AUSTIN -- The Lander County Lefty greets you just inside the tiny office of the Cozy Mountain Motel with a smile, the key to a clean and comfortable room, and a political opinion as sharp as a skinning knife.
The Bernie Sanders sticker on the motel office window indicates you’re not in just any Austin business, and Sarah Hruby clearly takes a certain pride in that fact. She’s owned the humble but lovable 12-room motor court with her partner, Brandon Falls, for the past three years after first seeing Austin from the cab of an 18-wheeler. She traded the long-haul trucker’s open road for a town of fewer than 200 that’s just off “America’s Loneliest Road,” US Highway 50.
Speaking of lonely, fewer than 550 of Lander County’s 3,171 active voters were registered Democrats as of April, according to the Nevada secretary of state. In that respect, Lander is typical of most of the state’s rural counties. And real liberals, the kind who call out for the Green New Deal and universal health care and think the Biden-Harris ticket is too stiff to make real change, are a far more endangered species around these parts than the Greater sage-grouse.
Unabashedly for Bernie, she registered as a Democrat and recalls being asked to canvass voters in Austin. Some doors hadn’t been knocked on for decades. And caucusing with the Democrats didn’t take long. In Lander County, she says, one lonesome Democrat she knows kept his party affiliation a secret. “He like confessed to being a Democrat to me,” she says, laughing. “It was like he was in the closet.”
What Hruby lacks in progressive allies, she makes up for in political clarity.
“We can argue all day long about the details of the policy, but we basically have to guarantee education, housing and health care to every single man, woman, and child in our country,” she says.
Bernie Sanders and the social democrats would be proud, but he didn’t win the Democratic Party’s nomination. That doesn’t mean Hruby will be one of those leftists who holds her nose and votes for Biden come November.
“I just think they haven’t done anything for the working class,” Hruby says. “I can’t imagine knocking on these doors in the general and trying to convince people to vote for a corporate Democratic Party. Let’s not even put a face to it right now. Not Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or anybody. How can you convince them that these policies that the Democrats espouse are helping them? Tell me one good policy that the Democrats have that is helpful for a working class person in Austin, Nevada? There just isn’t any.”
That doesn’t mean Trump will receive her vote.
“Trump’s a horrible, horrible person from what I can see,” she says. “… The damage that he’s done, I don’t even think you can quantify it. … Even with the specter of neo-liberal crimes, of which there are many, Donald Trump is a whole other ball of evil.”
What about voting for the lesser of two evils? That’s not good enough for the Lander Lefty. Potentially, that’s a problem for the Democrats.
Political analysts differ about the impact of Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s 1.07 percent of the national vote in 2016, but some argue that the ballots she won in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan might have made a difference for Hillary Clinton. Hruby voted for Stein.
The Florida result in the 2000 presidential election that sent George W. Bush to the White House is an easier call to make. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader collected 97,488 votes in Florida in a race decided by approximately 600 ballots.
Hruby knows those numbers and has heard the argument many times. She believes climate change won’t wait for Biden’s incremental measures.
“Joe Biden wouldn’t even consider banning fracking,” she argues. “You can look up this quote, ‘If you want to ban fracking, I’m not your guy.’ We need a Green New Deal and you don’t even want to ban fracking.” (Biden has stated that he favors banning new fracking permits.)
She does plan to vote, though, for Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins and his running mate Angela Walker. In case anyone’s still confused about where she stands she adds, “I don’t think anyone should take my criticism as coming from inside the Democratic Party. I’m not a Democrat. I’m a leftist.”
Say the far leftists won’t be a factor because the Democrats will turn out as never before – if only out of disgust for the incumbent. Just don’t tell that to Presidents Al Gore and Hillary Clinton.
While you’re at it, don’t tell the Lander County Lefty she’ll be casting her ballot into Austin’s icy November winds. She’s still feeling the Bern and plans to vote her conscience.
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal— “Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Amazon.com. Contact him at [email protected] On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith