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Yaroslavsky on the Tight Race for the Democratic Nomination

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke with KCAL9 News following the Democratic presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Yaroslavsky observed that the fireworks that some had expected between Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did not materialize. “Neither one of them had an interest in beating up on the other,” he said, noting that some candidates who had previously launched personal attacks are no longer on the debate stage. The six who did qualify — former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, Sanders and Warren — debated foreign policy, healthcare and trade. Yaroslavsky predicted that no clear winner will emerge from the Iowa caucuses, less than three weeks away, or perhaps even from subsequent voting in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. “It’s a very close race,” he said.


 

This Election Year, We Have 2020 Vision The race for U.S. president comes to town, and the UCLA Luskin community is there to make sure candidates take a stand on issues of importance

By Stan Paul

Students at UCLA Luskin always have many opportunities to seek out public policy discourse and engage in political activities. But during the 2020 presidential election campaign, some of the opportunities for political engagement have been coming directly to them.

In December, the top Democratic contenders for the U.S. presidency were in Los Angeles for a closely watched debate that set the stage for the caucus and primary season soon to follow. And just a few weeks beforehand, students like first-year Master of Public Policy student Tamera Hyatte participated as questioners of presidential candidates during a live telecast of a town hall-style forum that focused on LGBTQ issues.

“Get ready, you’re going on!” was Hyatte’s cue. Moments later, she was asking Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke face to face — and on split screen for viewers — what protections he, as president, would put in place to safeguard transgender women of color. In her question, Hyatt noted that transsexual women of color are killed at an alarming rate.

“I thought he answered it fairly well,” Hyatte said of the former Texas congressman’s response. “I think a lot of the candidates being asked specific questions were caught off-guard, because I don’t think these are issues they generally look into,” added the former middle-school teacher. She said her interests include educational issues affecting LGBTQ students in K-12 as well as education in communities of color.

Hyatte was among a sizable contingent of UCLA Luskin graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff who attended the Oct. 10 Democratic presidential forum in downtown Los Angeles that was hosted by CNN and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. And she was among a handful selected to ask a question of a Democratic candidate at the forum, which included candidates Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren.

Ayse Seker, a second-year UCLA undergraduate student and public affairs pre-major at UCLA Luskin, was selected to question Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, on the sometimes-conflicting juxtaposition of religious freedom and LGBTQ rights. Seker, who is also from New Jersey, said her question was based on her own experience attending a religious-based high school.

“I wish he could have gotten more specific on the issues of Catholic schools and the rights their students have; sometimes our very identities are at conflict with an institution’s canonical ideas,” Seker said. “But I do appreciate the messaging of his response, as it is important for there to be representation of someone who is both outspokenly religious and a champion for LGBTQ rights.”

In fall quarter, Seker was enrolled in Public Affairs 80, a prerequisite for the public affairs major that explores how the policy environment shapes human development. Her professor, Ian Holloway of UCLA Luskin Social Welfare, joined her at the event and provided useful commentary between candidates. She also appreciated his tips on public speaking prior to her on-camera moment.

Holloway said he was proud to see UCLA Luskin students asking tough questions of the candidates. “It was helpful for our students to think critically about how policies being debated, such as the trans military ban or pharmaceutical pricing, impact the lives of LGBTQ Americans.”

Kevin Medina MPP / MSW ’15 is now the capstone advisor and coordinator for UCLA Luskin’s undergraduate major. Like Hyatte and Seker, he had applied in early September to attend the event and ask a question, and he was notified that his question had been chosen just a couple of days before the forum. He asked California candidate Tom Steyer about his plan to combat “the erasure of LGBTQ Americans’ identities on the 2020 Census.”

“I hope asking this question on a national platform elevates the importance of this issue and puts it on the radar of those with the power to positively effect change,” Medina said after the event. He said the Census Bureau plans to collect data on same-sex partners. “However, this question does not gain information about transgender people or LGBTQ people who are single or not living with a same-gender partner.”

Hyatte, who studied journalism as an undergrad, was appreciative of the opportunity to become directly engaged in the electoral process. When she chose UCLA for graduate school, “I didn’t even know we would be able to participate in something like this.”

Reflecting on the experience afterward, Hyatte said, “I think a lot of the candidates may want to brush up more on informing themselves about the issues that are happening in the LGBTQ community.” At the same time, the forum — which was held the day before the 31st annual National Coming Out Day — was also instructive for her.

“Just for myself, sitting in the audience, there were questions brought up that I didn’t even think about asking, and it makes me think, ‘Wow, I want to look more into that and really see what’s going on,’” she said. “It makes me think about how I can also include LGBTQ issues into my research on education policy because I think that’s also relevant.”

Relevance was key for Seker as well. “Within public affairs classes, we’re constantly learning about the vast array of issues that plague our society and the institutions and their history that perpetuate them.” The town hall demonstrated how diverse and multifaceted the LGBTQ community is, she said, and it highlighted a number of LGBTQ-related issues and concerns “that find their roots in a myriad of intersecting oppressive systems.”

Being within the Luskin School means a nearly constant stream of interesting opportunities for political engagement, Seker said a few days after the forum. “The fact that this was only during Week 2 of fall quarter makes me eager and excited for all the future opportunities and events the Luskin School will offer me throughout the rest of this school year.”

And Seker is right — UCLA Luskin will host a full calendar of public events and politics-related opportunities for students and alumni through Election Day 2020.

Peterson on Democrats Running on Rising Drug Costs

The New York Times spoke to Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson for a story about House Democrats’ focus on rising prescription drug costs in their reelection campaigns. Democrats, particularly those in districts that flipped from red to blue in the 2018 midterm elections, are betting heavily that they have solidified an image as protectors of affordable health care, the story noted. “The Republican efforts at ‘repeal and replace’ ironically highlighted the protections in the [Affordable Care Act] that would be lost and generated more public support for the law than at any time since its passage,” Peterson said. “Now more attention has turned to the other live issue that remains, that has largely always been present and that the A.C.A. has done little to forestall, and in some cases is perceived to have made even worse: out-of-pocket healthcare costs for individuals and families.”

Yaroslavsky on Democrats’ L.A. Debate

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, assessed the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in Los Angeles in an in-studio appearance on KCAL9 News. Sen. Amy Klobuchar had “more of an opportunity to display her capabilities on the stage, and I thought she did extremely well,” Yaroslavsky said. “She had the most to gain by having this kind of a night.” Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, held his own in a sparring match with Sen. Elizabeth Warren over campaign contributions from wealthy donors. And “Andrew Yang is still somebody who’s connecting with people, though it’s not showing up in the polls,” Yaroslavsky said. He also said former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading national polls but lagging in Iowa, had a strong showing. “What he needed tonight was to stop the erosion and create a sense of ascendancy, and I think he may have started that process tonight,” Yaroslavsky said.


 

Keeping a Civil Tongue Around the Holiday Table

Segura on Biden’s Strategy to Win Over California

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura spoke to USA Today about presidential candidate Joe Biden’s strategy to persuade California Democrats that he deserves their support. As the front-runner in several polls, the former vice president has presented himself as the most electable candidate, but his rivals counter that middle-ground politics will not inspire the passion needed to beat President Trump. Segura, who co-founded the polling and political analysis firm Latino Decisions, said Biden would be wise to emphasize his core beliefs. “His argument should start with, ‘There’s a reason I’m the most popular candidate and it’s that the preponderance of the Democratic electorate agrees with me on most issues — and, in fact, the preponderance of other Democratic candidates agree with me on most issues,’ ” Segura said. “He can better frame the argument by drawing attention to the fact that there is a huge portion of the American public that sees him as the logical, rational alternative to what we’ve been experiencing under Trump.”


 

Villasenor on ‘Deepfakes,’ Free Speech and the 2020 Race

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor narrated a short Atlantic video on the proliferation of “deepfakes,” videos and audio manipulated using sophisticated technology to convincingly present fiction as fact. Deepfakes are “engineered to further undermine our ability to decide what is true and what is not true,” he said. “We are crossing over into an era where we have to be skeptical of what we see on video.”  Villasenor, who studies the intersection of digital technology with public policy and the law, predicted that deepfakes will be used to deceive voters during the 2020 presidential campaign yet cautioned against aggressive laws to rein them in. While the technology could harm targeted individuals, the First Amendment protects free expression, including many forms of parody, he said. “As concerning as this technology is, I think it’s important not to rush a whole raft of new laws into place because we risk overcorrecting,” Villasenor said.