reported, this is part of why the conflicts described above ran so high in the first place:
Tensions between Clinton and Sanders are running especially high after the former secretary of state edged out the Vermont senator in a competition for delegates at the Nevada State Democratic Convention over the weekend. Chaos broke out amid protests from Sanders supporters that party officials rigged the process in Clinton’s favor. (paragraph 2)
Who to believe in the primaries
An objective analysis of the situation, however, would seem to indicate that no such rigging occurred. The simple truth is that the state convention was governed by a complex set of rules and that the Sanders campaign tried and failed to take advantage of these rules in order to achieve victory within the state of Nevada. Moreover, Clinton’s victory at the state convention was reflective of her victory in the original primary; it was actually Sanders’ victory at the county level that was the real anomaly in this whole process.
Sanders has come under fire for the attitude of and tactics used by his supporters at the Nevada state convention, but Sanders has adopted a defiant posture in response to these charges. As Werner has reported:
Under pressure from Democratic Party leaders to denounce ugly tactics by his supporters, Sen. Bernie Sanders instead struck back with a defiant statement Tuesday that dismissed complaints from Nevada Democrats as ‘nonsense’ and asserted that his backers were not being treated with “fairness and respect.” (paragraph 1)
There are thus two radically conflicting perspectives here on what actually happened at the Nevada state convention. From the perspective of the Clinton campaign, Sanders’ supporters were acting like hooligans who had no respect for the rule of law; from the perspective of Sanders’ campaign, Clintons’ supporters were using their entrenched power to lock the outsider candidate out of a fair fight for the nomination. Democratic demographic reports show the candidates had vastly different followers. What one will choose to believe about this situation will probably depend on which candidate one personally prefers oneself.
Reflection on the future
The objective fact is that the Nevada state convention was a dramatic and ugly event, even by the standards of highly contested conventions of this nature (see Bump). This raises considerable concern over what is going to happen within the Democratic Party as the general election in November approaches. In particular, the events in Nevada (and Sanders’ response to those events) give one reason to believe that the acrimony between Clinton and Sanders will only continue to escalate as the national Party convention comes closer.
It would seem that Sanders is shooting for a contested convention through which he may be able to pull off an upset against Clinton. In any event, though, if Sanders does lose as expected, then it is unclear whether his supporters would actually continue to support the Democratic Party, or if they would attempt to act as a third force in order to make the Party implode on itself.
This ironically mirrors the current state of affairs within the Republican Party. Over there, the outsider candidate Trump has actually taken over the Party and stimulated a high voter support rate; and though there has been some speculation about whether his Republican enemies will field a third-party candidate and thereby ensure his loss in the November general election. It would seem, though, that most Republican stakeholders have grown resigned to the death of their traditional Party. On the Democratic side, the insider candidate Clinton has thus far successfully resisted the threat of the outsider candidate Sanders.
However, given the great hostility that many Sanders supporters evidently feel toward Clinton, it is entirely possible that instead of supporting Clinton if she were to win the nomination, they would instead focus their efforts on just making her lose at all costs. If this were to happen, then Trump’s prospects for the presidency of the United States could potentially begin to look dangerously good. In any event, there would seem to be a split growing within the Democratic Party that is almost as serious the one that has already caused the implosion of the Republican Party.
In summary, the present essay has consisted of an analysis of what really happened at the Nevada primaries. On the Republican side, it was just a straightforward win for Trump. On the Democratic side, though, the contest was marked by significant reversals, with Clinton winning the original primary, then Sanders winning a major county convention, then Clinton again winning the final state convention. This unfolding of events has caused a great deal of animosity to develop between the Clinton campaign and the Sanders campaign, to the point that it may now be reasonable to begin having serious concerns over the ongoing integrity of the Democratic Party over the course of the next several months. All that can said is that we shall all see what will happen.
Bump, Philip. “Here’s What Happened at Saturday’s Dramatic Nevada Convention.” Washington Post. 15 May 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/05/15/heres-what-happened-at-saturdays-dramatic-nevada-democratic-convention/.
Foran, Clare. “Is the Democratic Primary Really Rigged?” The Atlantic. 17 May 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/05/is-the-democratic-primary-really-rigged/483168/.
Gill, Kathy. “What Just Happened in Nevada? Did Sanders Suddenly Beat Clinton?” The Moderate Voice. 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. http://themoderatevoice.com/what-just-happened-in-nevada/.
Silver, Nate, and Harry Enten. “Nevada Was Great for Donald Trump, Bad for Ted Cruz.” FiveThirtyEight. 24 Feb. 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/nevada-caucus-results-donald-trump-2016-republican-primary/.
Snyder, Riley. “No, Bernie Sanders Didn’t Retroactively Win Nevada.” PolitFact Nevada, 7 Apr. 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. http://www.politifact.com/nevada/statements/2016/apr/07/blog-posting/no-bernie-sanders-didnt-retroactively-win-nevada/.
Stuart, Tessa. “WTF Happened at the Nevada Democratic State Convention?” Rolling Stone. 17 May 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/wtf-happened-at-the-nevada-democratic-state-convention-20160517.
Werner, Erica. “Sanders Issues Defiant Statement Under Pressure over Ruckus.” Associated Press. 17 May 2016. Web. 1 Jun. 2016. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/bd8b6ba80de446a09ba25fc56d9599a1/pall-nevada-fracas-hangs-over-democratic-contest.