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What the vaping ballot initiative is really about

You can’t walk around San Francisco these days without running into somebody gathering signatures to “raise the legal age for vaping products” or to, as one told me, “keep kids from buying tobacco.”

One person with a clipboard told me that this would “raise the age for vaping from 16 to 21.” I am getting reports that in some parts of town, the petitioners are saying that Mayor London Breed supports this move.

Actually, the initiative was created, written, and is fully funded by JUUL, the electronic cigarette company that is now owned in part by Altria, the global tobacco giant.

Mayor Breed has not endorsed it.

It’s already illegal for anyone under 21 to buy any tobacco product, including vaping products, anywhere in California, including San Francisco.

So what’s this all about? Simple:

The Board of Supes Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee is holding a hearing Friday/7on legislation by Shamann Walton that would ban the sale of vaping products in the city. Walton would also ban the manufacture of tobacco products in San Francisco (which would be a problem for JUUL, which operates in a building owned by the Port.)

The case against selling vaping products? They haven’t been approved by the FDA, and they’re aimed to a significant extent at kids:

Since 2014, the problem of youth electronic cigarette use (“vaping”) has become an epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the number of middle and high school students who are current users of tobacco products increased from 3.6 million to 4.9 million between 2017 and 2018. This increase – which was driven by a surge in e-cigarette use – erased past progress in reducing youth tobacco product use.

The political operatives at JUUL realize that they may not be able to block the legislation at the board – so they’re going to the ballot with their own alternative.

The ballot measure would overturn any legislative ban on vaping products – but to make it sound better, it says that nobody can buy vaping products if they are under 21 (which is already state law). And it would require vaping products to be kept behind a counter (which pretty much every retail outlet does anyway). So the measure doesn’t add any significant regulations at all — but petitioners can go around saying the measure is aimed at stopping kids from vaping.

Any parent who has kids in the SF high schools, including me, knows how bogus that is: Raising the age to 21, which California did in 2016, hasn’t stopped high-school kids from vaping, any more than raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 stopped college kids from drinking.

Walton told me he is not surprised at the misleading signature campaign:

JUUL is a seriously irresponsible and untruthful company. They have been bought out by big tobacco and continue to deny that they target our youth and focus on addicting them to nicotine for a lifetime, all for profit. It does not surprise me that they would got to deceitful tactics to support their targeting.

The initiative campaign send me this statement:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We are looking into the matter, and will make sure there is no misinformation shared in relation to signature gathering for the initiative.

Ted Kwong at JUUL sent me this statement:

“We share the City of San Francisco’s concerns with youth usage of tobacco and vapor products, including our own. That is why we have taken aggressive action nationwide, including stopping the sale of flavored products to retailers and supporting strong, restrictive category wide regulation to keep e-cigarettes out of the hands of youth. But this proposed legislation’s primary impact will be to limit adult smokers’ access to products that can help them switch away from combustible cigarettes. We encourage the City of San Francisco to severely restrict youth access but do so in a way that preserves the opportunity to eliminate combustible cigarettes. This proposed legislation begs the question – why would the City be comfortable with combustible cigarettes being on shelves when we know they kill more than 480,000 Americans per year?”

I’ve never been a fan of prohibition of any drug; adults who are fully informed of the risks can do what they want to do, including smoking or vaping. Selling products designed to hook kids on nicotine is an entirely different story.

And I am a fan of transparency, so now you know: The ballot initiative isn’t about protecting kids; it’s about protecting JUUL sales. Sign it or don’t; the issue of banning the sale of tobacco is complicated. Just know what it’s really about.

Bernie Day at the state Dem Convention

Sunday was Bernie Sanders Day at the state Democratic Convention.

Bernie supporters packed the area outside the convention hall. Bernie signs were everywhere when he took the stage. And his speech was received with the sort of enthusiasm that we have become used to over the past three years.

Bernie was Bernie — and the crowd loved it.

Sanders thanked the crowd for helping turn what were dismissed as crazy left-wing concepts just a few short years ago into the mainstream of party discussion.

“Together we began a political revolution whose ideas and energy have not only transformed the Democratic Party but have transformed politics in America,” he said.

Then he launched into his pitch: That bold (not moderate) ideas are the only way to defeat Trump.

All of us are united in defeating Trump, but let me be frank with you and raise the issue that I think is on everyone’s mind, and that is: what is the best way to defeat Trump?

As you all know, there is a debate among presidential candidates who have spoken to you here in this room, and those who have chosen for whatever reason not to be in this room about the best way forward.

So let me be as clear as I can be: in my view, we will not defeat Donald Trump unless we bring excitement and energy into the campaign, and unless we give millions of working people and young people a reason to vote, and a reason to believe that politics is relevant to their lives.

The theme of the speech was “no middle ground:”

We have got to make it clear that when the future of the planet is at stake, there is no “middle ground.” We will take on the fossil fuel industry and transform our energy system.

We have got to make it clear that when this country drifts toward oligarchy, there is no “middle ground.” Large profitable corporations like Amazon will pay their fair share of taxes.

When it comes to health care, there is no “middle ground.” Health care is a human right, not a privilege and we will guarantee health care to all of our people through a Medicare for All single-payer system.

Sanders said all the things his fans have come to expect, and he made a strong case that a more moderate agenda won’t work this time around. It was vintage Sanders.

And yet: I still think Elizabeth Warren stole the show.

As Sup. Hillary Ronen posted on Facebook:

I will always love Bernie and will continue to support him too but Elizabeth is stealing my heart. Her speech today was off the hook. I wish I recorded it. Her approach — big structural change with a plan and with a fight — is exactly what this country needs.

I think a lot of people felt the same way. Today was Bernie’s Day, but it was Elizabeth’s convention.

Bernie fans and Elizabeth fans on shared ground.

There were boos in the hall. Two loud sets of boos.

The first was when former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said yesterday that “socialism is not the answer.” The second came this morning when Maryland Rep. John Delaney said that Medicare for all is not a feasible idea.

In fact, the boos got so loud that Chair Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker told people who were making noise to leave the hall. “If you want to scream, please leave,” she said.

That didn’t stop the boos.

Julian Castro was one of only two candidates (Kamala Harris was the other) who took advantage of the massive amount of news media on hand (300 credentialed reporters) and held a press conference after his speech.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was the only candidate talking about police reform.

Castro was also the only candidate who talked about police reform. In his speech, he read off the names of young people of color killed by police officers.

“That video we keep seeing of police violence is not an accident,” he said, calling for an end to “over-aggressive policing.”

He said he would push a federal law changing the rules for the use of deadly force, which “should be used only when a threat to life is imminent and all other alternatives have been exhausted.”

I asked Castro, the former HUD secretary, what he would do about restoring that agency’s mission of building housing in American cities. He acknowledged that even under his boss, President Obama, the agency didn’t get what it needed. “When Ronald Reagan took office,” he said, “HUD has 16,000 employees. When I arrived, there were 8,000.”

He offered the usual mainstream Democratic Party housing policies – expanding the low-income-housing tax credit, “working with the private sector” and spending some more money on subsidies.

Me: How many affordable housing units will you promise to build in the next four years? Castro: I will release a plan soon.

The resolution allowing undocumented immigrants to participate fully in the Democratic Party wasn’t on the floor this morning, but it’s still moving forward. It’s been referred to a subcommittee and will be taken up by the Rules Committee when the Party bylaws are discussed in August. “A big win for immigrants,” Sarah Souza, who authored the resolution, told me today.


Eight ‘Big Ideas’ at MoveOn Forum

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On Saturday afternoon, eight Democratic presidential hopefuls appeared for MoveOn’s “Big Ideas Forum” in San Francisco.

Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Cory Booker, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Secretary Julián Castro, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Kamala Harris, and Senator Amy Klobuchar were in attendance. Each candidate had the opportunity to pitch “one big idea” that they believe would help create an America that works for everyone.

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Here is a summary of the presidential candidates’ Big Ideas at the MoveOn Forum:

Sanders: Stop endless wars

Booker: Baby Bonds

Warren: Clean up corruption

O’Rourke: Humane immigration/border policy

Gillibrand: National paid family leave

Harris: Equal pay

Castro: Police reform

Klobuchar: Voting rights

Senator Bernie Sanders kicked off the forum with his one big idea: stop endless war.

“Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” reverberated throughout the room as the Senator made his way on stage. He called for cutting military spending, stopping the war in Yemen, and avoiding war with Iran.

“It’s time to end the entire policy of endless wars,” he stated. “It’s not just Republicans who support too-big military budgets, it’s many Democrats as well.” In terms of concrete policy proposals, Sanders wants the 2001 and 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force policies repealed to prevent the authority of any US presidential administration to wage needless war, and he also wants to reallocate the Pentagon budget towards climate solutions that will create good paying jobs and save the planet.

Sanders’ focus on foreign policy for this forum is significant and strategic, as many critiqued his approach to foreign policy as weak during the 2016 race. His message this time around focused onfinding diplomatic solutions to international conflict and moving towards creating “a global community” in which all have decent jobs, adequate food, clean water, education, health care, and housing.

Senator Cory Booker followed Sanders, and proposed his own big idea: correcting wealth disparity through “Baby Bonds”— a $1,000 interest-bearing account that gets up to $2,000 invested per year for low-income children in order to build wealth from birth. His big ideas focused on wealth creation in order to achieve opportunity, equality, and the “American dream.”

For the lowest-income children, these accounts could accrue upwards of $50,000 by the time they reach adulthood at 18 years old, which Booker suggested could then be used to invest in things that create wealth, including college or homeownership. “In America, paychecks help you get by, but wealth helps you get ahead and create generational wealth and strength,” he said. He also added that this could help erase the racial wealth gap in the US.

Booker also directly addressed racism and white supremacy during his speech, labeling white supremacy as a threat to our country’s democracy, safety, and security. “Since 9/11, the majority of terrorist attacks in our country have been homegrown right-wing groups and the majority of them have been white supremacist attacks,” he says. “I’m going to make sure that here in Silicon Valley, these social media platforms do not become platforms for hate and bigotry.”

Senator Booker was a clear crowd favorite— his speech was fired up and his delivery was passionate.

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s big idea? Clean up corruption.And she’s got a plan for that. Her anti-corruption plan, which she calls the “biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate,” includes ending lobbying in its current form, instituting a lifetime lobbying ban on elected officials, creating an ethics agency in DC, and requiring all individuals who run for federal office to release their tax returns online.

Needless to say, Warren offered policy proposals left and right and couldn’t limit her discussion to only one big idea. She proposed a 2-cent wealth tax, which would tax the top 1/10th of the one percent two cents on every dollar above $50 million and go towards funding universal childcare and Pre-K. She discussed cancelling student debt. She received roaring applause for her comments on gun violence.

Warren also talked about her housing proposal, which would create 3 million housing units both in urban and rural areas and provide housing subsidies to those in previously redlined areas. “We need to make a federal commitment,” she said.She eloquently discussed racial inequity and the history of racial discrimination through the practice of redlining.”Housing is the number one way that families pass on wealth in America… It should surprise no one in here that starting early in the 20th century, America started investing in the purchase of housing and subsidizing it for white people, but not for Black people [and] communities of color…” she stated.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke asked: What if we treat immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with dignity and respect?

Switching between English and Spanish, Beto offered his comprehensive immigration reform plan, which includes cancelling Trump’s orders along the border, ending the caging of children and family separation, waiving fees for citizenship applications, and speeding up the process of naturalization and creating more pathways to citizenship for all, not just the undocumented.

Beto also discussed aiding and investing in Central America to reduce the cycle of immigrants fleeing and seeking refuge. “Instead of meeting them with a wall or this inhumanity, this cruelty, or this torture, what if we obviate the need for them to make this journey in this first place?” he asked. He also suggested that it was time to cancel the president’s bullshit, and his simple use of a swear word was enough to fire the crowd up.

What was most interesting in his speech was his pivot towards talking about his own white male privilege and his commitment to diversity. How would Beto use his privilege as a white male to address sexism and racism?

“There are advantages that I have brought into this race that I did not earn,” he stated. He talked about listening to those who have not enjoyed the same advantages as him, and reflecting diversity in his campaign and any future administration he may lead to counter innate privilege. Within the same vein, he discussed supporting H.R.40, which would study reparations, and also addressed the school-to-prison pipeline, decriminalization of marijuana, and the foundational racial inequity in this country that contributed to the wealth gap between white and Black communities.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand demands National Paid Family Leave.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked the crowd: What does the United States have in common with Papua New Guinea and no other industrialized country in the world?

They both don’t have national paid family leave.

In fact, Gillibrand stated that eight out of 10 Americans don’t have paid leave and are forced to choose between earning a paycheck or caring for their families. “It’s such a drag on the US economy… it’s something that harms our economy and our families,” she said. According to Gillibrand, working families lose $20 billion a year in wages due to lack of access to paid leave. Her plan to create 3-month paid family leave would be an earned benefit much like social security, costing two dollars a week for the average worker.

Gillibrand expressed that part of the problem is that legislators, the majority of whom are male, don’t represent their constituents well. “It is a women’s issue, but it’s also an economic issue. It’s an issue that affects our small businesses… It’s an issue that affects our lowest income workers,” she said. Senator Gillibrand also stated that paid family leave is a racial justice issue, because a lot of low-wage workers are women and women of color. She also discussed race and maternal mortality rates, racial bias in the delivery room, decriminalization of marijuana, ending cash bail and for-profit prisons, and supporting studying reparations. She urged the crowd to look into her entire platform, especially her “Family Bill of Rights,” which include a set of “common sense” policies to level the playing field and set children up for success starting at birth.

The Senator is polling low and facing difficulties in fundraising, but national paid leave is on the national radar and many presidential contenders, including Kamala Harris, have plans to put it into effect.

Senator Kamala Harris says “Close the gender pay gap and shift the burden to the employer.”

In her home state, Senator Harris called to shift the burden of equal pay from the employee to the employer. She notes that even after the Lilly Ledbetter Act was passed, the burden is still on workers to report the issue of unequal pay and pursue legal processes.

Under her presidency, “the burden will shift to the employer to prove that they are paying women the same amount as men for the same work… I’m going to require that they post on their website what they’re paying people for equal work,” she stated. To enforce this, Harris proposed that for every 1 percent differential between what a woman worker is making compared to what a male worker is making, the employer will have to pay a fine of 1 percent of the profits made from the previous year, which will go towards funding paid family leave. This proposal drew major enthusiasm from the crowd.

While she continued to answer questions by the moderators,an animal rights activist jumped on stageand grabbed Senator Harris’ microphone to discuss his own big idea. Security was slow to respond but Harris calmly walked off the stage amidst the chaos. Luckily, no one was harmed during this interruption, and an unfazed Harris returned a few minutes later after the crowd chanted her name to return and the protester was escorted out.

In response to a question posed by a MoveOn member regarding how she would address LGBTQ rights, Harris discussed the absurdity of the gay and trans “panic” defense utilized in courtrooms during her time as DA and the steps she took to challenge this defense. “When any prosecutor says that they represent the people, that means they represent all people and that all people should be treated with dignity and respect,” she stated.

However, Harris has been critiqued heavily over the past year for her criminal justice record as DA, and later as California’s Attorney General, specifically in regard to gender reassignment surgery for trans inmates and criminalization of sex work, which she has addressed since launching her campaign. This did not seem to be a huge factor in the room, however, as she received thunderous applause as she began her speech.

Secretary Julián Castro calls for police reform: “This is not a case of bad apples— The system is broken.”

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro laid out his vision to end the culture of over-policing, push for more police accountability, and repair the relationship between police and the communities they serve. He began his speech by naming many of the Black and brown women and men who have died at the hands of police violence. He named Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Pamela Turner, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and Stephon Clark, among many others.

“How many of these videos do we have to watch to understand… this is not a case of bad apples? The system is broken,” he declared.

His police reform plan includes the following: 1) Ending over-aggressive policing; 2) Holding police accountable for excessive force; and 3) Healing the divide between police and communities through demilitarizing police, ending stop-and-frisk practices and racial profiling, passing a national use of force standard, tracking use of excessive force by police officers through a public database for all to access, and building trust between police and communities.

Castro said that this is much bigger than just police reform. He specifically discussed the importance of universal health care and investing in both reproductive freedom and reproductive justice for low-income communities of color. “We also need to require health care providers to develop guidelines and policies in their institutions so whether the color of your skin is Black or white or brown… you’re given the same level of care, that you’re respected as a human being in the same way,” he said.

When asked about his thoughts on the attack on women’s rights and abortion, Castro stated that he supports the Women’s Health Protection Act and a woman’s fundamental right to choose, and that as a country, we must vote out politicians who put anti-abortion laws into effect.

Senator Amy Klobuchar ends the forum with a call to action: We must take our democracy back.

Klobuchar began by stating that many of the big ideas discussed by the previous candidates could not be done without taking back our democracy.

Klobuchar focused heavily on democracy reform. She discussed voter suppression, foreign influence on elections, campaign finance reform (proposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United), making election day a federal holiday, requiring back-up paper ballots in every state (via the Secure Elections Act), public financing of federal elections, and instituting automatic voter registration when citizens turn 18.

Klobuchar was asked how her voting rights plan addresses institutional racism and voter suppression. She brought up Nevada’s recently passed billthat will restore voting rights to those with a felony conviction upon release from prison and suggested that this same policy should be enacted all over the country. Further, she said, under Trump’s reign, income inequality has only gotten worse. “We need to make sure that when we look at that tax code, that tax code works for everyone in America,” she stated. Senator Klobuchar suggested investing in areas that need it the most in order to address cyclical childhood poverty and its impact on America’s urban centers, as well as address institutional racism in urban policy.

However, in the discussion of extending voting rights to ensure democracy, Klobuchar missed an opportunity to discuss how to bring undocumented individuals and other disenfranchised groups into the fold. With California’s non-citizen population at an estimated 5 million, Klobuchar failed to reach out to those who may uphold and display democratic values but are left on the margins. In fact, she has been criticized before for compromising on issues relating to DREAMersand prides herself on her ability to be bipartisan and pragmatic, which doesn’t accomplish very much on behalf of immigrants and other vulnerable constituents that she serves.

The premise of the forum was refreshing. While many continue to relitigate the failures of the 2016 election, it’s been three years and it’s clear that our political landscape has shifted. While proposals to implement Medicare for All, institute free tuition for public colleges and universities, and forgive student debt were considered unrealistic during the 2016 election, these proposals are now mainstream and part of many candidates’ platforms. Democrats have continued to shift left and are beginning to understand that progressive policies will move the country forward.

Each candidate’s big idea was diverse, yet connected to other big ideas. As an entire party, the Democrats would do well to consider how to bridge these big ideas together collectively. 

MoveOn’s choice of two women of color as the forum moderators was crucial in shaping the discussions, too. MoveOn’s Chief Public Affairs Officer, Karine Jean-Pierre, and Stephanie Valencia, co-founder of EquisLabs, were not afraid to ask candidates tough questions regarding race and gender. It’s 2019 and our presidential candidates cannot afford to be “weak” on these issues, and most of the candidates did not hesitate to call out systemic racism by name and acknowledge racial disparities and how they impact communities of color economically, physically, socially, and politically.

However, with the exception of Secretary Castro’s comments and Senator Harris’ discussions of the gender pay gap, it’s surprising how little the topic of women’s rights and reproductive freedom in general were truly discussed, given the current political climate. While Gillibrand positioned herself as a leader in women’s rights, her arguments for national paid leave almost centered too much on economic impact and the “drag” lack of paid leave has on our economy and small businesses. In all, I’d say most candidates failed to deliver strong and bold ideas specifically about women’s rights.

Overall, candidates brought valid and important issues to the forefront and have set our expectations for the 2020 race. In blue California, Sanders, Booker, Warren, Castro, and Beto were the clear crowd favorites. While many of the big ideas, rhetoric, and proposals appeared as a full embrace of the left and progressive politics, we must continue to look at the race with a critical eye. We must look at candidates’ voting histories, concrete policy proposals, and alignment with issues that we as a country are not willing to compromise on, including health care, living wages, immigration reform, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. Only then can we really discern between what is hype and what is reality.

Warren steals the show at Democratic Convention

Elizabeth Warren was by far the star of the show today.

It’s remarkable how much the mainstream of the Democratic Party has shifted since Bernie Sanders shook up the party three years ago. This year, at the state convention, economic inequality is on the political agenda.

In his opening speech welcoming the delegates, Governor Gavin Newsom (who has never been in favor of anything that involved taxing the rich) actually said that the wealth gap “is real and unsustainable.”

Sen. Kamala Harris says we should “absolutely” raise taxes on the rich.

Sen. Kamala Harris held a press conference this morning, and I asked her if she supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s idea of a wealth tax. “I think she’s onto something,” Harris said. Me: Does that mean you support raising taxes on the rich? “Absolutely,” she said.

Even Willie Brown got into the act, saying that in San Francisco, under Mayor London Breed, the “gap between the haves and the have-nots is being instantly merged.”

Well, actually it’s not; inequality is getting worse. And Harris, while she’s talking about tax credits for working families and the gender pay gap, hasn’t actually proposed any new taxes on the rich or formally endorsed Warren’s plan.

But at least they’re talking about the crisis that – along with climate change – is the greatest threat to the future of humanity. Finally.

If there was an overall theme to the convention, it was reproductive rights. From the Women’s Caucus in the morning, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed a packed room of more than 1,000, to most of the speeches by presidential candidates, the war on women declared by Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana and other states was a central issue.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks about reproductive rights

Debra White, the general counsel of Planned Parenthood, took us through the battle lines, and she, like others, repeatedly said that abortion is health care.

Dr. Pratima Gupta, who sits on the SF Democratic County Central Committee, was the only candidate nominated from the floor (not by the existing caucus leadership) to win a seat on the board of the Women’s Caucus. She introduced herself by saying she was an abortion provider – and a mother. “And these two things are not contradictory!”

Pelosi still isn’t calling for impeachment – although I think it’s fair to say that the clear majority of people in the convention center today favor that path – but she seems to be getting closer. Today, she said that Congress “will go wherever the facts lead us” and that “we will have an ironclad plan to act … Trump will be held accountable.”

She didn’t say exactly what that “plan to act” would look like, but I don’t think she’s gone quite that far in the past.

Sanders isn’t speaking until Sunday morning, but so far, the star of the show has been Elizabeth Warren. She got by far the strongest response from the floor and had the entire place buzzing.

It was a crazy day, with each of 13 candidates getting seven minutes to address the convention (Scott Shafer at KQED called it “speed dating,” which is a good description).

Elizabeth Warren was by far the star of the show today.

None of the second-tier candidates did or said anything that will help them break through in California. Sen. Cory Booker came the closest, with an inspired talk about the need for gun control, but most of the 3,000 delegates will probably walk away wondering: Who is Eric Swallwell, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, John Hickenlooper, or Jay Inslee anyway?

Pete Buttigieg got applause when he said that he woke up this morning next to his husband – and that his marriage was only legalized by a one-vote majority on the Supreme Court. He did say that “The economic ‘normal’ has failed a working and middle class that powered America into a new era of growth… only to see the amazing wealth we created go to a tiny few.”

But he didn’t say what we can do about it.

Harris and Beto O’Rourke talked about how great California is, and put out their stump-speech agendas. Harris said “this election is about who we are as a people.” The biggest cheer she got was when she called from Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

O’Rourke talked about how Trump is dividing us, and called for a comprehensive new immigration policy that would allow the DREAMers to stay. He said not a word about economic inequality.

Warren had the clearest message for change – and wasn’t afraid to take on the Democratic Party establishment. Every problem facing the country, she said, “is to connected to one thing: Power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy and the well-connected who are helping only themselves.”

In Washington, she said, “they dream small, they talk about tweaks and nudges. But the time for small ideas is over. We need big, structural change.”

Warren was the only candidate critical of others in the race and the party leadership (although she used no names). “When a candidate says it’s not possible, that the political calculations could come first, that you should settle, they are telling you they will not fight for you.”

The floor erupted in cheers.

It was the second big welcome Warren received in the Bay Area. Thursday night, she held a town hall at Laney College in Oakland Thursday, and said that this was the largest of the 90 town halls that she has participated in.

Warren said she is the “first 2020 candidate to make preschool affordable to all families” and highlighted the need to increase teacher pay.

Warren said she wants to attack corruption in government head on, stating that she has the “biggest anti-corruption plan since Watergate.” She also discussed the toxic role that money plays in elections and stated the need to “end lobbying as we know it.”

One of the more moving moments: A youth-led protest on climate justice that clogged the stairs to the convention floor — but nobody complained.

A youth-led climate justice protest took over the stairs leading to the convention floor.

Outside the convention hall, sex workers were demonstrating for their rights and pushing a resolution that would put the party on record in favor of decriminalization.

Doms Against Donald Trump demand sex-worker rights — but the Democratic Party won’t vote on their resolution, which died in committee.

Alex Andrews, who works with the Sex Workers Organizing Project, came all the way from Florida to join the demonstration. “These women don’t want to be arrested for reporting violence against them,” Andrews told me.

The Resolutions Committee killed their proposal.

Additional reporting by Zachary James.

Convention Day One: Prop. 13 reform, progressive support for Kimberly Ellis …

Supporters of Prop. 13 reform pack the room as the Resolutions Committee approves a split-role plan.

Wow – just the first afternoon, no candidates for president yet — and so much is happening at the state Democratic Party convention.

We had the battle around allowing undocumented immigrants to play a full role in the party. We have a new policy that seeks to block demonstrations in the convention center – which the party as a whole has never approved. Party activist Hene Kelly told me that she has asked where those rules came from and said she won’t support them unless the entire convention votes to approve the ban on “disruptive” actions.

Supporters of Prop. 13 reform pack the room as the Resolutions Committee approves a split-role plan.

The Resolutions Committee had more than 150 proposals, and the way these things go, only about 10 ever make it to the floor. One will be a measure putting the party on record supporting the 2020 split-role initiative to reform Prop. 13.

Supporters of the resolution packed the room, and other then a bit of concern from business owners, there was little doubt about the outcome.

Down the hall at the Progressive Caucus, the candidates for party chair were asked about their positions on the issues. But it was clear from the loud cheers and applause for Kimberly Ellis that she is the clear favorite of this group of Democrats.

And it was clear from the crowd at this caucus that there’s a huge grassroots movement for party reform.

Kimberly Ellis got an overwhelming ovation at the Progressive Caucus.

I talked tonight to Tom Ammiano, the former supervisor and state Assembly member, who was on his way to speak at the Bernicrats dinner. He had a lot to say about the state of Democratic Party, and the slow movement of the moderates, and the need for dramatic change.

“Enough of this, I’m joining the Democratic Socialists of America,” he told me.

We’re back tomorrow, starting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s address to the Women’s Caucus at 7:45am. Then all of the candidates for president will get exactly seven minutes to address the convention.

Stay tuned.

UPDATED: Resolution on undocumented participation derailed — then finally passed — at Dem Convention

Sarah Souza leads a rally for immigrant inclusion outside the Democratic Convention

This morning, the San Francisco Democratic Party asked the California Democratic Party one question: Will you stand with immigrants?

At a press conference this morning, the San Francisco Democratic Party, along with Former Supervisor David Campos, the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, SF Young Democrats, and other community stakeholders, urged the California Democratic Party to support a resolution to extend party membership to all, regardless of citizenship and immigration status.

Sarah Souza leads a rally for immigrant inclusion outside the Democratic Convention

The resolution calls on the state party to recognize any resident over the age of 18, regardless of immigration status or citizenship, the right to fully participate in the California Democratic Party. This includes allowing non-citizens the opportunity to be delegates and proxies for the party.

But just hours after the rally, the resolution fell into the maw of the California Democratic Party bureaucracy.

The measure was submitted to the Resolutions Committee – but the chair decided, without discussion, to refer it instead to the Rules Committee. But for whatever reason, he waited until it was too late to make the Resolutions Committee agenda today.

“They aren’t going to vote on it,” Sarah Souza, author of the resolution, told us.

This resolution is personal to Souza, a DREAMer and San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee member. Souza was the first ever DACA recipient to be appointed to the DCCC and she introduced this resolution as a response to the current political climate.

While she is a DREAMer, Souza highlights that this resolution is not reserved only for DREAMers— it’s for all, regardless of status.She wants to pave the way for others to have the same opportunity to be active participants in the Democratic party.

Though California has made progressin integrating the immigration population, including passing legislation that authorizes driver’s licenses, comprehensive healthcare for all children, and in-state tuition for eligible residents regardless of immigration status, it falls behind the national party in extending Democratic party membership and inclusion.

The Democratic National Party has already amended its bylaws to allow immigrants to participate as delegates. San Francisco has done the same. What about California?

“It’s time for us to stand for and with immigrants,” Souza told us. “We need to give them access and a seat at the table.”

We asked the acting chair of the state party, Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker, what had happened, and she said “I just heard about it,” she said. She said she supported the resolution, but “it’s not the end of the world” if it has to be considered at a later Executive Board meeting or the November convention.

But Former Supervisor David Campos, who also serves as Chair of the DCCC, says that this resolution is urgent, especially as Trump and the Republican Party continue to wage a war on immigrants. “In the midst of this war, it’s important for the Democratic party to be very clear that it is pro-immigrant— not only in words, but in action. That’s what this is about,” Campos said.

Party leader and activist Hene Kelly told us that she’s not giving up. “We will get enough signatures to put this to a vote on the floor,” she said.

And Souza didn’t give up, either: After a day of lobbying, social media work, and meeting with party leaders, she was able to get the measure back before the Resolutions Committee just before it adjourned. It passed.

Additional reporting by Tim Redmond.

The tensions are going to emerge at the Dem Con this weekend

Kimberly Ellis has strong progressive support for party chair.

The Democratic Convention officially starts this afternoon, and the talk amoung progressive delegates is all about the nasty attacks on Kimberly Ellis, who is running for state party chair.

Lenore Albert, who is also running for the office, released a series of documents that show that Ellis has had some problems with debt and the IRS.

Kimberly Ellis has strong progressive support for party chair.

That’s old news to insiders – Eric Bauman, who won the last race against Ellis, also had those docs, but decided not to use them. Bauman later resigned over sexual harassment charges.

To some, Albert’s tactics reek of desperation – and have no place in a party race.

Gabriel Haaland, an LGBT and labor activist, noted on Facebook:

So I want to call out that debt shaming a black woman who struggled with her mortgage and student loans is one of the sleazy campaign tactics that I have ever seen.
It also plays off racist, sexist stereotypes so there is that.
That said, it makes her like most Californians, and for that reason makes her a better chair in my opinion.
I will say this. That opposition research that was commissioned originally by Bauman has been sitting around for a couple of years. Bauman decided against using it. The power brokers who did the campaign research left it on Lenore’s doorstep one morning so that their hands weren’t sullied. But their hands are sullied.


He told me, “they did the same thing to Stacey Abrams.”

In a sense, this race reflects the overall theme that we are going to see this weekend: The cautious leadership, dominated by members of the state Legislature and the Pelosi wing of the Congressional delegation, will be up against an increasingly activist party membership that is tired to moderation.

The legislators are looking at the state and seeing a place where seven Democrats won Congressional seats in formerly GOP districts, and they don’t want the party to take any stands that might alienate swing voters in those districts.

Willie Brown, the former mayor and Assembly speaker, has been pushingthis line in his Chronicle column.

But thanks to some serious organizing in local communities in the past few years, the grassroots base of the party has moved away from that position. The media say the party has moved “left,” but I’d put it another way:

The party has moved impatient.

The activists don’t want to wait for impeachment, don’t want to be careful about climate-change legislation, don’t want to move slowly on health-care.

We will see where these clashes emerge – because emerge they will.

And the Party Leadership is worried. At a press conference today, Acting Chair Alex Gallardo-Rooker told us that “if you want to [protest], do it outside, not in our house.” She added: “If there is screaming and yelling and protests, they will be removed.”

The Democrats come to town: Convention preview

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The California Democratic Party convention will take over Moscone Center this weekend – and along with speeches by candidates for president (except Joe Biden, who isn’t going to show), the party will elect a new chair in a highly contested vote.

Progressives like SF Party Chair David Campos are backing Kimberly Ellis of Richmond. Her main opponent is Rusty Hicks, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

The race has become nasty and divisive; Ellis still thinks she should have won the last time around, but the Party went with Eric Bauman, who had to resign over sexual harassement charges.

If Ellis doesn’t get the nod Saturday, “I’m afraid a lot of the young people will walk out,” one insider told me.

There’s what appears to be a new Code of Conducton the convention website, most of which is strong language against any type of harassment and asks that delegates “communicate professionally and respectfully, whether in person, online posting, or elsewhere, and to handle dissent or disagreement with courtesy.”

Then there’s this:

Sustained disruptions of floor session or the workings of committees will not be tolerated – convention staff will ask all disruptive parties to cease and desist. If disruption continues, security will escort the party off the property and he/she will not be permitted back for the duration of the convention.

I have seen plenty of protest actions in the past that could be described as “sustained disruption.” There are serious, intense issues and debates here, including over the Green New Deal, impeachment, and party transparency and governance.

I hope that rule is enforced somewhat cautiously.

Much of the convention happens inside Moscone. But there are numerous events happening outside. Here’s a partial list; if your group’s event isn’t here, let us know and we will update. (NOTE: Some events may require RSVP or a convention credential).


Road to Convention Mixer with the San Francisco Young Democrats(hosted by the San Francisco Young Democrats)

Mars Bar, 638 Brannan 6pm-8:30pm

The San Francisco Young Democrats are hosting a mixer at Mars Bar in San Francisco this Thursday night from 6-8:30pm to mingle and talk the upcoming convention. The SFYD will be discussing what to expect from the three-day convention as it moves into the city.

Oakland Town Hall with Elizabeth Warren

6:30 pm, Laney College Soccer Field 821 Fifth Ave, Oak. Mandatory RSVP here:

United Resistance Democratic PartyConvention

1335 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Assembly members David Chiu and Phil Ting are hosting a celebration honoring the California Democratic Convention. Warriors DJ, DJ-Sharp will be playing music along with food and drinks.

Pride and Politics: An LGBTQ Reception for the California Democratic Convetion (hosted by Equality California)

Oasis, 298 11th Street

This is an LGBTQ reception celebrating the start of the California Democratic Convention. The reception is presented by the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and Senator Scott Wiener and you must RSVP in order to get into the event.

The Art of Caring Featuring Senator Harris (hosted by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, Planned Parenthood Advocates Mar Monte, Planned Parenthood Northern California Action Fund)

Mezzanine 444 Jessie Street. 8pm-11pm

The Art of Caring is a music and art experience celebrating Title X and Senator Kamala Harris. There will be speakers dedicated to expanding access to reproductive health care.


CA Black, Latino PACs Convention Reception w/ Young Dems(hosted by California Young Democrats, California Latino Legislative Caucus, California Legislative Black Caucus)

Executive Order Bar & Lounge 868 Mission Street, 8pm – 10pm

The African American and Latino PACs are hosting a reception with the California Young Dems at Executive Order Bar & Lounge. DJ-Check will be there along with drinks and appetizers. 

Cube of Truth: San Francisco Takeover 2019 (Hosted by Direct Action Everywhere, Animal Liberation Conference, Anonymous for the Voiceless)

Civic Center Plaza 335 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Activists are holding a demonstration at Civic Center Plaza this Friday from 4:30pm-8:30pm. The demonstrators are advocating for animal rights and going vegan. You can also register for a conference before the event at

Saturday/1 will be hosting a “Big Ideas” conference, asking each of the presidential candidates to offer one “big idea.” The event is full, but you can sign up to watch the livestream here

Sex Worker Rally

Outside Moscone Center, 3rdand Howard, Noon to 3pm

On June 1, International Whore’s Day, the Erotic Service Provider Legal Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) will host a rally outside the Democratic Convention at the Moscone Center advocating that a new “Decriminalize Sex Work” Resolution be added to the state Democratic Party platform. Nearly 50 state delegates have already endorsed the resolution.

Progressive Democrats of America Lunch

From the PDA press release: If you are going to the Convention or, are anywhere near San Francisco, on June 1st, we hope you will join us at  the Canton Seafood and Dim Sum Restaurant, 655 Folsom St., San Francisco, CA 94107.  …an easy walk from the Moscone Convention Center.

The luncheon will start right after the Saturday morning CDP General Session ends and will run until the start of the afternoon General Session.  This should be approximately Noon – 1:30pm.  Of course, we will have exciting keynote speakers including:

Jovanka Beckles–former Richmond City Councilmember & Steering Comm. Member of the Richmond Progressive Alliance

Chesa Boudin–SF Public Defender and Candidate for SF DA

Pamela Price–civil rights attorney & elected member of the Alameda County DCCC

  Amar Shergill–attorney & our new CDP Progressive Caucus Chair

Party of the People! Convention Reception (Hosted by San Francisco Democratic Party and San Francisco Young Democrats)

Osha Thai Restaurant and Lounge 8pm-11pm

Music, drinks and food at Osha Thai Restaurant and Lounge from 8-11pm. The San Francisco Democratic Party and San Francisco Young Democrats will be celebrating the arrival of the convention with a mixer.


(events research by Zachary James)

Pete Buttigieg makes a splash in SF — but what does he really stand for?

Lots of splash and attention; still working on the substance.

For the second time in as many months, presidential hopeful and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg made an appearance in San Francisco.

But unlike his last stop through the city, when he spoke at Manny’s cafe in the Mission, this trip came after a breakout CNN appearance that significantly boosted his profile and campaign donations.

Lots of splash and attention; still working on the substance.

“I’m a little surprised by the pace of it, if only because it happened so suddenly after the CNN Town Hall event,” he told reporters before taking the stage at a Commonwealth Club event Thursday evening. “What I had to say that night what was no different than what I say everywhere I go. It just goes to show that it makes a difference when you get in front of a lot more people.”

Despite the uptick in momentum, Buttigieg admitted his campaign website was still just a “splash page” with no policy statements. Visitors can read a brief bio, see a list of upcoming events, buy t-shirts, and – of course – donate. But that’s it. He said a new site is under construction.

“Although it shouldn’t be hard to figure out where I stand on most policy issues simply by searching the commentary that I’ve done in public,” he said.

The event sold out weeks ago, with would-be attendees posting to the Facebook page hoping for space tickets. “Pretty please?” one wrote. Someone else offered $100.

In contrast to last month’s appearance at Manny’s, Thursday’s audience was dressed as you might expect for a Commonwealth Club event: Lots of suits, blazers, crisp dress shirts, sweaters. Premium ticket buyers were treated to wine and hors d’oeuvres.

One attendee, Aashrey Kapoor, said he was initially drawn by the curiosity of a mayor running for president, but came to view him as the most insightful candidate in the race. He didn’t expect to hear anything new but wanted to see how well Buttigieg interacted with a large crowd.

“I think I’ve heard all of his general talking points, I know what he’s going to say,” Kapoor said before the event. “I don’t necessarily agree on all of his positions. I just like the guy.”

At 37-years-old, Buttigieg would be the youngest person to hold the office. Kennedy was 43 when elected, and Theodore Roosevelt was six weeks shy of his 43rd birthday when he assumed office after William McKinley’s assassination. More recently, Al Gore was 39 when he ran for president the first time in 1988.

Buttigieg would also be the first openly gay president. He came out, even to his family, just four years ago as he was running for re-election as mayor. He won with 80 percent of the vote.

“I’m proud of my husband and our marriage. It might just be the most normal thing in my life,” he told reporters. “He’ll be on the road with us quite a bit – both because I love to be around him, and because he’s a real asset in introducing ourselves around the country.”

Buttigieg declined to speculate on how well he might fare in the California primary against Bay Area local Kamala Harris. “I don’t think I’m running against any individual person, especially when there’s something like 20 of us,” he said. “I think somebody like me is really competing against the house.”

“I admire a lot of the other people in this process,” he added.“Each of us has a different message, and you simply have to take it out there and see what the response is.”

Buttigieg said he didn’t pretend to have invented any of his policy ideas, but viewed his role more as helping them gain purchase.

As president, Buttigieg said his top priority would be democratic reform to address dark money, voting rights, redistricting, and even the electoral college, which he said “needs to go.”

“Every policy issue – of which I believe the most urgent is climate – every one of those will not get solved properly as long as our democracy is this twisted,” he said.

In response to audience questions about the homeless crisis in San Francisco, Buttigieg said he supported adding $11 billion to existing programs he said are known to work, such as permanent supportive housing.

“It’s a big number, but it’s also not, in the grand scheme of things,” he said.

Perhaps the most radical proposal he discussed were changes to the Supreme Court to make the body less political by increasing the number of justices from nine to 15. Ten of those would be selected through the current political process. Those ten would then need to reach unanimous consensus on who to put in the remaining five seats.

“It will get you more of your Kennedys, your Souters, your justices who think for themselves,” he said.

But he isn’t locked into the idea as the only way forward.

“There may be another approach I haven’t thought of,” he said. “But the point is we have to open this discussion.”

Large, enthusiastic crowd welcomes Bernie Sanders to San Francisco

Adults, teens, children and their pets gathered in Green Meadow Park near Fort Mason on a sunny Sunday afternoon March 24. Sen. Bernie Sanders greeted thousands of supporters as they stood in rows between the barricades and squished together behind railing in the park.

Excitement spread across the crowd as musicians and politicians took to the stage.

Sarah Lee Guthrie sings songs from her grandfather, Woody Guthrie.

Singer Sarah Lee Guthrie was there with her guitar to sing songs from her grandfather, Woody Guthrie: “I’ve Got to Know” and “This Land is Your Land.”

“I’m here because I support Bernie Sanders for president,” she said. “Bernie Sanders is one of my heroes for fighting all that time and being so consistent… I love the fact that Bernie fights so hard for workers’ rights.”

The Grammy-award winning group Tony Tony Tony also took the stage, followed by Democratic Party Chair David Campos, who said he would be voting for Sanders. Campos talked about his family’s risk to get to the US and their search for the American Dream.

Democratic Party Chair David Campos talks about the American Dream.

“We came here because we believe this is still a country of immigrants… I am here today in behalf of all undocumented kid who like me risk their lives to say, ‘This is our country as much as anyone’s.’ I am here because I still believe in the American Dream.. But that’s a dream that’s in peril. It’s no longer a reality for so many kids of country,” Campos said.

Emily Montiel, 19, said the Sanders’ rally was her first candidate event that she’s attended.

“[I attended today] because I plan to vote for Bernie Sanders,” she said. “I wasn’t able to vote in the last election, and I also wanted to show my dad. [It’s important for young people to attend events like this] so they can get informed and get educated. A lot of my friends who are now able to vote don’t know or care, even though they have the privilege to vote.”

Emily Montiel with her father and a friend.

During his own speech, Sanders addressed concerns regarding immigration policies, and workers’ rights, standing up to Wall Street, providing free college, securing universal healthcare, and strengthening gun control.

San Mateo Board of Supervisors Member David Canepa also spoke in support of Sanders.

“We need to make sure healthcare access is available to all. It’s about justice, it’s about doing the right thing,” Canepa said.  [In california, we know the effects of global warming]. If we don’t think global warming is the cause, we’re lying to ourselves. This is our time, our time to stand up. Make no mistake. It’s not one individual but all of us working collectively together. That’s what we need to elect Bernie Sanders.”

Claire Lau, a founder of SF Berniecrats, explained how she marched for democracy throughout her childhood and early adulthood, but it wasn’t until Sanders announced his candidacy in 2015 that she became an organizer. Between the last election and now, there were so many volunteers with so much energy that they couldn’t let the organizing stop, she said. Lau explained all the important topics they fight for, such as immigration and rights for Latinos and the African-American community.

Claire Lau, a co-founder of SF Bernicrats, talks about her political inspiration.

“Why? All inspired by Bernie Sanders over 40 year-commitment to these issues before they were popular. We’re here not just for Bernie as one person, we fight for justice for all of us here,” Lau said.

Tom Ammiano, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors and state Assembly, said he supports Sanders because he discusses important issues, such as addressing the disabled community, who deserve a “seat at the table.”

“I wanna welcome Bernie to the Emerald City. We are gonna follow that fucking yellow brick road right to the White House.”

California Representative Ro Khanna took to the stage soon after to advocate for the important of universal healthcare.

“The current system is not affordable… It’s about freedom, it’s about the freedom on an entrepreneur to start her own business without worrying about not having healthcare. It’s about the freedom of a mother to look after a sick child without fear that the hospital bills will keep piling up. For those that believe in the constitution, medicare for all gives the pursuit of happiness meaning,” Khanna said.

One of the topics that Sanders has heavily advocated for is a $15 minimum wage. When Sanders is president, Khanna said, he’ll fight for a $15 minimum wage at Walmart, Burger King and every Fortune 500 company in the country. Khanna also addressed Sanders’ concerns over military interventionism and the four-year anniversary of the end of the war in Yemen.

Before Sanders took the stage, former Senator Nina Turner, co-chair of 2020 Bernie campaign rallied the audience.

“What the people want is simple. We want an America where everyone has the opportunity to seize opportunity. People don’t wanna bring up history because they know they can’t hold up to the receipts we’ve got,” she said.

Chris Cortes, 28, said the rally absolutely met his expectations, and he even got to shake Sanders thumb. He looks forward to Sanders taking on Wall Street and re-shaping the middle class.

“I feel like Bernie Sanders is our best chance to beat Donald Trump and get the most progressive candidate, arguably since FDR. He’s a once in a lifetime candidate,” Cortes said.

Sanders: “I think we are going to win California.’

Sanders was met with loud cheers as he greeted the crowd, the Golden Gate Bridge towering behind him and US and California flags blowing in the wind. An abundance of blue and white “Sanders 2020 signs” were sprinkled across the audience.

“San Francisco, thank you… I’m delighted to be here in California and I want to say, based off the incredible crowds I’ve seen, I think we’re going to win California,” Sanders said.

Sanders addressed many of the policies that were pegged as “radical” during his 2016 campaign. These include raising minimum wage, making college free, legalizing cannabis, and guaranteeing healthcare. He also discussesd fighting against climate change, reforming immigration, and changing the criminal justice system.

“As your president I will not have kind things to say about authoritarian leaders around the world who espouse hated and bigotry,” Sanders told the crowd. “Together, we will make the US the leader in the world in the fight for democracy and human rights, in the struggle to bring this world together around our common humanity.”

And, he added, there is something to be learned by New Zealand and what they did after the mosque shooting. They banned assault weapons within three days of the tragedy.

Sanders asked the crowd to stand with him, as he fights to protect family-based agriculture from Vermont, his home state, to California.

“We have to stand up. We’ve got to stand up to the prison industrial complex, we’ve got to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. In other words, it’s easy enough for someone to give a speech on all the things he wants to do, but those changes will not take place unless people stand up and fight back and that’s what this campaign is about,” Sanders said.

Maggi Munat attended the event to help start rallying troops to start working for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Everyone needs to come together to work to get Sanders elected president, she said. This campaign is different than the last one, she explained, as they are starting strong with millions of volunteers and a lot of donations coming in.

“I am going to work my hardest. We’ve got really strong support in Northern California. With his recognition and the support, we’ve been here all along, we’ve got a whole base. We can do it,” Munat said.

Munat said that of the donations coming in for the Sanders campaign, 40 percent are from new people, not from the last campaign’s e-mail list.

Sanders also took a moment to address the young people of today’s generation.

“We are living in a moment of exploding technology, where worker productivity is increasing, and despite that, our younger generation, unless we change it will have a lower standard of living then their parents. Our job is to see the younger generation do better than their parents,” Sanders said.

The strength of joining together and not letting President Trump divide people by their skin color, country of origin, sexual orientation and religion, Sanders said, is what motivated him.

“I may not be a great mathematician, but this I do know: They are one percent, we are 99 percent. If we stand together, we can create a country that will be the envy of the world, a country that our kids and grandkids will say ‘thank you mom and dad, thanks grandparents for standing up for justice.”