Capitalism at its worst: Let older Americans die!

As the novel coronavirus rages, many business leaders are concerned, the U.S. economy is in free fall, and the rest of the world economy is sinking. Business leaders are scared as they seek ways to keep the economy alive.

Trillions of dollars have been wiped out of the stock market, people are staying in their homes, and they are not shopping. And, workers are laid off by the millions. The economy came to a grinding halt when the virus began to spread very rapidly. The challenges that this country and the world at large are facing are of biblical proportions.

It is argued by some economists, that containing the virus successfully and having no economy will make no sense. Having major economic problems will lead to worse health problems; these business people appear to be telling Trump. People in financial distress will "commit suicides."  "We have to go back to work," Trump told reporters.  What Trump might have tried to articulate in this media presentation was that he, as a leader, had the responsibility to conceptualize what are the potential costs of shutting down the economy.  Clearly, he believes that those costs are astronomical.

The premises of these questions in this conversation are rational and within the scope of what should be discussed by leaders in societies when they are facing tremendous challenges.  However, then stupidity emerged, and some people suggested the many older Americans or grandparents are disposable and that in the name of patriotism, they should sacrifice their lives "for keeping the America we all love for their grandchildren."

Yes, it is the survival of the fittest. After all, older Americans are so vulnerable, and they will eventually get the virus and die. So what is the point of shutting down the economy and asking people to stay home to save them?  Moreover, these older folks will also add more stress to our healthcare system. They will put healthcare professionals at risk and will prolong this deadly virus from being contained, these appalling people are suggesting.

This is a grotesque conversation for sure; it reinforces all the evils about capitalism that socialists frequently denounce.  It appears that it has already been decided that this economy cannot be reopened in  "a virus-safe way.” At the core of this conversation is the major assumption that older Americans are the most vulnerable to this virus, and younger Americans are somehow safer.  This findings are still not conclusive. There have been reports that young people are dying too in this and other countries. We need to conduct more analyses and have more clarity as to who is at higher risk across the age spectrum.

A leading voice against the president's comment was New York's, Governor Andrew Cuomo.  People will always "choose pubic health over the economy." Human life should always be more valuable than trying to boost our economic system. "Neither my mother nor your mother should be expendable; he told reporters.

A couple of weeks ago, President Trump point-blank said that he was gravely concerned about the economy being utterly destroyed by the coronavirus. He told a group of reporters that he was expecting people in this country to go back to normalcy by Easter. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15 days, we will decide as to which way we want to go,” he asserted.  Then, he answered questions from reporters, "The holiday would be a beautiful time to have packed churches, he told them.  It was the utter opposite of what doctors have been saying; doctors are asking people to avoid gathering in crowds during the pandemic.

Almost immediately, President Trump was mocked.  His comments were interpreted as he was asserting, "the sick will rise from their beds and the dead from their graves on Easter and they will run to the malls in this country and will shop until they get sick and die again. Since then, he has modified his position.

The President's comments sparked a forceful debate among economists, health officials, and politicians, mostly governors who thought that it was insane to ask people to go back to normal.

Worrying about the economy at this point might very well be counterproductive and self-destructive, endeavoring to identify solutions to end this pandemic can be the best way to strengthening the foundation of our economy. Collectively this country is nowhere close in containing this pandemic.  It is not clear if the government truly knows the number of people infected.  Since not that many people have been tested for the lack of test kits.  We woefully lack the protective equipment needed for our health professionals, and yes, we need ventilators to save lives.

Rather than start extrapolating what the future holds for our economy, we should use the power of the market place and forcefully enforce the "The Defense Production Act."  We should mass-produce ventilators, face-masks, gowns, gloves that are desperately needed in this crisis.

Our leaders should know that crises will not only take place but also understand that these crises will always have competing interests.  The challenge then becomes how do we protect the national interest or public interest at the same time trying to strike a balance among all the competing interests involved.

Public health officials want us to exercise social distancing, and those concerned about the economy want us to gather at malls and shop.  These two principles conflict and will require creative and visionary leadership to balance them. Trump does not know how to deal with this, and it is clear that his business background is driving his comments.

Who would have thought three months ago that our entire planet was going to be paralyzed by a virus? Both developed and underdeveloped countries have been walloped.

The latest numbers: "More than a million people have been diagnosed with the virus worldwide, as the death toll surpassed roughly 51,000 while about 208,000 patients recovered."

Moreover, our leaders should prepare us for the next pandemic, so we do not have to lock down the entire country. If we are serious about defending this country, then more resources need to be appropriated to battle future plagues more effectively.  Otherwise, the whole planet will be brought to a halt every other five years by pandemics.

Our leaders should think ahead and proactively prepare this country to confront future epidemics and pandemics. Next time around, we should be ready for the worst-case scenario.  In hindsight, spending a couple of hundred billion dollars now looks like pocket change in light of all the trillions of dollars spent and the thousands of lives lost.

Finally, this pandemic is testing this country's ability to manage resources to contain this virus while protecting the weakest and the poorest among us.  It is also testing its "competence" and its "compassion." So far, the U.S. is miserably failing on these three fronts.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Sources consulted.

Concha, Joe. "Glenn Beck: 'I'd rather die' from coronavirus 'than kill the country' from an economic shutdown." thehill.com 25 March 2020.
Heffernan, Virginia. "Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom deliver the leadership and straight talk Trump won’t." Los Angeles Times 26 March 2020.
Katz, David L. "Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?" The New York Times 20 March 2020.
Kim, Victoria. "Will we ever bounce back from social distancing?" Los Angeles Times 27 March 2020.
Megerian, Chris and Sarah D. Wire.  "Trump Warns of Hard Weeks Ahead."  Los Angeles Times 1, April 2020.
O'Connor, Lydia. "Billionaires Want People Back At Work, Even If It Kills Them." huffpost.com 25 March 2020.
Roberts, Chris. "Ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Calls On America to Return to Work ‘Within a Few Weeks."  Observer.com 24 March 2020.
Schumpeter, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. 3d ed. 1942. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1950.
Summers, Lawrence. Interview by Judy Woodruff. PBS-Newshour 26 March 2020. Television.


The Poor And The COVID-19 Pandemic

If one is poor, the chances for this individual to catch the coronavirus or die from it increase exponentially. The corrosive inequalities in American society are deep and broad. These inequalities don't only worsen the spread of this lethal virus, but they also worsen the consequences.

It is true that COVID-19 doesn't discriminate; several wealthy people and politicians have been infected. Nonetheless, avoiding the virus successfully or trying to be tested after showing well-known symptoms might hinge on one's place in the economic system.

Wealthy individuals have resources that can easily be deployed to protect themselves from this pandemic. The most effective way for people to protect themselves from the virus is to avoid contact with the outside world.  This can easily be done by wealthy individuals.  Poor people can't do that. Some of them have to go to work with high risk older adults who might have serious underlying medical conditions.

Locally in Los Angeles, businesses that the government considers "non-essential" are closed. Educational institutions, universities, community colleges, and K-12 schools have all shut down too. Streets and freeways are scarily empty.  And late this afternoon, UCLA announced that its graduation ceremonies scheduled for the summer will be conducted virtually.

Mayor Garcetti in Los Angeles goes live every other day asking Angelenos to stay home. Many people appreciate the efforts made by civic leaders and healthcare officials.  If you are blessed to have a profession or work in companies that do financial activities, you will easily follow these instructions.  But that message is grossly inadequate and falls on deaf ears on those living in poverty in Los Angeles.  Workers want to know how they will pay their rents and how they will feed their families.

The large service-oriented economy in Los Angeles has been hit hard by this pandemic.  Leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and companies in the "gig economy" employ large swaths of people in this city. Businesses in these industries have laid off many workers in the last two weeks.  The majority of these low wage workers have been surviving paycheck to paycheck.  They have been one paycheck away from going homeless. Also, they have no health insurance, and many of them work in the "gig economy."  It is not within the realm of possibilities for these workers to stay home. The current economic infrastructure in place limits the ability for healthcare and government officials to contain or to mitigate COVID-19's casualties.

Financial relief for workers in these industries must be part of the overall strategy in fighting against this pandemic.  Postponing evictions or setting up "The Angeleno Fund" gives a false sense of protection.
We need more aggressive financial relief. Mayor Garcetti should use this city's credit rating to borrow money while the federal government negotiates its financial relief.

And then we have testing for COVID-19, which has shed light on the pervasive privileges enjoyed by wealthy individuals.

If one wants to see how dysfunctional or biased the current system is, he/she should try to get the coronavirus test.  He/she will be advised to call his doctor; the doctor will ask him/her many questions. And in the end, this individual will be asked to just quarantine himself without a test being given to him/her.  Unless this person is unable to breathe and is hospitalized, only then he/she might be given a test.

It is an outrage seeing captains of industry, politicians, entire basketball teams, Hollywood elite, and other wealthy individuals being tested. In contrast, regular folks who might genuinely need the test are not able to get one. Some of these influential people are getting preferential treatment through concierge doctors. These doctors in these concierges provide services to wealthy patients at many medical centers, such as Cedar-Sinai and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. This blatant elitism and preferential treatment should not be tolerated.

A news organization reported that a Santa Monica pediatrician was selling cheek-swab tests for $250.00. Parents could buy this test even if their kids were not symptomatic.  This is so infuriating as folks with real symptoms but with lesser means have to get to the back of the line.

Shamefully, we have a healthcare system that treats the wealthy, well-connected, and not sick better than it treats the critically-ill poor.

Healthcare workers provide comprehensive procedures to COVID-19 infected patients by inserting breathing tubes in the patients' windpipe filled with infected saliva.  These healthcare professionals should not only be a top priority in getting tested; they should also be given adequate protective gear to treat infected patients.

Rich folks must somehow understand that basic enduring principle that protecting themselves means that they should also make sure everyone else is protected.   Dr. King got it right when he made that urgent call on us to understand that we exist in "an inescapable network of mutuality." We are all in this together. We won't be able to meet the moment if we continue to marginalize some of our fellow citizens, non-citizens, and the hardworking undocumented immigrants in our communities.

The latest report: COVID-19 has infected 422,614 people worldwide, and roughly 19,000 have died. The coronavirus started in Wuhan China and traveled, at the speed of light, to all corners of the globe, COVID 19 has paralyzed the planet.

The events in the last two weeks have defied our comprehension.  Many of us are still wrapping our minds around this pandemic and how it has upended civilization. Yes, we are trying to make sense of the dimensions of this profound societal interruption and extrapolating about what the future holds. We are not sure about the future, but we should try to help each other out.

Drastic times require drastic actions, deferring mortgage payments, foreclosure, and evictions are just prolonging the misery.  Rather than delaying all these payments from those in the lower end of the economic strata, these payments should be forgiven for at least three months. If we are serious about staving off the plague imposing a quarantine is not enough, we should also provide financial relief to the poorest among us.

Social solidarity should be as contagious as this virus that has kept us confused, dazed, and at home for the last two weeks.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Sources Consulted.
Elmahrek, Adam, Amy Kaufman, and Ben Poston.  "Doctors selling tests to select patients." Los Angeles Times 23 March 2020.
McNulty, Charles.  "Mastering the art of doing nothing."  Los Angeles Times 22 March 2020.
Penney, Joe. "African nations turn their tables, imposing travel restrictions against the U.S. Europe, and China to stave off Coronavirus." The Intercept 15 March 2020.
Smith, Allan.  "Rand Paul says amid criticism that more Americans should be able to get tested for coronavirus."  nbcness.com 23 March 2020.
Tsui, Bonnie. "Coronavirus exposes America, the beautiful and the ugly." San Francisco Chronicle 14 March 2020.
Twohey, Megan, Steve Eder and Marc Stein "Need a Coronavirus Test? Being Rich and Famous May Help." The New York Times 18 March 2020.


Can Joe Biden Save The Republic?

The world continues to shift right beneath us. We are no longer sure which reality to believe in anymore. A reality on the ground that many agree on is that Joe Biden has clinched the Democratic nomination.

Biden's three immediate goals: unite the party, develop a political platform and immediately start thinking about a competent running mate who can help mobilize voters for the major election against Trump.

Uniting the party is essential if the democrats want to control the White House. So what should Biden do in bringing together the different factions in the party?  Not too long ago, the party's rank and file members would have closed ranks once a candidate had clinched the nomination. It looks like some of this has taken place as candidates with no clear path to victory suspended their campaigns.  Support for the former Vice President has begun to coalesce around him in force.

Constructing a political platform that can motivate people will not be an easy task.  It has to be a platform filled with progressive policy proposals that excite all the rank and file Democrats. It is not clear if this is doable, taking into account Biden's legislative record.

Biden argues, that although he is a moderate Democrat, he has presented position papers filled with more progressive policy proposals than the ones Obama and Hilary presented when they ran for the presidency. Biden is for more taxes for the rich and tuition-free public colleges and universities, at least for those families making less than $125,000.00.  On healthcare, the former Vice President would not touch private insurance, although he promises to embrace a federal program for anyone who wants it.

Biden's vision must inspire confidence for better days, must have a well-crafted message, and a well-thought-out plan of action. Joe Biden should not struggle in articulating a coherent narrative that can strike in contrast to the incumbent President.

In a conventional Democratic Presidential Primary, Biden would probably have not succeeded in winning the party's nomination. Moderate Democrats cannot bear another four years of Trump's nonsense, corruption, and indecency.

Joe Biden's major challenge going toe to toe with Trump is defending his legislative record of forty-four years. He spent 36 years as US Senate and eight years as Vice President.  Many progressives find Biden's legislative record problematic.  He opposed school busing that aimed at ending desegregation in the 1970s; he voted against gay marriage in the 1990s, and he supported legislation that massively incarcerated many black and brown folks.

Another challenge for the Vice President, as a child suffered from the speech impediment of stuttering. He was bullied and humiliated as he dealt with this problem. As an adult, he continues to stutter. Biden fumbles for the right word and quickly forgets things while campaigning.  His detractors called him a "Senile." Speech experts claim that his challenges with stuttering "do not explain all his verbal oddities." The struggle is real; during the primaries, Biden has had difficulties navigating while giving speeches. At one point, he even had problems remembering Obama's name, and he just identified him as "the last guy."

Of course, the non-conformists will argue that there are no differences between Trump and Biden. But, there are, for starters, when it comes to social and cultural issues and judicial nominations, the candidates offered starkly different options. At the very least, progressives can pressure Biden. Trump cannot be pressured, he will not only just laugh at them, but he will also try to destroy them at every opportunity he has.

Whom should he select for his running mate? The operative assumption here is that Joe Biden will choose a woman, fulfilling the promise he made while debating Sanders a couple of weeks ago.  In that debate, Biden assertively told the audience that he was selecting a woman.  Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Elizabeth Warren are clearly in this shortlist of potential running mates.  Senator Klobuchar might help to disrupt the loyalty that some white voters have for Trump in those swing states in the midwest.

On the other hand,  selecting Elizabeth Warren can animate the left, those lefties outside Sanders' tent.  They love her exceptional skills in connecting her personal stories with policy proposals. Warren can also bring tons of electricity to the campaign.

There are other possible choices of well-qualified women of color being mentioned, such as Senator Kamala Harris, former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro of Nevada and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan.  This is a complicated dilemma for Biden in choosing a running mate as he also needs to court voters of color.

There were frustrations and anger in this Democratic presidential primary. Progressives are not that happy with Washington's career politicians. They equally abhor the masters of the universe from Wall Street. Nonetheless, democratic voters had to decide whether to vote for Sanders, whose policies they agree with or to vote for Biden, a moderate "corporate" democrat. Sanders, it was argued, had zero chance of beating Trump.  While Bidden has a real shot in winning in November. They decided to support the former Vice President with the hope that once Trump is replaced, they will revisit some of Sanders' progressive ideas.

Democratic voters were scared to death as their lives have been upended by the Coronavirus.  The entire economic system was grinding to a halt before their eyes.  They were in no mood for ideological ax-grinding and pie in the sky proposals that had zero chance of seeing the light of day.  They wanted a more steady voice coming from the White House in these times of crisis.

The Democratic Party and its leaders are under no illusion that beating Trump is going to be a walk in the park.  They are gearing up for what they call "the most consequential election of our times." They are all dissecting the election of 2016, and they have vowed not to make the same monumental mistakes that Hillary made.

The groundwork has been laid out; this election is clearly about the direction of the nation. Joe Biden must make the urgent case that this country is on the verge of losing its soul, its democratic institutions, and its civility among Americans under Trump.  He should convince voters that four more years of Trump will be detrimentally lethal to this nation. The gloves are off, and Democrats are ready to engage in an all-out cultural war for the soul of this country.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Sources Consulted.
Hill Seth. "Can Biden beat Trump? Michigan’s swing districts offer good clues. Los Angeles Times 17 March 2020.
Hook, Janet. "The burden of a 40-year career: Some of Joe Biden’s record does not age well." Los Angeles Times 18 March 2019.
---, and Evan Halper. "Biden says he wants a female running mate. Who? Los Angeles Times 16 March 2020.
McManus, Doyle.  "Joe Biden could learn from Ronald Reagan." Los Angeles Times 18 March 2020.
Roche, Dan. "What others see as Joe Biden’s mental slips, I see as the tricks of a master stutterer." Los Angeles Times 19 March 2020.
Thomas, Ken, and Eliza Collins. "Biden-Sanders Relationship to Guide Next Phase in Democratic Race." The Wall Street Journal 19 March 2020.


How Can The Most Powerful Nation On The Planet Be So Woefully Unprepared?

The stock market was booming, a Jewish socialist was on the verge of winning the Democratic presidential nomination and all of a sudden, in December of 2019 reports from China told the world the Chinese health officials had detected a new outbreak.  It was a disease that later became known as  COVID-19 CoronaVirus, one of the most lethal public health challenges of this generation.

Although the outbreak of this virus started in China, it has moved to other countries at the speed of light. A significant number of confirmed cases were reported in South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, Japan, Germany, and Spain.  The epicenter of the problem has moved to European countries, which triggered Trump's decision to ban travel from Europe for 30 days.  Dr. Anthony Faucci and Dr. Robert Redfield, both of them well-respected experts when they appeared before the Oversight Committee agreed with the ban. According to these doctors, "70 percent of new infections in the world are coming from that region. And of the 35 or more states that have infections, 30 of them now, more recently, have gotten them from a travel-related-case from that Europe."

This is what we know so far, the virus can reproduce itself many times.  It starts with a common cold that infects the sinuses and the throat. Then, the virus spreads into the cells of the airways and lungs. The virus has the power to damage the lungs, and people infected will immediately have problems breathing.  In the process of our immune system fighting back, this virus can damage our blood cells, and they may begin to leak fluid into the lung tissues. These new sets of problems may lead to pneumonia.  The virus can also attack the kidneys.  Kidneys clean the blood and free them from waste.  If the kidneys don't function, a high level of toxins will start piling up on your body.  And in the worst-case scenario, the virus may attack the entire body.

According to health officials, the only way people can get the virus is only if they hold a 15 minutes close face-to-face interaction or if they spend two or more hours in a contained environment.

It is not clear what is the point of the government on keeping reporting on the number of people infected when they don't really have the ability to adequately test Americans. Our government might not have a real sense as to how far and wide this virus has spread into communities.   Nonetheless, here are the number of cases in the U.S. as of Saturday, March 14, 2020, which has increased to 2,800 and there are reports that 58 people have died most of them from Washington state.

In the State of California, the number of people infected rose to 288.  In Los Angeles County, 13 more cases were reported to bring LA County up to a cumulative total of 54 cases. According to John Hopkins University, there have been 153,503 confirmed cases worldwide.   Incredibly, the lack of strategy has left some states in the U.S. asking residents to self-quarantine. As Dr. Antohny Fauci told the news organizations, the U.S. "has yet to reach its peak of coronavirus cases." We should brace for a lot more cases and deaths from the most vulnerable among us: folks in their 70s and 80s.

In Los Angeles, the reaction among Angelenos was swift, anxiety and fear set in no time. Schools have been closed; colleges have suspended classes on campuses and transitioned them to online platforms. Also, Costcos, Targets, and supermarkets were all swarmed with people looking to stack up with food and water. Even restaurants, bars and coffee places have been closed. Both streets and freeways are nearly empty, news organizations have reported that in some restaurants, customers' temperatures were being taken before tables were given. Socially distant Netflix binges are the name of the game for many here in Los Angeles.

Economically, this outbreak forced the financial markets to take the biggest plunged since 1987's Black Monday. The effect of the Coronavirus has had a far-reaching impact on the financial markets throughout the world, its effect is far worse than any other outbreak or past viruses. "Global stock market losses climbed past $16 trillion since high on February 19."  Let that sink in for a moment, all the conditions for a worldwide recession have been laid out.

In addition, companies started canceling flights en masse, Disney shut down its amusement park, people are not eating out as frequently, and hotels have been hit hard as tourism declined.  What is taking place in these businesses might not sound like a big deal but collectively these four industries-airlines, amusement parks, hospitality and dining amount to a total of $1.2 trillion of the U.S economy.  Loses in these industries have sent shock waves to the U.S. economy.  In addition, these industries employ 17 million workers. Yes, investors of all persuasion got scared. Central banks around the globe are working 24/7 to do whatever they can to stop the bleeding so global financial markets can stabilize.

Politically, this pandemic has elicited problems with our leaders.  For starters, listening to Trump makes people even more concerned.   Americans need their leader's resolve not confusing and self-congratulatory responses. Indeed, they want leaders who inspire hope for better days.  In times of real crisis, people expect their leaders to provide sound leadership coupled with reasoned-decision making to unexpected events.

There is a need for unification in strategy at the local and state levels. The profound lack of testing kits is a source of concern for everyone.  The real number of people being infested might be a lot larger than most government officials are telling us. When one looks at how our government responds, it is not hard to discern that containment is no longer the goal, it is mitigation what the U.S. is pursuing.  This reactionary strategy has many people concerned and their fears lead them to overreact.  It is a failure of biblical proportions, and voters in this country should hold their governments accountable.

As a battle of gigantic proportion is looming large in this country if this Coronavirus is not contained, our leaders need to come up with either the Marshall Plan or a Manhattan project to battle this outbreak. A fourteen-day national shut down should be seriously considered and FEMA should start building kiosks in communities and distribute $2,000.00 checks to all those folks who desperately need them.

The U.S. has grotesquely failed in testing its citizens.  Around the same time that the first case emerged in South Korea, the first case was discovered here in the U.S. Now, South Korea can test a lot more people in a single day than the U.S. can in a month.  That is disgraceful. So much for being the richest and most powerful nation on this planet.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock.

Sources Consulted.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the U.S." cdc.gov 13 March 2020.
Gandel, Stephen. "Coronavirus has cost global stock markets $16 trillion in less than a month." CBSNEWS..COM 13 March 2020.
Gingrich, Newt. " I am in Italy amid the Coronavirus Crisis.  America Must Act Now and Big." Newsweek 13 March 2020.
Maxouris, Christina.  Dakin Andone. and Nicole Chavez."New Jersey town urges people to self-quarantine as US coronavirus cases top 2,800. "CNN.COM 14 March 2020.
Miller, Karen.  "6 of the Worst Pandemics in History." Health.com 28 Jan. 2020.
Serna, Josefina., et al. "L.A. County reports 54 coronavirus cases; state total climbs to 288." Los Angeles Times 14, March 2020.


The Last Two Candidates Standing: Electability versus Ideology

Everything was looking good on the horizon, the nomination seemed within Sanders' grasp.  The democratic socialist even started thinking about people who could serve under his administration. On the surface, the message of a progressive revolution looked like it had already begun making inroads beyond the young idealists who have followed Sanders from day one, at least in the first three states that had voted.  But, South Carolina and Super Tuesday was a game-changer.  All hopes for Sanders' supporters appeared to have been dashed, disillusioned set in, and the conspiracy theories began to emerge.

Bernie Sanders is back to being the underdog.  He didn't help himself with mainstream voters or moderates by praising Castro about his "literacy programs" in Cuba. And relying on young people was not a good strategy.  The young people who follow him like the anti-establishment message and like to show up to the rallies for the selfies, but the majority of them don't vote.

Pundits had already started writing obituaries on Biden's candidacy for the presidency.  The former Vice President appeared to have risen from the dead. Joe Biden had no money or volunteers on the ground. He was just faking that he was still a top tier candidate.  Moreover, his donors were becoming impatient as he had failed miserably in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada.  The first two states were dismissed as not being representative of the rich diversity of the nation.  But Nevada was a more diverse state, and still, the Vice President didn't do well.

In South Carolina, the former Vice President Biden needed to win big or go home. That Saturday in South Carolina, Biden emerged as the moderate candidate the establishment was waiting for, and they all started rallying behind him. African Americans saved the Vice President's campaign. They turned out in throngs and voted for him. Joe Biden enjoyed goodwill among African Americans for having served as Vice President for the first Black President. Although they were aggressively courted by former New York's Mayor Bloomberg, in the end, they voted for Biden.

Vice President Biden didn't just regain his once high-flying campaign of being the most electable candidate after having won South Carolina, but he also forced other candidates to re-assess their campaigns.  Some of them suspended their campaigns and immediately endorsed the Vice President. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg traveled to Texas and told supporters that the time had come to coalesce around the Vice President.  So he could be getting ready to take on President Trump. Presidential historians are already hailing this comeback as one of the most breathtaking comebacks in history.

Biden benefited from Sanders's inability to take the momentum of finishing in second place in Iowa and wins in New Hampshire and Nevada. On Super Tuesday Biden won nine states, California and Maine are still not being called for neither candidate. Those running Sanders' campaign never looked beyond his base and literally might have thought that there was no need for expanding it.  Sanders' supporters were more hostile and ruthless to those who dare to criticize their candidate, no matter how fair the criticism was.

Let's examine the nuances of the Democratic Party's infights, there are three factions in the democratic party in this presidential primary.

There is that faction with passionate Bernie Sanders' supporters. This faction wants to dethrone the corporate class in the democratic party that they see as not caring for working-class people. They detest Democrats and joined the party to help Bernie Sanders win the nomination. Some of these supporters are disgusted by the two-party system and hardly ever engage in electoral politics.  They will never entertain the idea to vote for anybody else but Sanders.  These are the ones who unapologetically say it is "Bernie or bust." These are the so-called revolutionaries that somehow believe that revolutions can actually happen at presidential elections. These Sanders' supporters are like a cult, they just follow blindly. And they all religiously read Jacobin, Common Dreams, and the Intercept before they have their breakfasts. This faction has the capability to join Trump's supporters in the fall just to give the finger to democrats.  They are the new deplorable supporters of the 2020 presidential election.

There is another faction that doesn't believe Sanders is able to carry out his progressive vision. They argue that Sanders has never achieved anything of significance in Congress.  This group ridicules those giving him credit for being consistent with the same message for forty years.  This group sees the conversation about radical progressive policies as a waste of time if Trump wins in November. Electability is everything for this group. This group wants to have a conversation about radical progressive policies once Trump is gone.  They moved to Elizabeth Warren's tent but kept an open mind for any candidate who might have a real chance to beat Trump.  Now that Elizabeth Warren is out, they all have started rallying behind Vice President Biden.

And finally, we have the party faithful. This group is part of the establishment that dislikes Sanders with a passion. They are happy that finally, a real Democrat is back in the game and will do whatever they can to recapture the White House.  It shouldn't be about Sanders and non-sense socialism. People in this group are not interested in a revolution and are solely focused on restoring decency at the White House. They even fear that Sanders being at the top of the ticket, might negatively impact Democrats running for Congress.

The future does not look good for Sanders at this point, voters in Michigan will be casting their votes next week. Biden will again be relying on African Americans, older and moderate voters to win the states voting in the next three weeks.    If Joe Biden wins Michigan by a landslide, Sanders should suspend his campaign. Of course, there is a zero chance for this to happen.

Indeed, Democrats should endeavor to wrap up this primary and start strategizing as to how they can beat Trump in the fall. Nonetheless, that is the logical thing to do and Democrats are known for not using logic.  We will probably see Sanders and Biden battling it out a couple more months tearing each other up while Trump and his cohorts will be with camera-ready-sitting back watching them.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used in this piece was purchased from Bigstock

Sources consulted:
Burns, Alexander and Jonathan Martin and Nick Corasaniti "Buttigieg and Klobuchar Endorse Biden, Aiming to Slow Sanders."  The New York Times 2 March 2020.
Corn, David. "Sanders Said It Takes a Revolution to Beat Trump. On Super Tuesday, Most Democrats Disagreed." Motherjones 4 March 2020.
King, Ledyard. "Many young voters sat out Super Tuesday, contributing to Bernie Sanders' losses." USA TODAY 4 March 2020.
Levitz, Eric. "Bernie’s Revolution Failed. But His Movement Can Still Win." NYMag.com-Intelleginzer 4 March 2020
Slisco, Aila. "Bernie Sanders Says He Will  Drop If Biden Gets Plurality Coming Into Dem Convention." Newsweek 4 March 2020.

 


He came. He played. He conquered.

After it was confirmed that Kobe Bryant had died, the love for Bryant was immediately displayed throughout the entire city's infrastructure.  From downtown's highrises to arenas to government buildings, they all began to bleed yellow and purple from their highest windows.

Angelenos grieved in many ways; some just went down to L.A. Live and took flowers; others went down on their knees and prayed. Many murals were also being painted throughout Los Angeles at the speed of light.  Others were glued to their TVs watching Bryant's best moments playing basketball.

Indeed, in the last three weeks, many Angelenos forgot all the daunting challenges the city is currently facing.  The profound lack of civic leadership, the housing crisis, the thousands of tents occupying the streets of the city, and even the impeachment of the leader of the free world escaped many.

Today,  Feb. 24, 2020, the city of Los Angeles celebrated the life of one of the best basketball players the world has ever seen.  Twenty thousand fans gathered at Staple Center and celebrated the life of Kobe Bryant. The date 2/24 was carefully selected, No. 24 jersey Bryant wore and the No. 2 was the jersey his daughter, Gianna wore.

The four Kobe Bryants the world knew: The athlete, the caring father, the philanthropist, and the imperfect being who disappointed us.

Kobe, the athlete, might not have been the best basketball player who ever played the game but this man was right there standing tall among those giants.  Come on, the man scored 60 points in the last game when he retired in 2016. Who does that?  In his twenty years in the NBA, he won five championships, two NBA finals MVPs, two Olympic gold medals. The man was a competitive athlete who would do anything under his power to perfect his craft. Indeed, this man deserves an honored place in the pantheon of giants.

Kobe Bryant, the philanthropist, was always looking for opportunities to give back.  Bryant understood the responsibility of using his skills and being in the spotlight. He made time for charities that were helping children of color who lived in poverty. He was an honorary ambassador of After School All-Stars, an organization that helps schools to provide after school hours for poor children of color.   He also raised money for this organization in Los Angeles that serves nearly 15,000 children. In addition, Bryant lit up children's world, through the Make a Wish Foundation, by granting 250 wishes to children facing life-threatening illnesses. This foundation publicly put out a statement praising Bryant for being an "amazing wish granter who had brought countless smiles to children and their families."

Kobe Bryant was a caring father. Many were filled with awe seeing Bryant's display of love for his daughters.  He unconsciously might have been attacking that stereotype that we, men, must have sons.  Social scientists always like to see celebrities taking profound pride in their daughters by displaying love for them in public.  These scientists argue that it is a tool that can be used to promote gender equality.  Those of us who have daughters need to seize on the opportunity to carefully evaluate potential problems that we might have with sexism or even masculinity.  Fathers will always want a better world for their daughters.  Moreover, a byproduct of that advocacy is that these fathers are building a fairer world for all daughters of the world.

Kobe Bryant didn't leave a pristine legacy behind.  Of course, he was not a perfect man.  Nonetheless, we should always look at the totality of one's record. In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Colorado.

There has been a great deal of controversy as to how we should try to find a fair balance of all the great things this man has done while still looking into those lapses he encountered in his early adult life. His fans were furious that people were talking about his sexual assault accusation right after he died while his family was mourning.  Others were angry for all the deferences and tributes that were given to a man they considered a "rapist."   We have seen athletes who committed crimes at the peak of their professions and were never able to come back.  Mike Tyson comes to mind.  Bryant appeared to have had found opportunities in these trying times. It must have been tough, Bryant found himself in the deepest valley in this ordeal. But he managed to elevate himself to the highest mountain again.  He appeared to have gained clarity and purpose and became a better player, a better husband, a better father, and a better being.

After a month-long of collectively mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant here in Los Angeles, fans finally gave him a final goodbye this morning at Staple Center.  People from many walks of life gathered to pay tribute to the man who gave five championships to Los Angeles. Hollywood people, Lakers fans, retired athletes and those who adored Bryant surely had an emotional day, as some of them are still in shock for his passing.

He came. He played. He conquered.  As soon as Kobe Bryant came to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers, he became Los Angeles' favored son. Bryant came from Philadelphia, but somehow, he managed to weave himself into the fabric of our city.  As an outsider, Kobe Bryant embraced Los Angeles, and the city reciprocated in-kind.  Bryant epitomized many of us who have made Los Angeles our home.  With little effort, the man could go from speaking Spanish to speaking Italian to speaking English. He was also a soccer fan who liked high-level soccer games, he loved AC Milan and Barcelona.  He truly was a cosmopolitan man.

The day Kobe Bryant died was one of those moments that people will always remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned about the tragedy.   Many were in disbelief as they saw a still young Kobe Bryant starting the second phase of his life with the same enthusiasm and optimism as he played the game he loved. It was very telling that this man was going to channel all his competitiveness, tough mind, creativity in this second phase of his life. And in just two years, while he was doing philanthropy work, he managed to win an Oscar.

The man who brought the entire city together in parades to celebrate five championships for Los Angeles Lakers brought the city together one last time. Kobe Bryant's fire, caring and optimism will forever live in this city.

Thank you for reading.
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Photo Credit: Picture used in this pice was taken by author with an Iphone 11

Sources consulted:
Bishara, Motez. "He was born to play basketball, but for Kobe Bryant that was never enough." CNN 29 Jan. 2020.
Dougyala, Rishika. "Politicians hit pause after Kobe Bryant’s death." Politico 26 Jan. 2020.
Lee, Lauren. "Honor Kobe Bryant's legacy through the charities he supported." CNN 21 Feb. 2020.
Morrison, Patt. "As L.A. says goodbye to Kobe Bryant, it’s worth asking why some fame lasts, and some vanishes." Los Angeles Times 21 Feb. 2020.
Plaschke, Bill. "Kobe Bryant is gone; the Mamba lives forever in the heart of Los Angeles." Los Angeles Times 21 Feb. 2020.

 

 

 

 


California's Primary and Its New Changes and the "Super" and "Unbound" Delegates

On Tuesday, March 3, 2020, voters in California and 15 other states will be voting for the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. It is known as "Super Tuesday," and about 40% of all pledged delegates are up for grabs on this election day.

States have autonomy in deciding over their presidential primaries/caucuses; some of them have open primaries others have either closed or mixed primaries.  In open primaries, voters are allowed to vote in either party, but they can only vote in one.  In a closed primary, voters can only vote for the party in which they have registered. A mixed primary can be either semi-open or semi-closed, voters here are allowed to vote in either party, or they can change registration on election day.

As Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina voters cast their ballots; the results appear to indicate that the presidential primary on March 3 in California will be of paramount importance in determining who might be the democratic nominee. All the action is taking place on the Democratic party as they scrumble to elect a candidate with a real chance to beat Trump in November.  Democrats still do not have a robust leading candidate, this race, so far, looks like it will go on until the summer. In the first two states that have voted, Mayor Pete Buttigieg won in Iowa, and Bernie Sanders won in New Hampshire. Nevada and South Carolina are voting next.

Once all primaries and caucuses end, then the nominee is chosen at the Democratic Convention in the summer. Democrats will hold their convention this year in Milwaukee from July 13-16. Democratic candidates in the California primary will be fighting for  494 delegates, 415 of them are pledged delegates, meaning these delegates will be given to candidates based on how well they do on the day of the election. The March 3 presidential election here in California will be holding 54 primaries, one statewide election and 53 district level elections. Whoever wins the statewide elections will be awarded the 90 "at large" convention delegates.

In addition, there is also that 15% threshold that voters must pay attention to. If you vote for a candidate who will not meet this criterion, you will be wasting your vote.  If you vote for a candidate who fails to get 15% in your congressional district or statewide, your vote will not count.  The said candidate whom you voted for will not receive a single delegate.

On the Republican side, Trump and the other six not so serious challengers will be fighting for 172 delegates.

California has approximately 21 million registered voters and almost 6 million of them identify themselves as “NPP-no party preference,” formerly known as  "decline to state voters." NPP voters are the second largest block of voters in California. The largest group is Democrats and Republican voters are in the third place.  Leaders in the Republican Party made the decision not to let these "no party preference-NPP" voters participate in their primary. The Democratic, Libertarian, and American Independent parties will allow these "no party preference" to cross over and cast ballots for their presidential candidates. Nonetheless, these NPP voters must request a ballot from these political parties.

If a voter has registered as "No Party Preference," he/she might need to take an extra step to vote on March 3,  voter registration can be checked here.  In addition, anyone who wants to either update or register to vote can do it here.  If an NPP voter wants to vote for a democratic candidate on the day of the election, he/she will have to ask the poll worker for a presidential ballot at the polling place.  And, if he/she votes by mail, then he will have to return a postcard sent by the county registrar.

This confusion might create problems of biblical proportions as millions of NPP voters might not be able to cast ballots unless they fully understand these rules for crossover voting on March 3rd.  If Democrats do not address this problem, many voters might be unable to cast their votes.  It could inevitably affect the democratic outcome of the primary election in the state.  A candidate who is engaging new voters in this election might encounter challenges if these voters are unable to navigate these hurdles.  Democratic candidates should endeavor to educate potential supporters of these new rules in California.

Now, let's look into the distribution of delegates between the two major political parties.  The GOP and the Democratic Party differ as to how they distribute their delegates.  Democratic candidates will obtain delegates based on the percent share, of the vote.  Yes, Democrats award delegates proportionately.   Republicans use the following approaches: Winner-Take-All, Proportional, and Winner-Take-Most.

Both Republicans and Democrats believe that in the presidential-nominating process, the party insiders or party leaders should play an important role in determining who should get the nomination.  After all, they want presidents to come from their party ranks. It is argued that letting just the voters decide the outcome of these primaries, it will lead to the nomination of incompetent and unable to govern people.

Both parties have “unbound delegates,” "automatic delegates,“ unpledged delegates,” and “superdelegates.” These are the party leaders in both political parties, members of Congress, Governors, former Presidents and many other elected officials.  In this year, there will be 4,750 democratic delegates, 3,979 of them are pledged and 771 are unpledged.

To win the Democratic nomination outright, a candidate will need 1,990 plus 1 or 1991 pledged delegates. This is the magical number to win the nomination on the first ballot. No "automatic" or "superdelegates" will get to vote if a candidate gets this number of pledged delegates. However, if this is not the case and no candidate got these 1,991 pledged delegates, then there will be a second ballot.  This is what is known as a contested convention.  It becomes chaotic from this point on, the "superdelegates" or "automatic" delegates will get to vote and the pledged candidates will have the freedom to vote for whomever they like if there is a need for a second ballot.

Superdelegates or unpledged delegates vote until conventions are held and don't mirror how the voters voted in primaries or caucuses. They want to make sure that the nominee has the ability to attract centrist voters in the major election to win the presidency.  These superdelegates can tip the scale and they determine who wins if the popular vote is close.  Is it undemocratic? Yes, but those are the rules of the game.  Bernie Sanders' candidacy is currently posing that problem to the Democratic superdelegates who are endeavoring to preserve its "established tack."

So far, it looks like there will be a lengthy nomination process on the democratic side. No candidate has shown the ability to generate enthusiasm and excitement needed to beat Trump in November. Bernie Sanders is trying.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Picture used was bought from Bigstock.

Sources consulted:
Hagen, Lisa. "How Democrats Choose Their Presidential Nominee – and Why It’ll Take Awhile." US News 11 2020.
"Is California’s presidential primary a disaster waiting to happen?" Editorial. Los Angeles Times 20 Jan. 2020.
La Raja, Raymond and Jonathan Rauch. "Voters need help: How party insiders can make presidential primaries safer, fairer, and more democratic." Brookings 31 Jan. 2020
LaTour, Amee. "Unbound Delegates Explained: Who They Are and Why They Matter." GenNFKD.org 3 March 2016.
Levinson, Jessica and Paul Mitchell. "You could be disenfranchised in California's presidential primary if you've registered nonpartisan." Los Angeles Times 2 Jan. 2020.
Myers, John.  "Are you an independent voter? You can’t vote in the California GOP primary." Los Angeles Times 24 Jan. 2020.
---. "Not so easy to win the state." Los Angeles Times 24 Feb. 2020.
Smith, Ace.  "How Californians can make their Democratic votes count on Super Tuesday."  Cal Matters 27 Feb. 2020.
The State of California.  Secretary of State. "New Report of California Voter Registration: Highest Percentage of Eligible Voters Registered in 67 Years." Yubanet.com 6 Nov. 2019.


LA County County's 2nd District Needs Imaginative and Transformative Leadership

The 2nd District in Los Angeles County is the poorest in the entire county, approximately one in four of the residents live under the poverty line. This district stretches from  Culver City to Carson, and "it is the home to half of the county's black population."  It has always been viewed as “the crowning glory of black political power in Southern California,” said political consultant Dermot Givens.  The supervisor in this district is usually considered the most powerful black man/woman in the state. The three leading candidates vying to replace Mark-Ridley Thomas are all African Americans.

The following facts are intriguing and troubling about the County of Los Angeles: The overall value of the more than 2 million properties located in Los Angeles County is about $1.1 trillion.  The taxes collected on these properties is the largest source of revenue for this county.  This is the revenue used for funding essential services and agencies. There are luxurious homes, modest bungalows, and 60,000 people living in tents on sidewalks in this county. The record number of people living on sidewalks has reached a colossal urban crisis — the grand canyon gap between the rich and the poor within a few miles in this county is very telling.  Yes, there is not only obscene wealth, stunning low wage disparity, and grinding poverty, but there is also a tremendous lack of imagination and action from civic leaders.  The daunting challenges facing people living in this district are in direct proportion to the lack of energetic, visionary community-focused leadership.

Furthermore, it is about time for all stakeholders in this county to seriously consider to reconfigure the current structure of this county government.  Yes, let's expand the board of supervisors to ten and have an elected mayor who can adequately perform executive functions. One does not have to be Alexander Hamilton or a democratic theorist to see Los Angeles County's government with a population larger than some states needing significant structural changes.  The five supervisors who are in charge of the legislative function are the same ones who execute hence there are no checks and balances.  The present structure of this county government is inadequate considering its size.  Therefore, the oversight of public spending and services is deeply flawed. Voters in Los Angeles County need to demand an elected mayor with real powers.  Supervisors need to laser-focused on the creation of policy and oversight.

Herb Wesson is a former speaker of the State Assembly who joined the city council in 2005 and led the council as president since 2011.  He is termed out and now is looking for the next job.  When it comes to endorsements and money raised, he is the candidate to beat. He has not only raised the most money but also according to his website, he has gotten major endorsements from many influential political leaders and labor unions.  From Mayor Garcetti to Supervisor Jahn Hann to the Los Angeles County Democratic Party to major organized labor unions here in Los Angeles, they all have endorsed his candidacy. He is the leading candidate when it comes to fundraising, he has raised a little over a million dollars.  CityWatch recently reported that the former Council President had collected money from oil and gas companies in the first six months of 2019.  These companies "actually operate oil drilling sites" in the 2nd District. Among these oil companies is Thermo Company,  one of the companies responsible for the Porter Ranch leak. This should be a source of concern for residents in this district who will be voting in March.

Furthermore, the Los Angeles Times reported that Herb Wesson had his struggles with paying his bills on time.  In this article, it was reported that the former city council president almost got his properties into a foreclosure auction. How can this man confront the challenges facing the 2nd district?  This is a difficult job that requires a candidate who can bring reason, comprehension and yes good judgment.

The second leading candidate is Jan Perry, a former city councilwoman for District 9. She is a Black Jewish woman well-known in the political firmament of Los Angeles.  The urban renaissance in the early 2000s in Los Angeles took place during her 12-year-tenure as a councilwoman.  After she left the city council, she ran for mayor, and she did not do well. Mayor Garcetti appointed her to run the Economic and Workforce Development. An interesting point here is that Mayor Garcetti has endorsed her opponent Herb Wesson. She has raised a little over half a million dollars. Moreover, according to her website, Jan Perry is currently running the Infrastructure Funding Alliance, a national initiative to meet future infrastructure, economic development, and environmental challenges.  The most well-known people who have endorsed her are Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County Assessor, Jeffrey Prang, and former LA City Councilmember (Ret.) LAPD Chief (Ret.), Bernard Parks.

The third leading candidate in this race is Holly Mitchell.  She has been serving in the legislature for almost a decade.  She served first in the state assembly and then moved up to the upper house, the state senate.  Many legislators and members of the executive branch have given her their endorsements, from current Governor Newson to former Governor Brown to a plethora of assembly and senate members as well as constitutional officers. According to her website, she has also picked up some endorsements from some SEIU and AFSCME locals and well-known community people such as Dolores Huerta and Rev. James Lawson Jr. This candidate has also raised a little over half of a million dollars.

There are no ideological differences amongst these three candidates analyzed above.  It is all about personalities.  Any candidate who wins this race will be a  nod to continuity at a time of crisis when continuity should not be warranted. If no candidate in this race receives a majority vote in the primary, which will be held on March 3,  the top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff in November.

Civic, business, and community leaders in this county must make an effort to come up with a well-thought-out frame for developing leadership.  Bold and transformative leadership is desperately needed; we need to refill the reservoir of ideas that has dried up. Los Angeles County's government is too bloated and unresponsive.  Paralysis rules.  Mediocrity has become the order of the day in many departments in this County of Los Angeles. We absolutely need more voices, no echos.  It is inconceivable to believe that people in this district cannot find high caliber candidates with adequate credentials, independence, and clear thinking with the ability to make life better in this district and the county than these three leading politicians.

The challenges are countless and daunting.  Indeed,  It is difficult to see these three leading candidates providing radical ideas that will end homelessness, improve economic mobility, and increase civic participation.  These candidates are just looking for another gig.

Thank you for reading.

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Photo Credit: Pictures of candidates covered on this piece were screened shot from candidates' websites.

Sources consulted:
Fisher, Mary.  "Can Jan Perry Defeat Herb Wesson, Big Oil’s Candidate for LA Supervisor?" CityWatch 20 Jan. 2020.
Jennings, Angel. "Gentrification is the new litmus test in the county supervisor race in South L.A."  Los Angeles Times 30 Sept. 2019.
Markle, Lawren. "Demographic Snapshots for LA County’s Five Districts." Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation 24 April 2017.
Stiles, Matt. "These candidates want to represent 2 million Angelenos. Who’s funding their campaigns?" Los Angeles Times 29 Sept. 2019.
---. "State senator enters race for a seat on L.A. County Board of Supervisors."  Los Angeles Times 14 Feb. 2019.
Zahnisner, David. "He’s one of L.A. City Hall’s most powerful politicians. He’s also having problems paying his bills on time."  Los Angeles Times 17 Aug. 2016.


Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas Warming Up for The Mayoral Race

Last weekend, I stopped by the Fairfax, where an Ethiopian club held a candidate forum for the Council District 10.  The following candidates were in attendance, Grace Yoo, Channing Martinez, Aura Vasquez, Melvin Snell, Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas. This piece will focus on three candidates.

There was a palpable energy in the room.  The forum began, and questions started rolling in, candidate Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas answered them with so much ease.  He has been in politics for the last three decades, he joined the city council in L.A in 1991 and then served in both houses of the California State Legislature.  Currently, Mark-Ridley Thomas is a supervisor representing District 2 in the County of Los Angeles.

As other candidates in this forum spoke about their understanding of the problems, it was not hard to extrapolate why Supervisor Thomas is the shoo-in for this race.

Grace Yoo might be the only competition for Mark-Ridley Thomas. She was calm, collected, and passively aggressive. She answered questions thoughtfully.  Grace Yoo comes from the vibrant Korean community,  a community that has gained a lot of economic and political power in the last decade. According to her website, Grace Yoo is a lawyer who does work with wills and trusts. And she was also a candidate for this very same office in 2015. If elected, she will be the third Korean American councilmember serving in the L.A. city government.

Aura Vasquez displayed so much energy, but her responses lacked substance.  She kept blurting out many cliches such as " the boys club" and "revolving door" that were out of place and appeared to have been directed to Supervisor Mark-Ridley Thomas.   According to her website, candidate Aura Vasquez is an immigrant from Colombia and a former commissioner in the city of Los Angeles. She was appointed by Mayor Garcetti to the DWP commission.

Aura Vasquez's background on her website lists an impressive history of activism.  Nonetheless, I did not see those well-thought-out responses that organizers, with that much organizing experience, tend to give when they are given the microphone.  Also, she came across as a candidate who is against the establishment. That would be a tough case to make.  Since she has been an extension of the paralysis taking place in city hall, she could not have been appointed to any commission, wasn't she part of the Garcetti's cult.   

Supervisor Thomas was elected to the L.A. City Council, a couple of years before legendary Mayor Tom Bradley, stepped down. He represented the Eighth District in the 1990s and used the office to build civic organizations, The Empowerment Congress and the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation (AAVREP) being two of those.

The last time Supervisor Thomas was on the ballot for a contentious race, the country was on the brink of electing the first African American President in this country's history.  Supervisor Thomas was in a tough race running against Bernard Park for the board of supervisors.  The African community was divided, and Thomas was able to get the labor support that came with a lot of resources.  This race was dubbed the most expensive race in L.A County history.

City Council District 10 is comprised of communities in the south and west parts of downtown Los Angeles.  District 10 is the smallest in the City of Los Angeles; There are roughly 250,000 residents. Moreover, 52 neighborhood councils have been certified, which include diverse communities such as Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, and Leimert Park.

This district has been changing in the last decade; African American candidates have to reach out to a broader audience. There is also a large segment of Latinos in this district, "Forty-seven percent of the district’s residents are Latino, compared to the city-wide average of 49%, while 24% of the district’s residents are African American compared to a city-wide average of 9%."

Supervisor Thomas is leading in both fundraising and endorsements from major groups and politicians in this city's civic landscape.  He has managed to get endorsements from major labor unions in this city. From powerful United Firefighters of L.A. to L.A. County Federation of Labor to SEIU 721.  Newly installed L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez, as well as Governor Newson support Supervisor Thomas. Furthermore, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission's website, Supervisor Thomas has raised a cumulative amount of $565,402.99 as of today.

Aura Vasquez has raised $85,412.80 and has gotten endorsements from the National Union Healthcare Workers-NUHW, Sunrise Movement, and a couple of others.  Grace Yoo, on the other hand, got support from the influential Teachers' union-UTLA and East Area Progressive Democrats-EAPD. She has also raised $165,781.00.

The pundits who like to slice-and-dice elections in this city believe that Thomas is just warming for the mayoral race in two years.  And so is Kevin De Leon, who is also running for the 14th district.  Los Angeles is a city where politicians blatantly deny to be interested in another office while running for one, and then once elected, they began campaigning for the office they deny to be interested in.

As one looks around, this city faces the same daunting challenges year in and year out.  Deservedly so, one might argue. What can voters expect when they keep electing the same people for different offices?

There must be a way in which we can develop a new generation of leaders in our city's politics. This is a problem in Los Angeles; most voters would like to see new people with a new vision and voice. Many of the new candidates currently emerging have not crossed the threshold of being leaders in their communities.  Some of them are just fixated on their personal histories, and many have a thin resume doing community work.  Hence voters keep electing career politicians.

The fundamental problems facing Los Angeles can no longer be solved on a superficial level.  A deeper level of thinking is desperately needed.  This city needs a new generation of leaders with a progressive vision and imagination to tackle the problems at hand.

Thank you for reading.
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Photo Credit:  Picture was taken during the candidate forum

 


The Politics of Socialism

In light of the profound challenges facing the poor,  Americans have begun to talk about poverty in a more meaningful way than before.  The glaring unequal distribution of wealth in this country is so grotesque. Right after 2008's recession, the "Occupied Wall Street Movement in 2010" took off.   Bernie Sanders picked up some of the grievances made by people in this movement and added them to the daily pronouncements he would deliver on the U.S. Senate's floor against capitalism.

Bernie Sanders joined the Democratic Party as he ran for president in 2016.  Sanders then started calling himself a "Democratic Socialist."  He was dismissed and laughed at in 2016.  Nevertheless, four years later, in this new presidential election, more moderate and so-called "corporate democrats" have embraced some of the programs that he vehemently and forcefully proposed in 2016.

The Democratic Party has moved to the left in a significant way when it comes to access to medical care, the environment, gun control, and the minimum wage.  Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are currently polling within the top four leading candidates.  These two candidates, at least one of them, publicly stated that they find private health plans problematic, and they would like to see them terminated and replaced with a national plan.

Of course, there are differences between Sanders and Warren that go beyond style.  Sanders is further to the left of Warren.  He has even argued that it is about time for economic rights to be elevated next to "traditional constitutional rights."  This sort of proposal concerns many moderate and corporate democrats.

When democratic candidates were asked while debating if they were "socialists," all of them said "no."  Sanders qualified it and called himself  a "democratic socialist."  Moreover, when they were asked if they were "capitalists," Sanders was the only one who said  "no."  Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, provided a more comprehensive definition, "I am a capitalist to my bones,” I believe in markets. What I do not believe in is theft... markets without rules are about the rich take it all,"  she assertively stated.

Warren finds the profound lack of regulations in the financial markets troublesome.  She has cut her teeth going after financial institutions during her tenure as Senator and as a professor at Harvard.  She blames the crash of 2008 to the deregulation of banks and Wall Sreet. In her town hall meetings, Warren spends time clarifying that unlike Sanders, she is attacking not capitalism but the "abuses of capitalist principles."  By addressing these abuses, Americans will have a level playing field in their economic system, and more opportunities will open up.

It seems that democratic leadership in the last three decades has become the "vanguard of neoliberalism"- embracing free-market capitalism.  Bill Clinton was very close to the corporate elites.  Hence he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, gutted the welfare system, and did not care for displaying his deep love for the wealthy bankers from Goldman Sachs during his tenure as president.

For the last 100 years, progressives and socialists in this country have endeavored to finish "Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, Truman's Fair deal ad Kennedy's national health insurance, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s."

John Dewey, Helen Keller, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Walter Reuther, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Eugene V. Debs, and Gloria Steinem were all  "socialists" that sought meaningful changes in the political and economic systems. Socialists have a rich history in demanding justice for the poor, from leading the women's suffrage movement to forcefully demanding protection labor laws for children, to organizing for pensions for the old.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt did not wake up one morning and decided to implement social programs for the poor.  All these safety-net social programs were being demanded in the streets by socialists, labor leaders, and radicals in this country.  They were consequential forces of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The term "Socialism" is interchangeably used with "communism," and both terms are viewed as pejoratives. Lenin, Stalin, and  Chairman Mao's atrocities are connected to communism when capitalists talk about communism.

Social scientists tell us that both terms are economic approaches that aim at making a more equitable society.  A society where workers would not be exploited as they are in a capitalist free-market system.  Also, both socialism and communism advocate for "public" instead of economic systems that allow "private" ownership.   The state will have control of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of goods. Indeed, socialist thinkers develop new paradigms of reorganizing civil societies that would center  on "cooperation and community."  The cut-throat competition inherent in free markets is evil and destructive, they claim.

Germany's socialism flourished forcefully than in any other place within Europe. German fellows by the names of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels started writing and organizing workers outside Germany. In 1847, they were able to organize the convention of socialists in England.  In the second convention in the same year, they presented a program that became known as a "Communist Manifesto." A document that called to all workers of the world to unite and take over the economic and political systems.

Marx then wrote the first volume of Das Kapital.  Two more volumes were completed and published by Engels after Marx died. The thesis of these volumes centered on  the economic interpretation of history and what the capitalists kept after workers had been paid-"subsistence."

A window of opportunity has opened for the left progressives of this country.  Seizing on this opportunity will depend on their ability to develop a persuasive and comprehensive narrative, one that addresses legitimate grievances with such clarity that will be difficult to resist. The left should also be keenly aware of the ideological diversity in this country.   Roughly 35% of the voters identify themselves as conservatives, another 35% who use the label of being moderates, and about 30% who call themselves very liberals or left-wing progressives.

In this presidential election, Trump and his team will endeavor to weaponize the term "socialism."  Moreover, he will focus on unifying the party even more and take credit, well-deserved or not, for the strong economy.  He will also continue hammering on the issues dealing with race, ethnicity, and national identity.  Yes, he will tell his supporters,  "you want the party of socialism, late-term abortions, open borders and crime, then you have to vote for the other candidate."

Thank you for reading -

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Photo Credit: Stockphotos

Sources Consulted:
"Bernie Sets the Record Straight on Socialism." Youtube, Uploaded by Real-Time with Bill Maher (HBO), 16 Oct. 2015.
Hiltzik, Michael. "The Democrats’ Wall Street wing hates Elizabeth Warren. They hated the New Deal too." Los Angeles Times 27 Sept. 2019.
McManus, Doyle.  "Most 2020 Democrats say capitalism is a system that needs fixing." Los Angeles Times  20 March 2010.
Pruitt, Sarah. "How Are Socialism and Communism Different"? History.com 22 Oct. 2019.