The Reid Machine.
The phrase is almost cinematic, evoking images of a tall, lanky, frail looking but improbably powerful gray haired man, lifting his staff, Gandalf-like, high above his head, decreeing, “Nevada shall be Democratic,” followed by a lightning strike that leads us to the swearing in ceremony of Jacky Rosen.
Harry Reid represented Nevada as a U.S. Senator from 1987 to 2017. He led Senate Democrats as both majority and minority leader, putting his stamp on some of the most consequential legislation of the early 21st century. He also created the vision that resulted in a blue Nevada in 2016 and 2018.
But the realization of that vision isn’t some magical phenomenon that is beyond human comprehension.
It’s the result of a lot of hard work and coordination. And some key visionaries, like Rebecca Lambe and Megan Jones.
The Nevada Forward is going to look at the organizations and people who make up the Reid Machine, highlighting one per month.
This month, we’re starting with Battle Born Progress, the sister organization to the Nevada Forward.
Battle Born Progress wasn’t always Battle Born Progress. It started out as Progress Now Nevada Action in 2009 – part of a nationwide organization of state affiliated progressive action groups. Today, there are 22 different such organizations.
They don’t have a national agenda. They simply have a mandate to amplify progressive issues and voices. Each state organization has people on the ground, communicating the progressive message and helping to coordinate people in their own states.
The thinking is that each state is different. What works in Nevada is not what might work in Michigan or Colorado. What’s the same is the focus on people on the ground, and making sure progressive messages are part of the Collective Unconscious that people see every day – not just in election years.
And the thinking when Annette Magnus became executive director in 2013, was that it sorely needed branding that was closer to what Nevada stands for. Battle Born Progress was born.
Now, here’s the thing. “Progress” is in the name of the organization, but Battle Born Progress is stubbornly non-partisan. “Progress does not have an ideology,” said Magnus, noting that Nevada epitomizes the idea of people of different points of view working together to solve shared problems.
Public land issues are just as important to Republicans in Nevada as they are to Democrats. You will find no leader in Nevada in either party who does not lament the state of education.
“Politicians of both parties come and go but issues are forever,” said Maria-Teresa Liebermann, deputy director of Battle Born Progress. “Non-partisan organizations are necessary to hold all elected officials accountable on the issues that matter.”
But only conservative organizations got their message across in 2014, when a paltry 37 percent of Democrats voted, turning the legislature and the governor’s office solidly red.
Some of that was just where the country was at that time, according to Megan Jones, who worked for Reid and now runs a political consulting firm. She points out that the nationalistic fury that propelled Trump into office in 2016 started in 2014.
It also didn’t help that the top of the ticket was a popular Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, and nobody wanted to run against him.
But, says both Jones and Magnus, that served as a wake-up call, that then led to Democratic wins in 2016 and 2018.
“That red wave taught us that we must build a strong infrastructure so that progressives are working towards common goals to win,” said Magnus.
And where did Magnus want to start?
“There was no good communications infrastructure on the left side, so we needed to get our act together.”
That meant bringing various progressive organizations together, to sit around a table, King Arthur style, and coordinate their messages.
The Table, as Nevada progressive leaders call it, is a group of progressive organizations that serve different constituencies. We will examine different members of the table in the coming months.
What Battle Born does, though, is make sure their messages are coordinated, and specific to the people the groups represent.
“If we were just on our own, stepping on each other’s toes, in the field or in communication, we wouldn’t be anywhere,” said Liebermann. She’s in charge of the communications hub, making sure that not only do toes not get stepped on, but everybody moves forward.
“The purpose of the ‘comms hub’ is to be very targeted about what organizations are talking to who, understanding what the messages are to different groups,” said Liebermann. “It’s not just knocking on their door and asking them to go out and vote, it’s giving people the resources and tools that allow them to engage people where they are.
“Educated voters make better decisions at the ballot box,” she added.
2019 Legislative Session
Liebermann’s job hasn’t stopped since the election in November. The table is gearing up for the 2019 legislative session. And they intend to hold Nevada lawmakers to the promises they made to progressive voters.
“Our coalition is what got us here,” said Liebermann. “Our legislators and decision makers understand that these organizations that are advocating for these issues worked to get them up there.”