All posts by alisonsaldanha2020

Bernie’s grassroots movement hopes for a comeback in Tuesday’s Illinois primary

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

On a warm spring Saturday in Grant Park, where Barack Obama held his victory rally in 2008, voters waving blue and white campaign signs grooved to the beat of rock,  pop and gospel music, breaking into chants of “Feel the Bern!”

At about 2 p.m., John Lennon’s 1971 single “Power to the People” started to play as the energetic, mostly under-40 crowd broke into loud cheers to greet Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on stage.

“Hello Chicago!” he said, his voice booming through the park.

The 78-year-old presidential candidate, running for the second time, urged voters to support whoever wins the Democratic nomination. “Together we know our differences are far, far less than our differences with this dangerous president,” he said. Continue reading

Gloves come off in the 9th Democratic primary debate; Warren coasts to a new high

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

“We are not going to beat Donald Trump with a man who knows how many nondisclosure agreements and the drip, drip, drip of stories of women saying they have been harassed and discriminated against,” said Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren about candidate Mike Bloomberg.

“Mr. Bloomberg, it wasn’t you who made all that money. Maybe your workers played some role in that, as well,” said candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders

“Let’s put forward somebody who’s actually a Democrat,” said candidate Pete Buttigieg, speaking about Sanders.

At Wednesday’s Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, Democratic candidates traded barbs and insults to distinguish themselves from each other in the competition for the presidential nomination.

The six candidates –  Sanders of Vermont,; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Buttigieg; former Vice President Joe Biden; Warren of Massachusetts; Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former New York Mayor Bloomberg, drew a record audience of 19.7 million viewers in the ninth debate, beating TV ratings for the Golden Globes and the Grammys.

By the end of Wednesday night, media reports said the debate had turned into an “all-out brawl” and “slug fest,” as the candidates wrangled over Sanders’ increasingly popular Medicare-for-All health plan, Bloomberg’s past record, and how they plan to address climate change.

Warren decisively emerged as the winner, said experts we spoke to, as she swung at Bloomberg for his past comments on women, and at Buttigieg and Klobuchar for their health plans, each of which she termed as a “powerpoint” and “post-it-note” respectively. The topics discussed allowed her to flex her achievements and her clear record did not invite attacks on her character.

Meanwhile experts noted that Bloomberg, who debuted in last night’s debate after a 10-week campaign, put on a “historically bad performance.” His billionaire status created a foil for other candidates on stage, but his inability to demonstrate how he could surmount those attacks is likely to hurt his temporary bounce in the polls.

“I think it’s that time where the candidates are trying to differentiate themselves and that’s difficult to do when they are all on the same playing field,” said Kelly Shaw, mayor of Indianola, Iowa, in a telephonic interview. He is also a senior lecturer of political science at the University of Iowa

“The goal is to ultimately defeat President Donald Trump but for that [the candidates] needed to up their own respective campaigns, up the politics,” Shaw said.

Jacob Thompson, communications professor and head coach of the debate team at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said the primary debate is meant to draw distinctions between the candidates.

“Now, that can be done more or less civilly, and in some parts last night it was less civilly, but the subcomponent of that is there are really important distinctions between some of the candidates,” said Thompson, an expert on presidential and political campaign debates, persuasion, and argumentation theory and practice.

“Bloomberg and Sanders might as well have been from different planets, so it’s important the electorate understands those differences and those differences are dealt with and explained and investigated in the debates,” he said. “While the divisiveness of these debates can turn people off sometimes, I believe it’s on balance and healthy.”

In the recent New Hampshire primary, Sanders claimed first spot with 25.7 % of the vote followed by Buttigieg with 24.4 % and Klobuchar with 19.8% , as Warren and Biden trailed behind.

This could all change in the Nevada caucuses to be held on Saturday, Feb. 22, experts said, pointing out this may be the first real test for candidates, especially after the counting debacle at the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

“Since Iowa missed the mark in terms of caucusing, Nevada will be a good test of how engaged and energized voters are about the Democratic candidates and it is also more diverse,” Shaw said.

“Right now Las Vegas is demographically representative of what the rest of America will look like in the year 2060,” Thompson said.

He described Nevada’s demographics as a bellwether.

Nevada is not New Hampshire or Iowa, two of the whitest states in the union, he said adding that the southern state differs even from South Carolina, where the diversity of the electorate is primarily African American as it also includes sizable Latinx, and Asian American and Pacific Islander populations.

“All of these communities matter a lot and candidates are working hard to reach out to them,” Thompson said.

If Warren finishes in the top three, her campaign will no longer be on life support, he said.

And for this, her performance in last night’s debate might actually matter in spite of Nevada’s early voting system already recording around 70,000 participants.

“I do honestly believe that she’s got a 50-state campaign built out, but without momentum coming out of one of the first three states [Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada], she is not likely at all to get the nomination,” Thompson said.

“It’s not often that we see debates definitively affecting the outcome of elections but I think that it’s possible to Warren’s performance last night — she could swing a decent chunk of the undecided electorate”

Photo at top: If Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) finishes in the top three in the Nevada caucuses, her campaign will no longer be on life support, according to experts. Her performance in Wednesday night’s Democratic primary debate may help her get there, they said. (Photo credit: Senator Warren’s office)

Chicago youth unemployment hits African Americans hardest, driving population declines

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

More African Americans are out of school and out of work than among any other racial group in Chicago, according to a new report released recently by the Great Cities Institute of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Professor Teresa Cordova, director of the Great Cities Institute, linked this disparity to the city’s declining population trend, especially among blacks. As of 2017, Chicago’s population has  dropped by 904,500 to 2.7 million, or 25% since 1950. Some black majority neighborhoods have lost more than 50% of their population in less than four decades. Continue reading

In the battle of Chicago’s budget deficit, community investment takes the hit

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

Just after sunset on a December afternoon, squeals and laughter filled the basketball court of the Chicago Jesuit Academy, on Chicago’s West Side, as 60 students ages 8 to 13 dribbled balls and ran back and forth.

With a clipboard in his hand and a pen tucked behind his ear, coach Brandon Wilkerson called out to players to come forward, one by one, and try shooting into the basket. At 28, Wilkerson works in the after-school program run by the Westside Health Authority in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. As the floor pulsated with the pounding of basketballs, he said, “I see myself in these kids.”
Continue reading

Trump supporters celebrate U.S. economy, foreign policy at Milwaukee rally

By Alison Saldanha
Medill Reports

More than 12,000 core supporters and some non-supporters filled the indoor University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee for President Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday while a large crowd of about 200 overflowed outside the stadium to watch him on a big screen.

Shrugging off the chilly Midwest winter, they enthusiastically stood in the parking lot, dressed in varied “Trump 2020” accessories,
applauded his speech, chanting slogans and loudly jeering at every mention of a Democrat or the impeachment proceedings.

For many attendees, the chief reason drawing them to the parking lot on Tuesday, was the surge in employment rates and wages, which Trump and Vice President Mike Pence cited in their speeches that night, and the government’s stringent immigration policies. That’s where I stood with them to cover the rally.

“The American economy is booming,” said Vice president Mike Pence, introducing Trump.

Since Election Day 2016 businesses large and small have created 7.1 million new jobs, including 37,000 good-paying jobs right here in the Badger State. Unemployment is at a 50-year low, the stock market is soaring and more Americans are working harder than ever before in the history of this country. Pence said.

Trump enumerated the achievements under his presidency. We have eliminated a record number of job destroying regulations

While unemployment is indeed at its lowest on record in Wisconsin, the trend of wages rising actually began three years prior to Trump taking office, during former President Barack Obama’s term, when it climbed to an average of about 6%, Politifact reported.

But Riley, 61, a high-school special-needs teacher, who declined to give her full name, said she feels Trump truly believes in America.

“I think he’s been fighting, trying to get jobs back in America instead of trying to chase them away. I like that he’s trying to balance our trade agreements,” she said, adding that she feels safer under a Republican government. “I don’t worry that someone is gonna drop a bomb on Milwaukee.”

Hilton Harrell Jr., one of the few African American supporters at the rally, said he likes Trump because he is not a “globalist leader” — a leader he described as caring more for the interests of nations other than America.

“Trump does something totally different — he isn’t like Republicans or Democrats. He is unique in that he just wants what is good for America,” said the 46-year-old, who works as a caregiver.

He claimed the Democrats are more racist than Trump and the administration’s tough immigration policies are not xenophobic or racist but cautious for security reasons.

“We want people to come over through the right ways so we know who they are, you know. Like, if I open my door, I want to know who is coming in,” Harell said.

Last year, nearly 70,000 migrant children, primarily from Central America, were held in government custody, 42% more detainees than in 2018. And the duration of family separation had also increased despite the government being aware of the harm this does to them, the Associated Press reported on Nov. 12.

“They’re fleeing often to save their own lives, because violence and abuse, even murder, are committed with impunity under corrupt governments the U.S. has supported for decades,” the report said.

Holden, 21, a line service technician at a Milwaukee airport, attending his first rally since he first voted for the president in 2016 said he is glad to see more focus on American economic interests, but is wary of a looming war with Iran.

Tensions with the Middle Eastern country had been rising since Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and spiked recently with the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani on Jan. 3, followed by Iran’s retaliatory missile attack of a U.S. air base in Iraq.

“Iran kept calling us out and they kept sort of attacking us and we couldn’t take that lying down but I don’t want to go to war with them, I think it will be a waste of resources,” he said, adding he would reconsider voting for Trump if tensions further escalate.

“We’ll see what the other Republican candidates look like this time but you know Trump’s probably the strongest and he’s got the best chance of winning,” he said.

Photo at top: Over 200 people waited outside the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panther Arena to watch President Trump address the rally in downtown Milwaukee on Tuesday, Jan. 17. Trump supporters touted the country’s economic growth and tough foreign policies as successes of the Trump administration. (Alison Saldanha/MEDILL)