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California Democratic youth demand change

Millennials are no longer backbenchers

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Crystal Araujo, 32, (center) with Lauren Goldeen, 27, and Alexandra Sandavol, 28 at 2018 California Democratic Convention in San Diego (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

SAN DIEGO — The rustle of activity caught the attention of even the most nonchalant of Democratic politicos waiting for new California Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman to welcome party delegates to their convention here. At the center of the hubbub was esteemed Sen. Dianne Feinstein, looking tired and frail but intently focused on each person asking a question or pressing a point. Not a convention regular, her very presence added to the star quality of her Senate seniority.

At the outer edges of the crowd, a gaggle of young women giggled as they strategized how to get a selfie with the legendary leader. Finally thrilled with their success, they wandered away to go endorse Feinstein’s younger, more progressive primary opponent, State Sen. Kevin de León. That Feinstein even got a primary challenge at a time when seniority in Washington, D.C., still holds a modicum of meaning astounded many establishment Democrats, including lesbian supporters Hilary Rosen, Yvette Martinez and Assemblymember Susan Eggman. Feinstein failing to receive the California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsement shocked the nation. Many political observers assumed it was a continuation of last year’s turmoil as populist Bernie Sanders supporters loudly tried to take over and remake the party in a much more progressive mold.

But that’s not what happened. In the time since assuming office of chair last year until the Feb. 23-25 convention, Bauman made such substantial changes to the internal mechanism of party governance—including gender parity, more decision-makers at the table and youth inclusion—the real focus of the 2018 convention was on arguing for particular candidates.

“We saw people go at each other’s throats at the 2017 convention due to the so-called ‘progressive vs. establishment’ divide,” Los Angeles Democratic Party chair Mark Gonzalez, 33, tells the Los Angeles Blade.

“This year, though, it seems that the delegates and activists have come to the realization that they have more in common than they have in conflict. Just by watching their interactions on social media and at Democratic Party events in the last year, it looked like people realized that while we may sometimes be opponents, we are never enemies.”

But times have changed. “The party has continuously evolved since Dianne Feinstein first sought endorsement from the Democratic Party. It’s changed with new energy and new blood, and a different generation of activists,” Gonzalez says. “A majority of delegates see Sen. Kevin de León as someone who could lead that charge of resistance [to President Donald Trump], representing the next generation of California’s elected Democrats.” And while Feinstein is still held in great respect, “the numbers show that the party is headed in a much more progressive direction” and Feinstein “needs to adapt to the changing winds.”

Feinstein has been campaigning vigorously while also pressing her signature issues such as gun control, particularly jump-starting a new assault weapons ban. In the past, Feinstein has called the National Rifle Association “venal” for standing in the way—gun violence is a personal issue. She discovered the body of her assassinated gay colleague San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 and a finger slipped into one of five bullet wounds while she checked for his pulse. She grasps the impact of mass shootings, most recently at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—but unlike House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, she has not called for #NoNRAMoney in political campaigns.

Pre-convention polling shows Feinstein well situated to win November’s general election, with or without the party’s endorsement. However, that may soon change. De León, a respected advocate of the DREAMers movement and author of two of California’s “sanctuary state” laws is leading the charge with Gov. Jerry Brown and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (who also failed to win a CDP endorsement) against a lawsuit brought March 6 by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Trump administration wants local law enforcement to work with ICE in deporting undocumented immigrants. Sessions claims ICE only targets criminals, but others, including legal residents, have been caught up in sweeps and treated as mere collateral damage. The state laws, with input from both former Attorney General Eric Holder and LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, were written to withstand constitutional scrutiny.

With no congressional action resolving DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)—which Trump told the Latino Coalition’s Legislative Summit March 7 is being held up by Democrats—and “thoughts and prayers” but no action on gun violence, young people are taking action, themselves. They are inspired by the protests against the Vietnam War and, for LA’s Latino youth, the Chicano students who walked out of their high schools protesting racism and inadequate schools 50 years ago on March 1, 1968.

“Those young people helped launch the Chicano movement in Southern California and created a generation of leaders,” columnist Gustavo Arellano wrote in the Los Angeles Times recently.

Protests against gun violence are planned nationwide for March 14. There is a national “March For Our Lives” in Washington planned for March 24. Among the leaders of the Parkland students’ movement is bisexual Emma Gonzales who in the two weeks after the massacre that killed 17 students garnered more followers on Twitter (691,000) than the NRA (562,000).

Other protests are also expected when Trump visits San Diego to view samples of his proposed border Wall and then attends a Republican fundraiser in Los Angeles on March 21.

Christopher Nikhil Bowen, Michael Colorge, Arasele Torrez, and Rayes Alexander at 2018 California Democratic Convention (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Reaching and registering the state’s approximately 10 million millennials is a key component of liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen America organization. “We really believe in millennials being integral, involved American citizens in our political process,” Steyer told the Sacramento Bee for a March 7 story.

“Millennials have voted at half the rate of other American citizens and they’re also the biggest age demographic. So the opportunity to make a difference is clearly gigantic.”

But while NextGen ads and street demonstrations catch the TV eye, the deeper story is being missed: there is a wave of young leadership and activism within the California Democratic Party that is utilizing technological outreach and will no doubt take advantage of California’s new law that automatically registers young people to vote when they get their driver’s license.

Just as the LGBT movement was integrated throughout the convention—from Bauman and his husband Michael Andraychak to LA Democratic Party chair Mark Gonzales to Stonewall Young Democrats Christopher Nikhil Bowen, Michael Colorge and Ari Ruiz to intersectional LGBT speakers on the convention stage—leadership of the Democratic youth movement was given its due at the convention.
Among the many young activists were: Danielle Shah Shon, 16, offered a stunning poem; Jenny Bach, 25, elected Secretary of the California Democratic Party Secretary, talked about her Vietnamese immigrant parents; and Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, 30, a gay Marine veteran elected president of the California Young Democrats, talked about his activism.

But young Democrats are active throughout the state, such as Crystal Araujo, a single mother who secured her law degree last year from the University of San Francisco School of Law. Araujo started her political activism at UCLA in 2009. She is now a member of the South Alameda County Young Democrats (SACYD), a group that attends each convention.

“This was an exciting convention for me, because it was my first to time as an appointed delegate so I was able to be involved in helping decided the Democratic slate to ensure issues important to millennials were being carried to legislative bodies,” Araujo told the Los Angeles Blade. “In addition, I was recently appointed as CYD Policy & Legislative Chair, a position I hope to utilize to strength the Young Dem voice and continue to advocate on issues important to us like student debt and discrimination. We cannot afford to stay silent or to be ignored and it is also important for us to be heard and set an example by mentoring and bringing the next generation of leaders forward.”

“As Young Dems, we are ready to roll up their sleeves and work together to solve the issues before us,” she continued. “My hope is that this November, the young vote will reach historic numbers and the party and politicians in office realize we are the NOW and not just the future.”

Some longtime politicos are excited by the change, such as former LA-based gay activist Wuzzy Spaulding. “For about 35 years, I was an activist fighting for social justice,” Spaulding told the Los Angeles Blade, until he realized he’d become “a dinosaur” and it was time to step aside.

“It is arrogant and insulting to suggest that young people do not and cannot have ideas better than our stale way of looking at things, especially when our stale way of looking at things produces nothing,” Spaulding said. “I am happy to have handed off the baton. I am thrilled with these kids in Florida and elsewhere. We will all be better off for their participation.”

Time will tell.

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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Right-wing extremist provocateur threatens to ‘hunt’ LGBT supporters

He has a history of right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients

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Ethan Schmidt (Screenshot/Twitter)

PHOENIX – A twenty-four year old right-wing extremist based in the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona area, Ethan Schmidt, posted a short video of himself accompanied by Kyle Clifton who describes himself as “authoritarian Christian nationalist,” driving in an undisclosed area announcing that he and Clifton will be “hunting ‘LGBT supporters” and people in area Target retail stores.

The video captured by Twitter account Patriot Takes, which describes itself as a group of Dedicated researchers monitoring and exposing right-wing extremism and other threats to democracy, first posted the video clip Saturday.

Schmidt has a history of making right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients.

Sunny’s Hair and Wigs, specialize in making wigs for women who have lost hair while getting treated for cancer and the store had implemented coronavirus pandemic protections including strict mask guidelines to ensure safety of their clients who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Lisa Memberr, the owner of the shop had explained to local media outlets: “My customer base is very diverse,” and she added, “Not only do I have Caucasians, I have Afro-Americans, I have Asians, I have Latin Americans.”

Schmidt, who has ban banned by nearly all social media platforms including Twitter for spreading false and misleading COVID-19 pandemic information had been visiting numerous retail stores in the Phoenix area including Sunny’s Hair and Wigs targeting those businesses that still require customers to wear mask. He invariably creates videos of his encounters which he uploads to right-wing social media and web sites that he hasn’t been banned from.

In addition to his anti-mask campaign he has made videos with extremist conservative lawmakers including one with Arizona U.S. Republican Representative Paul Gosar telling antivaxxers “to stay the course.”

He also filmed a short with Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers who has established herself firmly as an anti-vax, anti-LGBTQ, right wing extremist.

Clifton is a leader of the America First Union, an openly white nationalist, antisemitic, “conservative youth” organization. He also promotes former President Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 Presidential election being stolen by Democrats and President Joe Biden. Clifton also participated in the Arizona audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, which state Sen. Rogers, had raised the visibility of her own political profile by insisting that Arizona’s vote was stolen.

Last Fall Schmidt posed with Trump endorsed Republican candidate for Arizona Governor Kari Lake as he burned a LGBTQ+ Pride flag.

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GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor, QAnon friendly & anti-LGBTQ+

“Only biological females can play on biological females’ teams & you can only use the bathroom that your biology & anatomy says”

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Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano (Screenshot/NBC News)

GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Republican leadership in the Keystone State are expressing quiet alarm over the emergence of radical-right state senator who secured his place as the party’s nominee in the race against Democratic nominee for governor, Josh Shapiro, who is himself currently serving as the Commonwealth’s attorney general.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, who represents Cumberland, Adams, Franklin and York counties in the south-central Pennsylvanian area bordering Maryland, was not seen as a truly viable candidate in the primary race to be the party standard-bearer until he was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race has serious implications for the outcome of the 2024 presidential election cycle as well. The Commonwealth is a strategic swing state and the occupant of the governor’s chair in Harrisburg will lend considerable influence to a final vote count.

Mastriano is a polarising figure within the state’s Republican party. The retired U.S. Army colonel has campaigned at political events that included QAnon adherents, he espoused a political agenda that embraced Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election, rejected measures taken to protect Pennsylvanians including masks in the coronavirus pandemic, holding an anti-vaccine “Medical Freedom Rally” rally on the state Capitol steps days after declaring his candidacy for the GOP governor’s primary race, and also mixing in messaging of Christian nationalism.

He also supports expanding gun rights in Pennsylvania and in the Senate sponsored a bill to ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected.

NBC News noted that Mastriano pledged in his election night address that on the first day of his administration he would crack down on “critical race theory,” a catchall term Republicans have used to target school equity programs and new ways of teaching about race, transgender rights and any remaining Covid vaccine requirements.

“CRT is over,” Mastriano declared. “Only biological females can play on biological females’ teams,” he added, and “you can only use the bathroom that your biology and anatomy says.”

His anti-LGBTQ+ views have long been part of his personal portfolio. The Washington Post reported that twenty-one years ago while attending the Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College in 2001, then Major Mastriano wrote his master’s thesis on a hypothetical “left-wing ‘Hitlerian putsch'” that was caused by “the depredations of the country’s morally debauched civilian leaders.” Among those “depredations,” in his words, was the “insertion of homosexuality into the military.”

As the Post reported, his paper shows “disgust for anyone who doesn’t hold his view that homosexuality is a form of ‘aberrant sexual conduct.'”

The paper is posted on an official Defense Department website and lists Mastriano as the author at a time when he said he received a master’s degree from the school.

This is not the only instance of Mastriano professing anti-LGBTQ beliefs. 

In 2018, he stated his belief that LGBTQ couples should not be allowed to adopt a child. During an interview with 103.7FM, when asked “should LGBTQ couples, i.e. two moms or two dads, be allowed to adopt?” Mastriano answered, “No.” [This takes place at the 16:00 mark.]

NBC News interviewed David La Torre, a Republican and former adviser to fellow gubernatorial candidate Jake Corman.

“As far as what a Pennsylvania government would look like with Mastriano in charge, quite frankly, it’s just not something I’m ready to think about at this point,” La Torre said, adding that while there are many unknowns, the dynamic between Mastriano and the state Legislature, currently controlled by Republicans, would be one to watch. 

“All I know is this — he will govern as governor like he campaigned,” he said. “He would govern with a sledgehammer and expect Republicans to fall in line. And it would be one of the more fascinating tugs of war we’ve seen in Harrisburg.”

Dave Ball, chairman of the Washington County GOP, told NBC News that Mastriano’s victory was “a shame” for the party, the product of “a phenomenon that I truly don’t understand.” But any misgivings won’t stop Ball from working toward the ultimate goal: taking back the governor’s mansion, saying it’s a must-win race. (The two-term incumbent, Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is term-limited.)

As if telegraphing the battles to come should he take the governor’s chair, Politico reported: “Our biggest problem,” said Mastriano on Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast on Tuesday, “is going to be these feckless RINO-type Republicans here that will not allow us to have a fighter as governor. But we’re going to beat them and they’re going to lose power, and they’re going to be put to shame.”

Mastriano Lists Agenda As Governor During Pennsylvania GOP Nominee Victory Speech:

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Right-wing SF archbishop bars Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion

“A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin”

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Official White House Photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – In a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who represents a part of the city of San Francisco in her role as a Democratic Representative, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Friday that she will not be admitted to receive Communion in response to her support of women’s reproductive rights and legal abortion.

Cordileone warned her that she should not present herself for Holy Communion at Mass adding that if she did priests will not distribute communion to her.

The actions by the archbishop underscores the rising tensions in a decades-long tension between the Roman Catholic Church and progressive Democratic politicians on abortion.

“A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others.  Therefore, universal Church law provides that such persons ‘are not to be admitted to Holy Communion,'” Cordileone wrote.

The archbishop noted that The Catechism of the Catholic Church is unambiguous on the question of abortion, both in procuring one and assisting in the practice: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” the catechism says. “This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”

“Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law,” it says, before calling abortion and infanticide “abominable crimes.”

It also declares that “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.”

Cordileone wrote in the letter that he had written to Pelosi last month on April 7, informing her that “should you not publicly repudiate your advocacy for abortion ‘rights’ or else refrain from referring to your Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion, I would have no choice but to make a declaration, in keeping with canon 915, that you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” According to the archbishop she has not done so.

“Therefore, in light of my responsibility as the Archbishop of San Francisco to be ‘concerned for all the Christian faithful entrusted to [my] care” (Code of Canon Law, can. 383, §1), by means of this communication I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.” he said.

The archbishop then doubled down on his stance in a tweet issued Friday afternoon.

His actions were lauded by another right-wing conservative prelate archbishop James Conley on Twitter:

Cordileone’s actions comes nearly a year after he and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego became embroiled in a debate over excluding from Communion politicians who support abortion rights like Pelosi and President Joe Biden, also a Catholic.

Last September, CNN reported that Pope Francis said bishops debating whether to deny communion to public figures who support abortion rights, such as President Joe Biden, should make their decisions from a “pastoral” viewpoint and not a political one.

“The problem is not theological, it’s pastoral,” Francis told reporters while traveling from Slovakia to Rome last Fall. “How we bishops deal with this principle. We must be pastors, also with those who are excommunicated. Like God with passion and tenderness. The Bible says so.”

“The pastor knows what to do. In every moment that he leaves the church’s pastoral path he immediately becomes a politician,” Francis said.

The issue drew new attention in June when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proceeded with a plan that could deny communion to such public figures, setting up a potential public rebuke of the President and conversely Speaker Pelosi.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) issued a statement condeming Cordileone’s decision to deny the House Speaker communion because she supports abortion access:

“After supporting Prop 8 and refusing to get vaccinated, our right wing Archbishop is now attacking one of the most effective leaders in the history of our country, because she supports reproductive health and safe access to abortion. The Archbishop’s refusal to give communion to Speaker Pelosi is shameful. He is deeply out of step with San Francisco and should be removed,” Wiener said.

In addition to his stance on women’s reproductive healthcare choices, Cordileone is opposed to LGBTQ+ equality and same-sex marriage. In a March 2013 interview with USA Today, the archbishop responded to questions posed on same-sex marraige:

Q: What is the greatest threat posed by allowing gays and lesbians to marry?

A:The better question is: What is the great good in protecting the public understanding that to make a marriage you need a husband and a wife?

I can illustrate my point with a personal example. When I was Bishop of Oakland, I lived at a residence at the Cathedral, overlooking Lake Merritt. It’s very beautiful. But across the lake, as the streets go from 1st Avenue to the city limits at 100th Avenue, those 100 blocks consist entirely of inner city neighborhoods plagued by fatherlessness and all the suffering it produces: youth violence, poverty, drugs, crime, gangs, school dropouts, and incredibly high murder rates. Walk those blocks and you can see with your own eyes: A society that is careless about getting fathers and mothers together to raise their children in one loving family is causing enormous heartache.

To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex would enshrine in the law the principle that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant, and that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children; marriage would mean nothing more than giving adults recognition and benefits in their most significant relationship.

How can we do this to our children?

Q: If the Supreme Court opens the floodgates to gay marriage in California (or beyond), what will be the result?

A: If the Supreme Court overturns Prop 8, this will not go down in history as the Loving v. Virginia but as the Roe v. Wade decision of our generation.

No matter what the Supreme Court rules, this debate is not over. Marriage is too important and the issues raised by treating same-gender unions as marriages are too fundamental to just go away. Just as Roe v. Wade did not end the conversation about abortion, so a ruling that tries to import same-sex marriage into our Constitution is not going to end the marriage debate, but intensify it.

Q: You have spoken of gay marriage as a “natural impossibility.” But in terms of procreation, how does it differ from opposite-sex couples who are elderly or infertile?

A: Our bodies have meaning. The conjugal union of a man and a woman is not a factory to produce babies; marriage seeks to create a total community of love, a “one flesh” union of mind, heart and body that includes a willingness to care for any children their bodily union makes together.

Two men and two women can certainly have a close loving committed emotional relationship, but they can never ever join as one flesh in the unique way a husband and wife do.

Infertility is, as you point out, part of the natural life cycle of marriage (people age!), as well as a challenge and disappointment some husbands and wives have to go through. People who have been married for 50 years are no less married because they can no longer have children.

Adoption can be a wonderful happy ending for children who lack even one parent able or willing to care for them. But notice, when a man and woman cannot have children together, that’s an accident of circumstances, the exception to the rule. When a husband and wife adopt, they are mirroring the pattern set in nature itself. …

Treating same-sex relationships as marriage is the final severing by government of the natural link between marriage and the great task of bringing together male and female to make and raise the next generation together in love.

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