Anti-Establishment Candidates Look For Footing In Nevada

Dec 23, 2019

With a wide Democratic field, many presidential candidates are struggling to connect with voters ahead of the 2020 Nevada Caucuses. The race is saturated. 

There are actually nine candidates polling under five percent in the state. We’re following along with the campaigns of some of the contenders as they try to build their base.

In order to meet one of these candidates, I’d like to take you to an unexpected place: a yoga studio in Sparks.

Take off your shoes.

Lay down the mat.

Nod to your neighbor.

Sit down cross legged.

The yoga studio owner asks you to begin by centering yourself.

“Now let’s just all take a deep breath in. And a long, and comfy breath out. And as we exhale, let’s set aside any tension,” the owner said.

But you’re not here to show off your downward dog or your pigeon pose. You’re actually here for another reason.

“... And so I’m introducing Marianne Williamson, and she is going to take it from here!”

Williamson, a spiritual author, clearly has a different approach to policy than her candidate peers. Williamson recently made this visit to around 50 supporters in Sparks. One of her goals is to address adverse childhood experiences, through creating a new department in the federal government.

“One of my major pillars is the vulnerabilities, the challenges, the constant trauma of America’s children,” Williamson said in her stump speech. “That’s what I’ve been talking about. I’ve been talking about the department of children and youth. But that’s not what the establishment wants to talk about. There are no corporate profits there.”

Leigh Hurst was at the event. She lives in Spanish Springs. Hurst said she wants to caucus for Williamson.

“I truly believe that with her teachings and her mindset, she can open up people’s minds to live in a new world,” Hurst said.

Many attendees said they are planning on caucusing for the first time. And their support is going to Williamson. Her anti-establishment take is what appeals to them.

But the latest statewide polls indicate that about one tenth of one percent of voters are actually pledging support for WIlliamson. In fact, she’s dead last in the race compared to the 13 other candidates counted by the election website FiveThirtyEight.

Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang is doing a little better, according to polls. He’s polling at just over three percent in the Nevada, despite not visiting any other place in the state except the Las Vegas metro area.

At a Reno bar, a group of supporters cheer on Andrew Yang at the December Democratic Presidential Debate.

At a Yang debate watch party in Reno last week, around 25 people attended, many of them sporting hats that said “MATH”’--which stands for one of his campaign slogans--’Make America Think Harder.’  

Many people at the event said that the automation of American jobs is a concern for them. That’s something Yang specifically addresses with his proposed universal basic income. This would guarantee $1000 a month to all Americans over 18. Yang says this would be paid for through a 10 percent value added tax.

“For me that was one of the factors that drove me to the Yang campaign,” said Ceasar Marquez, who works at the Tesla gigafactory in Storey County. “At Tesla, we’re making the trucks that are going to be replacing 3.5 million truck drivers. And nobody else is talking about it. And when I first heard Yang, it kind of just connected those dots. It’s like, ‘Wow! This is really important.’”

“It’s kind of bizarre that Yang is the only one to really talk about automation,” Tsaid another debate party attendee, Cayman Levonian. “Once it’s cheaper to automate a job away, in our current economy, there’s no reason that it wouldn’t be automated.”

Levonian voted in California’s primary for 2016, but now that he’s moved to Nevada, he plans on caucusing for Yang. If another democratic candidate ends up on November’s ballot, he would vote for them. He simply wants Trump out of office.

“I don’t think Trump is the best that we can do,” Levonian said.

But for Ceasar Marquez--the Tesla worker--ideas that are outside of the box are important to him.

“And this is something that I feel like I can relate to Trump supporters,” Marquez said. “You know, they’re just tired of the same old politics. The same old spiels that gets done. The same corruption. And that’s why I’m leaning towards the outsider.”

With less than two months left until Nevada’s caucus, there are multiple outsider candidates still in the race. But at the moment they are trailing behind Joe Biden, who is polling at nearly 27 percent in the state. He’s followed by Bernie Sanders with more than 20 and Elizabeth Warren with more than 14 percent.