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Inclusion Was the Winner of the Democratic Debate: RaceAhead

June 28, 2019, 12:10 AM UTC
Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In First Debate Of 2020 Election Over Two Nights
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: (L-R) Former housing secretary Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) talk during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Joe Raedle Getty Images

The first of two Democratic presidential debates are in the can, with the second one coming at us like a freight train. (Fortune’s got you covered on what to expect tonight here.)

Last night’s event brought out the chatty in all social networks, and the memescame early and often. (Mirándote, Señor Beto.)

Most observers, myself included, thought that Senator Elizabeth Warren won the evening, in part by coming prepared to explain her broader vision for the role of government in the lives of middle class and struggling families, but also by being the candidate against whom the others were measured. Right off the bat, her fellow debaters were asked to respond to three of her plans: debt-free college, higher taxes for the ultra-wealthy, and her scheme to break up the big tech companies. Vox has a good breakdown here.

But she was not alone in performing well.

Senator Cory Booker earned high marks for his passionate response in favor of gun control, which earned him a meaningful spike on Google trends; and for reasons most New Yorkers can’t quite explain, Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed to read as accomplished and credible.

The person who needed to make up the most ground, however, was Julián Castro, who had been polling in the 1 percent range. He was poised and prepared, particularly when he fielded the first question on immigration. Castro had been the first candidate out with a plan — which he was sure to mention, but got everyone’s attention when he referenced by name El Salvadoran asylum seekers Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 2-year-old daughter Valeria, who died this week after making a desperate attempt to cross the Rio Grande.

“This metering policy is what prompted Óscar and Valeria to make that risky swim across the river,” Castro said of the Trump administration policy of limiting the number of migrants who can request asylum. “They have been playing games with people who are coming to try and seek asylum at our ports of entry. Óscar and Valeria went to seek asylum and they were denied the ability to make an asylum claim. So they got frustrated and they tried to cross the river and they died because of that.”

Moments later, my colleague Mark Dent explains, Castro brought up his plan to repeal section 1325 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and make border crossing a civil, not criminal offense, which prompted an uncomfortable exchange with fellow Texan, Beto O’Rourke.

But if you look past applause lines, the occasional sharp elbows, and the awkwardness of the random Spanish-language answer, inclusion was the big winner last night. And that may be more important than politics as usual, at least at this stage of the game.

Castro said some other names, too. “What about Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Pamela Turner, Antonio Arce?” he asked, naming black or brown people who had been killed by the police. “I’m proud that I’m the only candidate so far that has put forward legislation that would reform our policing system.” A Twitter account run by friends of Garner’s late daughter “noted and appreciated,” the mention.

And in a first, Castro mentioned transgender people, unprompted, in an answer about abortion care.

In a conversation about “reproductive justice,” he said, “And, you know, what that means is that just because a woman — or let’s also not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female — is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose,” Castro said.

Yes, it appears he mixed up transgender women with transgender men, but he went there.

Booker also mentioned the “epidemic” of violence against transgender people. “We do not talk enough about trans-Americans, especially African American trans-Americans . . . and the incredibly high rates of murder right now,” Booker said. Warren even casually dropped “Latinx” into an answer, a nod to the gender-neutral term for people of Latin American origin.

“To hear someone specifically mention transgender rights in a context that wasn’t forced is enormous for us,” Charlotte Clymer, a transgender activist and spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign told The Washington Post“It felt powerful in that moment.”

A nation that’s fluent in the languages of gender and racial inclusion is a distant dream, I know. But it makes a difference when powerful people talk the talk in public, even if you don’t like their politics, even if they don’t get it exactly right the first time.

On Point

Two SCOTUS decisions have big implications for politics and governanceEach ruling offers a victory to one of the two major political parties. The first delays the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a move which could have triggered a massive undercount of vulnerable populations. The other decision removes the opportunity of federal review in even the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering in state voting districts. “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the 5-4 majority opinion. New York Times

The Trump administration faces a lawsuit alleging unsafe conditions in detention facilities on the U.S. border
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles yesterday, says the abhorrent conditions in the Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas are in violation of an agreement that outlines protocols for the detention of minors. The suit asks for an emergency injunction that allows for immediate inspection of the facilities. According to the filing, lawyers and doctors who visited a camp in El Paso found a dismal scene: hungry pregnant women, neglected toddlers, children held for weeks without access to soap, clean water, or toothbrushes, and a burgeoning flu epidemic. The CPB says they are overwhelmed and need Congressional help. “We do not want them in our custody, our facilities were not designed for that,” an anonymous CBP official said to reporters on Tuesday.
Wall Street Journal

“How much is a little girl worth?”
This question is at this center of this must-read piece from Fortune’s Mary Pilon, who looks at the aftermath of the saga of Larry Nasser, the USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor who was sentenced January 2018 for sexually abusing a still unknown number of young gymnasts in his care. In a record settlement, MSU agreed to pay a $500 million settlement to victims. Now comes the other hard part. “Survivors…have been deep in negotiations with lawyers and mediators over the disbursement of the settlement funds,” writes Pilon. “In a process that involves an awkward combination of apologetic recognition, dispassionate mathematics, and, often, a torturous recounting of abuse, hundreds of women are learning what their suffering was ‘worth’ in dollar terms.”

Canada adds right-wing extremist groups to its list of banned terrorist organizations
It’s the first time the Canadian government has included neo-Nazi groupson its watch list. There are two:  Blood & Honour was described as “an international neo-Nazi network whose ideology is derived from the National Socialist doctrine of Nazi Germany.” Combat 18 is Blood & Honour’s armed branch and has been tied to murders and bombings. The head of Canada’s Anti-Hate Network characterized them as “extremely violent,” and said, “I’m hoping this is just the beginning and that there will be more, but this is a really good first start for Canada.” Inclusion of groups on terrorist lists makes them easier to prosecute, experts say.
Global News


On Background

A former white supremacist testifies before Congress
Tony McAleer is the cofounder and board chair of Life After Hate, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping people leave hate groups. He’s got real expertise: McAleer is a former organizer for the White Aryan Resistance (WAR), a successful skinhead recruiter, and other terrible things. But now he’s devoted to building bridges between the people who hate and the society they seek to destroy. Their specialized training, mostly delivered by “formers,” is in demand. “Since Charlottesville, Life After Hate has received more than 240 requests for help from individuals and families,” he said. “I come before you today to urge the government to recognize that if left unchecked, white supremacist ideology inevitably expresses itself in murder.” In this  C-SPAN clip, he talks about how he’d spend an allocated $1 billion budget to fight violent white supremacism. “This is a whole of society problem,” he begins. “When we peel away the labels we find vulnerable human beings.”
Life After Hate

Mexican immigrants are essential to small-town America
Alfredo Corchado is the Mexico border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, so this essay is informed by his now polarizing-beat. The number of Mexican immigrants has declined in the last ten years, some by choice, others by deportation. But, he says, anti-immigrant sentiment overlooks the fact that many American small towns owe their economic survival to Mexican residents. “They’ve rescued abandoned communities, some that had been losing population since the 1920s,” he writes. Fear of enforcement actions are frightening business owners that rely on immigrant labor. “Mexicans are leaving, and that’s bad news for everyone,” says the president of one of the biggest mushroom-growing companies.
New York Times

“In this day and age, everyone has a voice, even if they don’t know it.”
So begins this sometimes difficult-to-watch TEDx talk by Rashad Nimr, a half-Palestinian, all-gay advocate who has been living with a profound stutter since he was three. At the time the video was filmed, Nimr was a recent high school graduate, a busy advocate for LGBTQIA teens in his home state of Connecticut, and a volunteer in refugee camps in the Middle East on summer visits. “Possibly because of my own struggle for voice, I have taken a liking to spoken word poetry,” he says. While the magic of watching his stutter temporarily disappear is extraordinary, what he says is even more so. “What am I supposed to do with identities that don’t mix?” he asks.
TEDx GreensFarmsAcademy



But when nationalism has successfully dehumanized the other, there is no breaking through, and people who imagine that a photographic message must assuredly be so powerful that it will touch all hearts are forced to grapple with a more confounding truth: Not all consciences operate alike, not everyone is susceptible to what seems a basic, even rudimentary level of empathy. And so, there is a paradox: We resist the idea of living in an us-vs.-them world only to find that our basic sense of “us” is already fractured. We look out at our fellow humans and can’t honestly understand how their minds work. At some level, we think, “Can’t you see what is happening in this image?” As if seeing and understanding are identical.
—Art critic Philip Kennicott on the image of the bodies of Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his nearly 2-year-old daughter, Valeria