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.


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." 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.

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.


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." 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." 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.


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.
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 -


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"? 22 Oct. 2019.

Packing the Courts With Right Wing-Ideologues. Trump Is Winning "Bigly." Why Aren't We in the Streets?

Progressive voters should endeavor to focus on substantive endeavors.  People should not waste time following Trump's tweets and posting memes ridiculing him.  As some of us celebrate Trump's impeachment, the courts are being packed with pro-life,  pro-guns, anti-workers, and xenophobic judges. They are also very young and lack legal experience; many of these new judges have never litigated a case.

Why aren't progressives in the streets denouncing these judicial appointments?

Trump and U.S. Senate Republican-Leader Mitch McConnel have cemented a conservative legacy on this country's judicial branch for decades to come.  All this radical change took place in Trump's first term; one can only extrapolate what will happen if Trump wins re-election in November 2020.  The progressive social change that has been made might be jeopardized as judges have the power to strike down laws passed by Congress.  It is true that "approving legislation, a legislator/president plays for the next election, putting a judge on the courts a legislator/president plays for the next generation."

Case in point, The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for gay and transgender rights, immigration, abortion, guns, and religion this past fall. Justices will rule on these cases during the summer of 2020.  These cases are in jeopardy if we take into account the newly appointed justices, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, both appointed by Trump.   It is difficult to see these justices not sticking to their biases rather than using the Constitution for guidance to rule.

So far on his first term, President Trump has 158 judicial nominees and they all were confirmed by the Republican-led U.S. Senate. Here is the breakdown of these judges, two of them are Supreme Court Justices, 44 Circuit Court Judges, and 112 District Court Judges.  There are currently "870 authorized Article III judgeships: nine on the Supreme Court, 179 on the courts of appeals, 673 for the district courts and nine on the Court of International Trade."  President Trump has appointed more circuit judges than any other president. According to the White House's website, "1 out of 4 active judges on the court of appeals are Trump's appointees."  The Judiciary is being transformed by the day by this administration. Where is the outrage?

The saying goes that the Supreme Court has the last word and that whatever is decided by these justices becomes the law of the land.  Although the number of cases the U.S. Supreme Court hears is approximately 125 a year out of the 8,000 that are usually sent for consideration.  Since not all cases are heard by the Supreme Court, whatever these circuit courts decide stands.

The fact that the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold a hearing for Obama's lower court nominees in the last two years of his presidency made Trump's presidency more meaningful for conservatives in this country. There were so many vacancies to fill.  President Trump has been just a rubber stamp for conservatives in this country who want conservatives judges for decades to come.  Many conservatives do not care about silly tweets and his lack of civility.  They reason that they will always be better off with Trump in the Oval Office than any democrat currently battling it out in the Democratic primaries.

I still vividly remember how progressives and those on the left used to make fun of then-president George W.  Bush.  Every gaffe this man would make was magnified a thousand times.  We all laughed hysterically about Bush's lack of coherence and intellect.  While we were rolling on the floor in laughter, Bush was giving a tax break to the very rich. He also tried to privatize social security and he sent our kids to Afghanistan and Iraq while re-structuring the federal government.

Fast forward to 2019; It is evident that we have not learned.  Most progressives and people on the left are obsessed with Trump's tweets.  We seem to be oblivious to the political reality; the man is turning the clock on many progressive policies, from environmental reversal to tax breaks to the rich to the inhuman enforcement of immigration laws.

"Conservative culture warriors" appear to have found a way to keep progressives and liberals distracted.  It is all about "owning the libs" conservatives sarcastically claim.  "Conservatives love it earnestly, liberals love it ironically," the saying goes.  The meaning of "owning" someone essentially means humiliating manipulating a person online.  Moreover, "lib" are those so-called lefties or liberals who have enough time on their hands and spend endless hours reading political stuff online.

People on the right post-non-sense comments online so they can agitate these "libs," e.g., Trump tweeting or saying that he will change the constitution so he can run for a third term.  Conservatives know that this will never happen, but some "libs" still react ferociously. Reacting to stupidity, you read on the internet is a self-defeating act.

For example,  last week, The U.S Senate approved not one but two Trump nominees to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Yes, the one that is headquartered in San Francisco, an essential court of appeal known to rule in favor of those without a voice in this country. This is the court that rules for "nine western states and its decisions affect 60 million people." Trump dislikes this court with a passion and he has the last laugh.  Here is what progressives need to focus on. I have yet to hear noises about these appointments.

No Democratic presidential candidate has said anything or acknowledged how these courts are being packed with young right-wing individuals and its consequences. The "Corporate" and "Socialist" Democrats are mired in fruitless infights.  Judges are critical in the political arrangement that we have in place.  Remember, that Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore, in which the court gave us President Bush or Brown versus the Board of Education or Roe Versus Wade, these cases changed American society.

The Framers of the Constitution must be spinning in their graves.  They foresaw a Supreme Court with the sole responsibility of interpreting the Constitution when needed in the event of new societal changes.  They robustly debated about what that "interpretation" meant. They did not want judges to engage in the creation of public policy because that would usurp the democratic process.  The policy-making power resides in Congress, Hamilton asserted.

In Federalist Papers No. 78, he envisioned that having unelected and appointed individuals in the judiciary branch of government would insulate these judges from the politics of the day. He further argued that this branch of government would be "the weakest of the branches and it would have no influence over either the sword or the purse, may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor Will, but merely judgment." He argued in this essay.

Thank you for reading.

Photo Credit: Photo used in this essay came from Stock Photstock.

Sources consulted.
Graham, David A. "Trump Has Successfully Gamed the Courts."  The Atlantic 13, Dec.2019.

Hamilton, Alexander. Federalist No. 78. The Federalist, Ed. Clinton Rossiter. New York, 2003. 463-464

Liptak, Adam.  "As the Supreme Court Gets Back to Work, Five Big Cases to Watch." The New York Times 11 Nov. 2019.

Peyser, Eve. "The Summer’s Hottest Trend Is Owning the Libs." Rolling Stone 26 July 2018.

United States, White House. FACT SHEETS, "President Donald J. Trump Is Appointing a Historic Number of Federal Judges to Uphold Our Constitution as Written." 6 Nov. 2019.

Wick, Julia. "Column: Trump having his revenge on California as he remakes once-liberal 9th Circuit court." Los Angeles Times 22 Dec. 2019.

Can "Socialist" Sanders Deliver and Why He Has not Fully Explained His "No" Vote on the Immigration Bill in 2007?

A vital maxim for those who make decisions for the rest of us in the public square, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” Indeed, it is not about what you want. Of course, if Senator Sanders has a red army ready to go into Washington and ready to shoot against those who do not see for a need to recalibrate America's society, then this vital maxim can be utterly ignored.

Bernie Sanders is a child of the 1960s, a decade of political turmoil and social change.  He has struggled all his life endeavoring to bring heaven to earth to working-class folks.  He would like to eradicate income inequality, to curb corporate power, and to provide access to healthcare to everyone.  If we could enact these proposals into laws, then we could have a perfect civil society, Sanders reasons.

Senator Sanders has been in government for the last forty years.  He has served in both houses of Congress, and significant legislative accomplishments have eluded him.  Bernie Sanders, in the 1970s, settled in Vermont. In 1981 he became mayor of the city of Burlington. In 1986, he ran for governor as an independent and lost to Peter Smith. In 1990, Sanders challenged Smith again, and with the NRA's support, he finally defeated Smith for a House of Representatives seat.  He descended in Washington, and he had no allies. He was viewed as a gadfly who just likes to read anti-corporate pronouncements on the floor.  In 2006 he won a seat in the United States Senate and had won re-election twice.

Senator Sanders deserves credit for presenting progressive policy platforms, in the 2016's presidential election. It would have been considered inconceivable back in 2016 that a self-described "democratic socialist (watch the video here)" be viewed in 2020 as a real contender for the Democratic nomination. Sanders ' vision sparked a national conversation, and four years later, we have seen how mainstream and moderate democratic candidates embraced Sanders' proposals.

I am on board with some of Sanders's policy proposals, and I would like them implemented.  However, the current political system requires a massive formation of coalitions.  Yes, Sanders will have to work with crazy Republicans, including "Moscow Mitch" in the Senate.  Based on Senator Sanders' thin legislative record,  I do not see how Sanders could do this, "compromising" is a word that never made it to his lexicon.

In 2016, one of the editorial boards of a major newspaper asked him how he was going to persuade and to work with Republicans once elected president.  Some supporters were flabbergasted by his inadequate response.  Here it is what he said verbatim of what he would have said to Republicans, “Hey, Mitch, look out the window. There's a million young people out there now. Moreover, they are following politics in a way they did not before. If you want to vote against this legislation, go for it. However, you and some of your friends will not have your seats next election.” What a silly and simplistic response! We do not have that type of robust democracy where people take it to the street. Mitch will probably laugh on his face.

The power to create public policy resides in Congress.  Any candidate running for the presidency knows that, and these individuals also understand that presidents do not have the ability to create policy.  They will have to work with the leadership of the two houses in  Congress.  If one of these two houses is controlled by the opposition, nothing will get done.  So when a candidate tells what you want to hear, "Free Tuition," "Universal Childcare," or $1000.00 a month-free cash,  they are playing you for a sucker.

Case in point, "Moscow Mitch," and Barack Obama, Senator Mitch McConnell, did not even hold hearings for Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Scalia.  He nominated Merrick Garland, who was the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Those President Medals of Freedom came handy for Obama, once Republicans took over the Senate, Obama started giving Medals out.  He spent his last two years of his presidency in these ceremonial events.

President Obama had both houses of Congress being controlled by Democrats during his first year in office. He could not even get Obamacare right. Let that sink in for a moment. Even his detractors agree that Obama was highly intellectual and violently charming and persuasive and yet he could not get much done. A basic concept of separation of power at play here.

In 2015, Sanders understood that running as a third-party candidate; he would have no chance, hence in 2016, he joined the democratic party.  Yes, the "neo-liberal democratic party" that sold out the poor and the corporate political party that his supporters grotesquely disdain. Bernie Sanders always ran as an independent until 2016 when he switched and became a democrat. Once his presidential campaign ended in 2016, he went back to being an independent.  And in 2018, he won re-election for his US Senate seat as an independent. This is the very reason why democratic leadership in the democratic party has no love for the man. They would do whatever they can to hinder him from winning the nomination.

Moreover, there is that immigration reform still needed. As one who would like to see immigration reform for the million undocumented people in this country, I found this very troubling.  In 2007 Sanders opposed the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill.   I have problems seeing Sanders very casually telling a xenophobic and racist Lou Dobbs on this video (watch the video here), how immigrants hurt Americans for depressing wages and taking opportunities away from Americans. This was what Sanders roughly told him, I do not" know why we need millions of people to be coming into this country as guest workers who will work for lower wages than American workers and drive wages down even lower than they are now."  His lame excuse that it was all about "corporate greed" and concerns for guest workers programs was a facade.  He did not even stop Dobbs from attacking immigrants.  For those of you who do not know who Lou Dobbs is, Google him.

Regarding a single-payer system or "Medicare for All" and that since other countries are doing it, we should do it as well.  No arguments there, yes, we should do it, but Sanders' current simplistic plan of action will not pan out.  The challenge here is not how much it cost, but how do we persuade all power bases in Washington to do it differently.  If one wants to have some sense of this, carefully study the Obamacare. Insurance companies flexed their muscles and almost killed it.  Americans are way too busy to engage in this sort of civic engagement. Also, this vision of a single-payer system miserably failed in the Sanders' state of Vermont. Yes, if you want to help Americans, one should start in his own state.

Senator Sanders has a long way to go, for starters, his crowds need more people of color.  In 2016, he displayed a lack of ability to bring people of color to his "movement."  Bringing more Latinos under his tent doesn't mean to hire Latinos or Blacks as staffers. He has done a terrible job doing that with these Latino consultants both in 2016 and 2019 in Vegas and L.A. These consultants have given many corporate politicians to LA.

Finally, I am not sure if revolutions start at presidential elections and being led by a man who has been in government for way too long. Nonetheless, the man has to be given credit for animating millions of young and progressive people, and that was good for whatever is left of this democracy.

Thank you for reading.

P.S. I am neither part of the "democratic establishment" nor I am part of the "corporate democratic conspiracy" that Sanders' supporters accuse people of for disagreeing with the the Senator.  My piece about is analytical in nature and it is not intended to be anything more.


Photo Credit. Phote used in this piece came form photo stock.

Sources used.
"Becoming Bernie: The 6 Chapters Of Sanders' Life."NPR Politics, 3 Nov. 2015.
Cillizza, Chris. "5 reasons to be skeptical of Bernie Sanders' 2020 bid." CNN, 19 Feb. 2019.
"For all her faults, Hillary Clinton is vastly better prepared than Bernie Sanders for the presidency." Editorial.  Los  Angeles. Los Angeles Times 13 May 2016.
Goldstein, Amy.  "Why Vermont’s single-payer effort failed and what Democrats can learn from it." The Washington Post 29 April 20 19.
Krieg, Gregory and Ryan Nobles. "Bernie Sanders makes the case for democratic socialism as Trump attacks and moderate Democrats worry." CNN Politics 12 June 2019.
Yglesias, Matthew.  "What Bernie Sanders told Lou Dobbs in 2007 about why he opposed the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill."  Vox 12 Feb 2016.

Presidential Candidates Coming to L.A., but Will They Conquer?

Today-Thursday-12-19-19, Presidential Democratic candidates are descending in Los Angeles for a debate at Loyola Marymount University.  It will be a crime if these candidates spend a great deal of time talking about Trump's indecency, and the impeachment in Washington.  They should not overlook the challenges facing this city. These candidates should engage Californians in in-depth conversations that penetrate and reveal.

They need to tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Most of these candidates have mastered the craft of preaching to the choir.  I hope this is not what will take place in this debate.  This kind of political exercise is not how change happens.  These candidates need to present a vision for our problems and not just do the usual venting outrage against corporations and Trump. Candidates should do their homework.

Let me break it to you, Los Angeles County is not only "the homeless capital of America," but we also have many people living in a great state of distress because 80% of their incomes go to greedy landlords. There are about 60,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County and roughly about 140,000 in the state. Los Angeles is also a place of wildfires, earthquakes, profound problems in our education system, and human degradation taking place behind the thousands of tents set up on sidewalks.

Many voters in California, me included, are still shopping for a candidate. The race is still wide open among voters in this state. Californians will vote for the Democratic presidential nominee on March 3. This is what is known as "Super Tuesday," sixteen states will be holding elections that day.  Once the nominee is selected, this deep-blue state votes democratic in the major presidential election that is held in November.  Voters are still seeking for a candidate who has the potential of being intense, organized, and adamant like those supporting Trump. I am steering clear of those candidates who talk a good game.  And those who use the scriptures and talk about how the sky will open up and how the light will come out with celestial angels singing.  And all of a sudden,  Trump and all our problems will go away.

California is a democratic state. There are roughly 3 million more Democrats than there are Republicans.  Hillary Clinton crushed Trump in California in 2016. The state needs help and must figure out how we can play a more meaningful role in selecting presidents. In the last three decades, California is the place for candidates to go to collect serious cash; they see our state as an ATM.  Democratic candidates go to the rich liberals in Hollywood, and Republicans go to the conservative billionaires in Brentwood and Orange County.

Chamba Sanchez and presiidential candidate WarrenI have attended two presidential candidates' events here in Los Angeles, one with Elizabeth Warren and the other one with Tom Steyer.  The former was very skillful in using her personal story with policy proposals.  The latter miserably failed in trying to project himself as the people's candidate.  Warren spoke eloquently as to how she will root out corruption in Washington, and Steyer solely focused on the environment.  I was perplexed as to how these two presidential candidates did not say a word about the housing crisis and immigration reform needed here in Los Angeles. I told senator Warren to look into immigration while taking a selfie with her.  After all, this is Los Angeles with a vast immigrant community.  I could not get a chance to put my name down on the list to ask a question in Steyer's event. So, I just yelled it out to him: "Candidate talk about your ideas in fixing the housing crisis."  I was confused for getting a standing ovation for having asked that obvious question.

It is for the best interest of the nation that California remains the vibrant force it has been since it joined the Union in 1850. Presidents need to do whatever they can to keep the promise alive in this state.   Yes, we owe it to those who made California what it is today; from those who came to the "Golden State" escaping the Dust Bowl to the Asian railroad workers to the high tech innovators, to the Mexican laborers who came here through the "Bracero Program" and to the civil war refugees who came to the state in the 1980s.

It is not clear if the richest state in the wealthiest nation on the planet can still be the vanguard of change in this nation when thousands of its schoolchildren sleep in shelters and cars.

Thank you for reading.
Photos Credit: The one with the Hollywood sign was purchased online. And, the one with Senator Warren was taken with my cell phone.

Sources used.
Meyerson, Harold. "The Little Union That Could Shut Down This Week’s Democratic Debate."  The American Prospect 16 Dec. 2019.  Web. 18 Dec. 2019.

Skelton, George. DEC. 15, 2019 3:01 PM   "Presidential candidates rarely discuss California’s issues. They should at the next debate." Los Angeles Times 15 Dec. 2019. Web. 17. 2019.

Medina, Jennifer. "California and Nevada Ask: Iowa Who?" The New York Times 18 Nov. 2019. Web. 17 Dec. 2019.
Nov. 18, 2019  "California’s 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary." Web. 17 Dec. 2019.

Spakovsky, Hans A. von and Gian Carlo Canaparo.  "California Can’t Pick Who Runs for President. New Law Just an Attack on Trump." The Heritage Foundation 24 Sep. 2019. Web. 17 Dec. 2019.

Starr, Kevin. California: A History  (New York, Modern Library (2005). 13.

The Tanked Debate on Immigration Reform Exhibits the Leadership Deficit Among Latinos

In 2016, the passionate and vitriolic debate about immigration reform was front and center in the presidential election. Trump became president, and the political needle for immigration reform never moved.  This lack of progress sheds light on the need for an engaged, committed, and imaginative leadership.

Reactive leadership has not been helpful. Activists and community organizations in the immigrant community have been playing defense.  The relentless assaults on multiple fronts on undocumented immigrants don't let up.  The attacks range from inhuman treatment of immigrant children at the border to constant raids to the dismantling of Obama's executive actions that provided relief to the DREAMers.

In less than two months, voters in Iowa will begin casting their votes for the Democratic nominee who will face Trump in November 2020.  None of the leading Democratic candidates has put forward a coherent legislative proposal that will deal with the inhumane immigration system we have in place. Of course, they still engage in "Hispandering" uttering the usual platitudes for Latino audiences.

Latinos are going to be the largest minority ethnic group voting next year, with 32 million eligible voters.  Democratic presidential candidates should be courting us aggressively with policy proposals beneficial to our community.  Neither party appears to be interested in earning our votes. Democrats know that the majority of us have no place to go, and we will always vote for them. Republicans do not even look at us since they know they have no chance.  We have no leverage.

The DREAMers are about to lose their protections.  The Supreme Court heard arguments last month whether President Trump has the right to shut down the temporary protection President Obama provided to 700,000 young people.   Constitutional scholars who are watching the hearings closely are predicting that the conservative court will side with Trump.  A real travesty, these young people have done everything they have been told to do, and this country is telling them that they are not wanted.

Also, last week, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will provide legalization or some amnesty to "illegal" immigrant farmworkers.  A “Certified Agricultural Worker,” as it is called, is a designation "lasting five-and-a-half years if they have worked for at least six months on farms within the past two years." It is excellent that these hardworking Campesinos are getting some help.  Nevertheless, this piecemeal approach underlines the well-thought-out leadership needed for a comprehensive immigration bill that could include the eleven million undocumented immigrants in this country.

Activists who advocate for immigrant rights have lost control of the dominant narrative about immigration reform.  Conservative and nativist forces are now in control and have constructed a new venomous and debased narrative that changed from family-based to a merit-based system. Their solution solely focuses on enforcement, they clearly are disconnected from the reality on the ground. These anti-immigrant forces have internalized the fiction that eleven million people can be expunged from communities across America with the ICE's wand.

Republicans also tell us that the immigration debate is not about giving "illegal" immigrants what they want or what activists tell them what they deserve.  Immigration should be about what is best for this country. Nativists argue they must make a concerted effort to "assimilate." What they mean by that, is that we, immigrants, need to learn the language, be a productive citizen and get an education, and learn how the institutions of democracy work.  These nativists are oblivious to the fact that many of us have done all that and more.  Furthermore, all we want is just an opportunity so we can contribute more.

Our "liberal" or "progressive" political friends, on the other hand, on the campaign trail, they all are after our support the day before the election.  Then, they are after our throat the day after the election.   And, all of this happens with no consequences.

President Obama is a good case in point.  Our community worked hard to make sure he got elected.  Once in office, he gave us comprehensive enforcement and not the reform he promised us.  He also hired many activists and leaders in our community.  They all became his mouthpieces.  Cecilia Munoz spent eight years blaming Republicans for the lack of legislative action in Congress. Notwithstanding, Munoz conveniently overlooked the fact that in Obama's first year as President, Democrats controlled both Houses in Congress.

Obama also hired Hilda Solis for a high profile cabinet position-Secretary of Labor.  Obama used Solis for immigration rallies. Janet Mungia, who led the "National Council of La Raza," now known as "UnidosUS" and labor leaders, Eliseo Medina, and Dolores Huerta, frequently descended at the White House for superficial events. Obama wined and dined these leaders while he was massively deporting hardworking undocumented immigrants.  Dolores Huerta even got the Medal of Freedom from him. True sell-outs!

California needs immigration reform,  our state is the home of one in five undocumented immigrants.  It truly is difficult to fathom to see this large number of hardworking undocumented immigrants living in the shadows and seeing our congressional representatives not leading the effort for legislative action.  I see them taking trips to the border and call for press conferences to tell us what we already know. Cardenas, Gomez, Linda Sanchez, Barragan, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Ted Liu, etc. should be leading the charge in the House.  The immigrant community must miss former representative Gutierrez, who relentlessly and consistently advocated for the immigrant community in Congress.

We, Latinos, are a very diverse community, and immigration is not the only issue we care about.  Our numbers have been growing substantially in the last two decades, and we have many brown faces leading powerful foundations, in academia, in businesses, non-profit organizations, and elected political offices.  Yet that progress has not translated into the betterment of our community. We should endeavor to have an honest and robust conversation as to how we can effectively use our political power to benefit our greater good in our community.

Yes, I am a single-issue voter. I want immigration reform!

Thank you for reading.

Photo Credit: Stocksphotos online.

Sources used.
Enchautegui, Maria E. "Is piecemeal immigration reform that bad? Yes!" The Blog of Urban Institute 27 Jan. 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Kamarck, Elaine and Christine Stenglein. "How many undocumented immigrants are in the United States and who are they?" Policy 2020 Brookings 12 Nov. 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Rey Koslowski, Rey. "Hey, Congress: It's comprehensive immigration reform or nothing." The Christian Science Monitor 21 May 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2019.
Johnson, Hans and Sergio Sanchez. "Immigrants in California." Public Policy Institute of California-PPIC 10 May 2019. Web. 15 Dec. 2019.
McCammond, Alexi. "The first-time Latino voters." 14 Dec. 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Navarrette Jr., Ruben. "Millions of Latinos are Trump supporters. Here's what they're thinking." US Today 26 Nov. 2019. Web. 14 Dec. 2019.
Stieber, Zachary.  "Hose Approves Bill Giving Some Illegal Immigrant Farmworkers Amnesty." The Epoch Times 12 Dec. 2019. Web. 15 Dec. 2019.
Valverde, Maria. "Did Senate pass immigration bills in 2006, 2013 and House failed to vote on them?" 26 Jan. 2019.  Web. 13 Dec. 2019.