Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton and a $16 Moscow Mule


Actually before we get started let’s clarify a couple things: I’m less twenty-something and more decidedly twenty-four, and the Moscow Mule was $18 with tip.

It was the other week, Valentine’s Day, that I decided to reach out to the Regional Organizing Director I had worked with last summer, when I was a “Hillary for Nevada” volunteer fellow. Now, the Nevada Caucuses were about six days away, and since I’d had experience on the ground out in Clark County last June and July, I felt pretty attached to the Nevada outcome. Yes, I’d abandoned the campaign after a month, but that’s because I’m not good in 105-degree weather, not because I don’t care about Hillary. I do, very much. So much so that when my former R.O.D responded to my email by saying “yes, when can you get here” with more exclamation points and question marks than I care to disclose, I was worried. So I did what any young, liberal, temporarily unemployed woman would do: I called a friend and asked if she and her boyfriend wanted to go with me to Vegas for the weekend, and when they said no, I decided to go anyway! What resulted was a sleepless couple of days that simultaneously deepened my commitment to Hillary and confused my faith in Democracy. Ya know, an average Friday and Saturday.

As a fellow, I was stationed in Henderson, a suburb of Vegas, so it was to Henderson I returned. I drove up to the campaign’s strip-mall office around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, saw some semi-familiar faces as well as new ones, grabbed a clipboard, door-hangers, and a map, and hopped back into my car to do some door canvassing, something I’d never done before. The good news was, my BFA in Acting would come in handy in an “I’m a saleslady connecting to partner” kind of way; the bad news was door-to-door canvasing alone late on a Friday afternoon kind of sucked. I knocked on 29 doors, talked to 11 people, and still don’t know if I made any difference. When I got back to the office around 7:30, I ate a square piece of pizza and was told that I would be a precinct captain on Saturday.

If you’re unfamiliar with how the Nevada caucus works (and for your sake, I kinda hope you are), a precinct captain is someone who volunteers to help with the caucus proceedings of their precinct. I felt my face flush with anxiety because I’d never been a captain of anything in my life (except of course, my own destiny), but after a quick training and the promise of a nifty shirt and super official button, I thought “Hey, maybe it’d be cool to be a part of history-making after all.”r

So, on the morning of Feb. 20, 2016, as instructed by The Hillary For America team I was to arrive at the caucus site at 10:00 a.m. Two hours early, because the actual caucus was to begin at noon.

The caucus works like this: To participate, you can pre-register or register upon arrival. Each precinct’s caucus takes place in a room at a school, civic center, or if you’re in Vegas, a casino, where, in this case, Democratic neighbors come together and “align” with their candidate. As precinct captain, my job was to designate a Hillary area, hand out stickers, engage with and try to win over undecided voters, and double check the number-crunching of the temporary caucus chair (the person who reports the delegates).  There are lots of strange little rules involved in the caucus. We couldn’t tape up signs or talk to people about our candidates in certain hallways. It’s like half democratic process, half weird voodoo ritual. There were 67 people in my precinct, and the whole time it was hilarious to me that I was one of those in charge, and that a primary election for president of the United States was being decided by hand-raising.

The Bernie Sanders precinct captain had similarly signed up just the day before to help out. He kept making digs at me about Hillary, and I kept making his side of the room laugh. Ultimately Hillary got 5 delegates and Bernie got 4 from our precinct. We, as a room, called the reporting hotline from our caucus chair’s iPhone. It all felt incredibly unsound. Like, what if we accidentally snapchatted our delegates instead of confirming them with the Nevada Democratic Party?

I soon learned that our room had been relatively smooth in it’s sailing. I was hearing horror stories about miscounts and people walking out and phone calls to caucus lawyers. I overheard a lot of hostility over discrepancies, people frustrated and truly confused about who to blame and complain to (not me, you guys!)

Despite the chaos and the bitterly disorganized system, it did truly in that moment feel like the government was in our hands.  It was also cool to be a young woman repping Hill—and many Bernie people in my precinct came up to me to shake my hand, telling me things I’d said about leaders listening and evolving had resonated with them. The Bernie precinct captain even asked for my number to get drinks! (I laughed later, because, much like my candidate, I said maybe, and much like his, he didn’t follow through).

The rest of the afternoon involved attending a Hillary victory rally at Caesars Palace, running into other Los Angelenos who’d shown up in support, and watching the heads of the Nevada team weep with joy. But the day wasn’t yet done! After changing clothes in the back of my car in a hotel parking structure and talking to my mom on the phone for an hour, I went to get a drink. I found some Baby-Boomer women (a judge, a lawyer, and a reporter—I’m not kidding), wearing Hillary shirts, and we all raised a glass to our win and told the bartender he could not change CNN to “the game.”  I met up with a friend I’d met over the summer for more toasting and food-truck sushi at midnight that still has not killed me. So, it was really successful all around.

I guess what I want to leave you with is this: People are participating. They are young, old, angry, and inspired. In Nevada, they are White, Black, Latino, Asian, Gay, Straight, Jewish, and Other. And for me, as a twenty-something, there was huge meaning in engaging with real people in real life, seeing the character of the country outside of the Internet, and getting great gas mileage on my drive back home.

Sanders, citing email controversy, questions Clinton’s electability


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Sunday took a jab at rival Hillary Clinton's electability, pointing to the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server as evidence of potential damage to the front-runner's campaign.

“In terms of what people are going to get slapped with, look at the front pages today in terms of what Secretary Clinton is getting slapped with,” Sanders said on ABC's “This Week,” referring to Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

“There is a legal process underway right now,” he said. “And I'm not going to politicize that issue.”  

Sanders, a senator from Vermont, had previously refrained from invoking the controversy over Clinton's controversial use of a private email account on a private server. In an early Democratic presidential debate, he declared that the American people were “sick and tired” of hearing about it.

But the issue has taken on new urgency in recent days as the two fight in an increasingly tight battle for the party's nomination. On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced they would withhold seven private email chains from Clinton's server, saying they contain top-secret information. 

Throughout the dispute, Clinton has maintained that she did nothing wrong in conducting State Department business outside of an official server, arguing that it was permitted and that there was precedent for the practice. 

When asked on Sunday whether she thought the call to withhold the email exchanges was political, Clinton shied away from outwardly accusing anyone but questioned the timing of the decision, which came just before Monday's first-in-the-nation nominating contest in Iowa.

“I just have to point out that the timing and some of the leaks that have led up to it are concerning,” Clinton said on ABC's “This Week.” 

“The best way to resolve is to do what I asked months ago, release these, let the public see them and let's move on,” she added. 

In Iowa, Sanders and Clinton are locked in a statistical dead heat, with Clinton earning 45 percent support of likely caucus-goers compared with 42 percent for Sanders, according to a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg politics.

Nationwide, Clinton leads Sanders with 51 percent support to 40 percent, according to a Jan. 27 Reuters/Ipsos poll.

Bernie Sanders dominates social media conversation on Iowa


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dominated overall conversation about the Iowa caucuses on Facebook Inc. on Monday, the social network said. 

From midnight to noon CST, 42.2 percent of conversations about the caucuses was about the senator from Vermont, compared with 21.7 percent for Republican front runner Donald Trump and 13.1 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to Facebook.

The caucuses held on Monday night are where the first votes are cast for the U.S. presidential nominations and where Clinton is locked in a tight race with Sanders to become the Democratic nominee for the November election.

The Facebook data is surprising given Trump's success in using social media as a campaigning tool in his presidential bid. The real estate tycoon has been particularly active on Twitter Inc <TWTR.N>, with more followers and tweets than any other candidate running for president. 

Social media posts do not necessarily translate into votes, but experts in digital strategy say they can indicate levels of enthusiasm among active supporters.

Senator Ted Cruz from Texas, Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, all candidates in the Republican race, respectively accounted for 10.7 percent, 4.7 percent and 2.6 percent of Facebook conversations about the caucuses. 

The top three issues discussed were the economy, same-sex marriage and State Department emails, the social network said. 

The U.S. State Department conceded for the first time on Friday that intelligence officials were correct to say that at least 22 emails sent through Hillary Clinton's private server contain some of the government's most sensitive secrets.

Young Dems get J caucus


Indicating that a new group will come together around issues of interest to the Jewish community, the official youth arm of the California Democratic Party recently chartered a Jewish caucus.

Established on April 12, the California Young Democrats’ Jewish caucus will back elected Jewish officials and others important to the Jewish community; support Israel and assess anti-Israel speech and demonstrations on college campuses, said caucus chair Ryan Pessah, who lives in Sacramento and works as a legislative consultant for the California Association of Health Facilities.

“With the group’s inception just appearing in the rearview mirror, they look forward to supporting members of the Jewish community in the upcoming elections, as well as connecting with Jewish college groups in hopes of fostering involvement in the political realm and raising awareness for Jewish issues,” Pessah, 25, said in a statement.

California Young Democrats chartered the Jewish caucus during the 2013 California Young Democrats State Convention, held annually in Sacramento. The convention took place April 12-14.

The Jewish caucus is the newest group within the California Young Democrats that is focused around galvanizing support for issues of concern to an ethnic, religious or minority group.

One significant focus will be altering the conversation about Israel on university and college campuses, where Pessah said professors are biased against Israel in their lessons on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He hopes the caucus’ efforts will bring more balance into classrooms.

California Young Democrats, which describes itself as being composed of progressive people, ages 14 to 35, has more than 3,000 active members throughout its more than 70 chapters, according to Kris Octabiano, managing director for the California Young Democrats. 

The movement’s Jewish caucus has approximately 30 members, Pessah said. He told the Journal that he wants to reach out to areas, including San Diego, the Inland Empire and the North Coast region, not currently represented by the caucus, in order to grow it statewide. Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento — places with large Jewish communities — are represented.

Santorum’s Southern sweep mars Romney’s front-runner status


Rick Santorum swept two Southern states in Republican primaries, complicating Mitt Romney’s status as front-runner and all but burying Newt Gingrich’s chance for the nomination.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who emerged from last place in polling as recently as December to become the conservative challenger to Romney, scored 33 percent of the vote in Mississippi and nearly 35 percent in Alabama. Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, finished second in both states, with 31 percent in MIssissippi and 29 percent in Alabama. Romney was third with 30 percent in Mississippi and 29 percent in Alabama.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) came in a distant fourth in both races after barely campaigning in either state.

Romney, who during the campaign has tried to shuck his reputation as a moderate, had campaigned hard in a bid to prove he could win in conservative Southern states. The former Massachusetts governor is leading substantially in delegates, but his path to the nomination has been far from smooth as conservative candidates continue to mount substantive challenges.

Gingrich had suggested that if he failed to win in Mississippi and Alabama, his campaign was in trouble, predicated as it was on winning Southern states.

If Gingrich leaves the race, campaign watchers will look to see who his main backer, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, decides to support. Adelson and his wife, Miriam, twice salvaged Gingrich’s campaign with huge cash infusions; Gingrich and Adelson have been friends since the 1990s, in part because they share hard-line pro-Israel positions.

Romney has the backing of much of the Jewish Republican establishment, having attracted the bulk of Jewish donors and advisers. His appeal to Jews is based partly on his moderation and ability during his governance of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 to appeal to liberals and independents.

Additionally he and his wife, Ann, have referred in talks to Jewish groups to their Mormon faith, likening themselves to Jewish Republicans who have pushed for prominence in a party that still draws much of its support from a Protestant base.

Both Santorum and Romney have battered President Obama for what they depict as his hostility to Israel and his fecklessness on dealing with Iran, and both say that they will repeal much of the heath care reform package passed by Obama.

Some of Santorum’s domestic policies, including statements suggesting that a “Jesus guy” is most suitable for the presidency, have alarmed some Jewish groups.

After Iowa win, Romney expects rivals to turn up heat


After his razor-thin victory in Iowa, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on Wednesday predicted “fast and furious” attacks from rivals seeking to oust him from his front-runner perch in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Romney edged out Rick Santorum, a conservative former Pennsylvania senator, by only eight votes in Iowa’s caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest of 2012, as each received about 25 percent of the vote.

Ron Paul, a Texas congressman known for his small-government views, was a close third with just over 21 percent.

The result solidified Romney’s status as the person to beat in the race to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama in November’s election. But his eight-vote win over Santorum also underscored his inability to secure the trust of socially and fiscally conservative Republicans ahead of what is likely to be the most expensive presidential election campaign in history.

Newt Gingrich, a former front-runner who finished in fourth place with about 13 percent of the votes, signalled that he would campaign more aggressively against Romney, whom he has linked to a series of bruising TV attack ads.

“I know the attacks are going to come and they’re going to become more fast and furious now,” Romney said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, after eking out his 30,015 to 30,007 win over Santorum.

Gingrich called Romney a liar on Tuesday and Santorum took a stab at him as a “moderate,” a dirty word to many conservative Republicans, as the Iowa results came in.

Santorum, who until recently had been little more than an afterthought in the race, was the latest in a series of candidates to benefit from Romney’s weakness.

Campaigning in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, he emphasized his home-schooled children and opposition to gay marriage in a bid to win the state’s large bloc of Christian conservatives.

Santorum staked his campaign on a strong showing in Iowa, but with little cash and a bare-bones campaign operation he could have difficulty competing in other states.

Romney attributed his 25 percent share of the caucus vote to the large size of the field. “This was a seven-person field, of course, and so you can’t do with seven people in the field what you can do with a smaller field,” he said on ABC on Wednesday.

Romney is a strong front-runner in New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Jan. 10. A Suffolk University poll on Wednesday had Romney at 43 percent, to 14 percent for Paul and 9 percent for former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has based his campaign in the small New England State.

The Suffolk poll had Gingrich at just 7 percent and Santorum at 6 percent in New Hampshire.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who finished fifth in New Hampshire and said he was going home to reassess his campaign, had 1 percent support in the Suffolk survey. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann was at 2 percent.

Bachmann who received 5 percent in Iowa, to finish sixth, said she is continuing her campaign.

With deep reserves of cash and a strong campaign infrastructure, Romney has the resources to compete in bigger states like Florida at the end of the month. He has been focusing his attacks on what he terms Obama’s “failed presidency.”

A Republican official said Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee, would endorse Romney on Wednesday.

Sparsely populated Iowa yields just 25 delegates of the 1,143 needed to lock up the Republican presidential nomination, and those delegates aren’t actually awarded for months after Tuesday’s caucuses.

About 120,000 people participated in Tuesday’s Republican vote, and another 25,000 participated in the Democratic caucus—about 8 percent of the state’s eligible voters.

Additional reporting by David Morgan and Susan Heavey in Washington and Jane Sutton, Eric Johnson and Steve Holland in Iowa, Writing by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Vicki Allen

Jason Alexander meets with Knesset caucus


Former “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander met with a Knesset caucus to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Alexander is in Israel as part of a high-profile delegation of international business leaders and philanthropists under the auspices of OneVoice, an international grass-roots movement working to promote the two-state solution.

The American television star and the rest of the delegation met Monday with the Knesset’s Two-State Solution Caucus. The delegation also is scheduled to meet during its weeklong visit with the OneVoice movement’s Israeli and Palestinian youth activists and to attend a town hall meeting in the West Bank Palestinian city of Kalkilya, according to the organization.

Alexander asked caucus members why pro-settlement Israelis want to be in the West Bank. Labor Party lawmaker Daniel Ben-Simon responded that it is because the land is “biblical.”

Alexander told The Jerusalem Post that humor has no place in the peace process “because someone is always going to be offended.”

American Jewish Committee launches Latino-Jewish congressional caucus


The ongoing development of ties between the Latino and Jewish communities took a new turn this week with the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) establishment of a new Latino-Jewish Congressional Caucus. At press time, a group of mostly Latino and Jewish lawmakers were set to meet at an event in Washington, D.C., on June 14, in the hopes of furthering collaborative relationships.

“This is a natural growth of the development of contacts between Latinos and Jews throughout the decades, and particularly in the last few years,” said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute. “Why shouldn’t Congress reflect the continuing alliance between Latinos and Jews elsewhere?”

Despite the highly polarized atmosphere in Washington, the caucus hopes to be a bipartisan endeavor, with Reps. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) serving as co-chairs.

AJC’s Latino and Latin American Institute, which supported the establishment of the new caucus, has been working nationally, internationally and locally in Los Angeles to develop relationships between Latinos and Jews. The institute presented an award to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last October for his work in building connections between the two communities.

Sixteen representatives — mostly, but not exclusively, Latino and Jewish — have signed on to the caucus so far, and a handful of others have expressed interest. Among the confirmed participants from the Los Angeles area are Democratic Reps. Joe Baca, Lucille Roybal-Allard and Brad Sherman. Aside from Ros-Lehtinen, only one other Republican, Rep. David Rivera of Florida, has joined the caucus so far. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the only Jewish Republican in Congress, was approached but declined to take part.

Siegel Vann said she hopes that comprehensive immigration reform and foreign policy will be areas for potential cooperation. “Hopefully, in the weeks to come, the co-chairs will be able to bring members together to come up with a plan of action and identify several issues where they can work together,” she said.

Election 101 — who is your choice?


This time of year, we know that you are seeing signs everywhere about the upcoming presidential election. So many people, so many numbers … and even though you won’t be able to vote until you are 18, we think you should know what it all means.

1) What is a caucus?


A caucus is a private meeting of members of a political party — sometimes caucuses are held in public places, but they can even be held in someone’s home — to select delegates for a nominating convention. In a caucus you are voting for a delegate to represent your choice but not the actual candidate, as you would in a primary.

2) So what is a primary?

It is an election held before the general election, where voters select the candidates who will run on each party’s ticket. Primaries can be open, meaning any registered voter can vote in any party’s primary, or closed, where the selection of a party’s candidates in an election is limited to registered party members.

3) So what’s the difference?

In a primary you fill out a ballot — and you can even send it before the election date, as an absentee ballot. In a caucus, you vote by physically standing in an area designated for your delegate. After discussion and debate, an informal vote is taken to determine which delegates will be chosen.

Both caucuses and primaries help to narrow down the number of candidates in a political party. The Democrats started the presidential race with eight candidates and now they have five — three of whom are considered “front runners.” The Republicans have seven candidates.

4) So what is a delegate?

A delegate is a representative who bases his or her votes on the majority opinions of the people he or she represents.

5) And what’s a nominating convention?

It’s where each political party will finally confirm who they are nominating for President of the United States (and there will be plenty of speeches from the leaders of those two parties). The two major ones are the Democratic Convention and the Republican one. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Denver, Colo., from Aug. 25-28; the Republican National Convention will be held in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., from Sept. 1-4. There will also be conventions for other smaller parties, such as the Green Party and Libertarian Party.

6) So how many delegates does it take to win the party’s nomination?

Well, that depends on the party. To win on the Democratic side, you need 2,025 delegates. On the Republican side, you need 1,191. And many states have a policy where even if you don’t win a primary or caucus, if a certain number of people vote for you, you get some delegates.

7) When and how does California vote?

California votes in a primary system on a day called Super Tuesday (Feb. 5), when 23 other states will also be voting. We used to vote in June, but many felt this wasn’t fair because several candidates were no longer running by the time summer came around. There are 441 delegates on the Democratic side; and 173 on the Republican side in California.

There’s a lot more to this election issue … check around on the Web and watch the news with your parents to learn more about it. You can find out even more about the candidates in next week’s Jewish Journal.

If you could vote in the election, whom would you pick and why? It’s OK if your choice isn’t the same as your mom’s or dad’s. Is your classroom holding a mock election? E-mail us at kids@jewishjournal.com over the next months and let us know. We’ll post the results here and see if kids really can pick the president.

Now Hear This

Get decked out in your V-Day outfits and declare your love of music. What better way to spend the weekend before the biggest love day of the year than at The SqueeGees’ CD release party? Join Samantha Tobey and Roman Bluem in a free family concert to celebrate the launch of their first full-length album (ask mom or dad to show you what an album looks like).

Feb. 10 at 11:30 a.m., at Dragonfly Dulou, 2066 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 665-8448.