Sen. Bernie Sanders saw his campaign for the presidency in Nevada end in narrow failure once before, and in an interview Saturday with the Review-Journal, he explained why he believes it will not happen again.
“We did well here last time,” Sanders said. “When I came here, I think a lot of people did not know who Bernie Sanders was. But we organized, we educated and we did everything we could. We ended up losing this state, but not by a lot. And my hope is that this time, with a great staff and an incredible number of volunteers, we’re going to win here.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended up beating Sanders by about five percentage points in the 2016 Nevada caucuses, gaining 20 pledged delegates to his 15.
Sanders said Nevada is “enormously important” to his plans for securing the 2020 nomination. He wryly and correctly noted that most of the more than two dozen 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are going to say that, and for good reason.
“We’ve got Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada and California,” Sanders said. “And my guess is that any candidate who does particularly well in those five states is going to be the nominee and the next president of the United States.”
Sanders said that when he last campaigned in Nevada, many of his cornerstone ideas — “Medicare for All,” free college tuition, the legalization of marijuana, a $15 minimum wage — were seen as “too radical.” State governments, American citizens and many Democratic politicians — including several of Sanders’ 2020 opponents — have since latched on to many of these ideas.
Many of the candidates now making their pitches to Nevadans for Medicare for All and other ideas he championed in 2016 are actually talking about very different versions of what he hopes to accomplish, Sanders said. He repeated that he “wrote the damn bill” on Medicare for All— a callback to his impassioned response to Ohio congressman Tim Ryan during this week’s debates.
Dropping Medicare age
His plan calls for a four-year period in which the minimum Medicare age would gradually drop until everyone was covered. It would also expand to cover vision, dental and hearing care.
Patients could choose any hospital or doctor without paying deductibles or premiums, and most people would pay less than they are currently paying for medical insurance, Sanders said.
Anything that doesn’t match those promises in not really Medicare for All, he added.
These remarks echoed those he shared Saturday afternoon at economic roundtable discussion with local progressive leaders and activists at The Center in downtown Las Vegas, where several hundred people packed a small auditorium to hear him speak.
Many of the attendees sang Sanders’ economic reform chorus through tales of six-figure student loan debt that had kept them from owning homes and starting families.
Some were struggling teachers who had turned to increasingly predatory payday loans to make ends meet. Others were paying thousands of dollars per month for prescription medication.
Sanders told the crowd that all of these issues — low pay, high-interest loans, medical bills — are intertwined in a web that keeps half of Americans living paycheck to paycheck.
Respect for rivals
The senator was also one of 19 Democratic presidential hopefuls to participate in a candidate forum Saturday in Las Vegas, hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
During the interview, Sanders said he respected and admired many of his opponents, some of whom are fellow senators. But he said his vision for economic and racial equality is still the best option for Nevada’s diverse communities and the population as a whole.
“I think what people have got to do in Nevada is take a hard look at the individual candidates and what they stand for,” Sanders said.
Voters need to look at Sanders’ record and plan for the country, he said, which is simply that people should have an economy and government that works for them rather than wealthy political donors. They should mark how he has voted for decades on climate change, income inequality, immigration and criminal justice reform.
“If they study my record and my vision for the future of America, I think most people will be comfortable in supporting me,” Sanders said.