They Can’t Vote. Here’s Why They Watched the Debate.


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On Thursday evening, the grounds of Loyola Marymount University’s campus were tranquil. The university’s Christmas tree glittered against a cloudless sky in front of the bright white facade of its Sacred Heart Chapel.

But it was a more boisterous scene inside one of the auditoriums, just acres of pristine lawn away from where seven Democratic presidential candidates and thousands of journalists and spectators were gathered for the sixth presidential debate.

I was at the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs debate watch party, where, over pizza and popcorn, the attendees cheered and jeered the candidates enthusiastically.

Many of the students who were there won’t be able to vote in March — or November, for that matter — but they said the stakes were high, and they wanted to participate.

Alaina Fairley-Moore, a 16-year-old junior at Venice High School told me she got involved with the journalism program because she was passionate about helping her peers learn about political issues. She said she wanted to write opinion pieces.

One of her first targets? “I’m really against identity politics,” she said.

Ms. Fairley-Moore said she identified as bisexual, black and Mexican. But she said she had been frustrated watching past debates because she saw candidates’ appeals to voters based on their identities as pandering. When Senator Kamala Harris hammered former Vice President Joe Biden on busing, for instance, she said, it was off-putting, given how she saw Ms. Harris’s record as affecting communities of color.

Ms. Fairley-Moore said Andrew Yang’s universal basic income pitch appealed to her as a way of putting money directly in people’s pockets, rather than expecting it to filter to communities through government programs.

But mostly, she said, “I couldn’t see a future that would help me.”

[Read more about Mr. Yang’s universal basic income idea.]

For Hector Jimenez, 19, and Marivel Servin, 22, hearing candidates talk about how they’d immediately restore Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was encouraging — but a prerequisite.

“It’s a common denominator,” Mr. Jimenez said. “But we need more. We need to protect everyone in the families.”

Both drove to the event from Delano, the Central Valley community with a storied role in the farmworker movement. Both are Bakersfield College students working with the youth journalism organization South Kern Sol. And both are DACA recipients.

Ms. Servin said she’s a “Bernie fan,” in large part because she saw him speak in Fresno and because of his emphasis on affordable health care.

Growing up, she said, access to health care was a struggle for her parents, and that’s something she hopes will change for everyone.

[Read more about Mr. Sanders’s “Medicare for All” push.]

Neither said the debate changed much for them — both singled out Senator Bernie Sanders. Still, Mr. Jimenez said some moments were memorable.

When a moderator asked Senator Amy Klobuchar about the country’s shifting racial makeup, Mr. Jimenez said he thought she responded well.

“Before this debate, I didn’t think that highly of her,” he said. “So that was pretty dope.”

And he said it was exciting to be watching the debate so close to the action in L.A.

Mr. Jimenez, Ms. Servin and their peers talked and laughed. They tweeted commentary, which showed up on screens nearby.

And at the end of the evening, Ms. Servin said, they were set to make the nearly three-hour drive home.

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  • “The world has changed in a year.” The wave of tech millionaires that was supposed to consume San Francisco? Yeah, it hasn’t arrived. [The New York Times]

  • Although a San Francisco woman did offer a $7,000 reward and hire a plane to fly a banner in hopes of finding her stolen miniature Australian Shepherd. [The Associated Press]

  • In 1932, the philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps paid for the construction of a wall at a beach to create a safe harbor for toddler swimmers. In the 1990s, though, harbor seals found it was a great place to rear their pups. So how will people and seals coexist at Children’s Pool? [The San Diego Union-Tribune]

  • At Disneyland, a maintenance team of scuba divers checks boat propulsion systems and underwater tracks. They have also come across some weird sunken stuff, like the head of a deity from a “temple” on the Jungle Cruise route. [The Orange County Register]

California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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