From The Trail: Photos of the 2016 Campaign in California

It’s finally here! After two years of brutal campaigning, today the world looks to the United States as we hold our elections.

I don’t know how much I’ve spent on Uber and Lyft this cycle, but it was probably a lot. This year I was able to cover different aspects of the 2016 campaign. Sometimes with other people, other times alone. But the experiences of rallies, press conferences and a debate have all been the same: sending out emails trying to justify that my blog was a legitimate media outlet, waiting to receive confirmation, recognizing the same reporters at each event, wading through the crowd to get the best shot, trying to get the best quote, running into fellow student journalists.

The following are photos that I’ve taken during this incredible cycle. Since June I’ve reported on three rallies, a congressional debate and a group of Clinton campaign volunteers in Reno.

I did not photograph the Reno trip, though there are photos from when the bus got stuck in Donner Pass on the way back.

Some were taken with my phone when I was with other people.

Regardless of the quality or event, this election isn’t about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ami Bera, Scott Jones, Loretta Sanchez or Kamala Harris. It was always about what we as Americans — more specifically as Californians — are.

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Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets supporters outside the Hillary Clinton Rally at Sacramento City College. June 5, 2016
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A protestor outside the Clinton Rally. Signs read “Billary is a Fraud,” “Neocon – Neolib Two Sides of the Same Coin.” June 5, 2016
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Fellow Sac City Express reporters Maxfield Morris and Tyler Heberle at the Clinton rally. June 5, 2016
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Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, State Senator Richard Pan and Congressman John Garamendi stand backstage. June 5, 2016
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Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage. June 5, 2016
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Frequent collaborator Vanessa Nelson stands with other photographers during the rally. June 5, 2016
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Supporters cheer as Congresswoman Doris Matsui passes the mic to Clinton. June 5, 2016
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Sacramento County sheriff and Republican candidate for the California 7th Congressional district Scott Jones poses for photos outside KVIE before the debate with incumbent Ami Bera. Oct. 18, 2016
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Republican strategist Wayne Johnson (left) and former Sacramento County sheriff John McGinness (right) before the California 7th debate. Oct. 18, 2016
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Traffic behind our bus in Donner Pass. I was following a group of volunteers campaigning for Clinton in Reno. Oct. 30, 2016
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California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for US Senate Kamala Harris at a “Get Out the Vote” rally with Congressman Ami Bera. Nov. 3, 2016
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Kamala Harris speaking to reporters. Nov. 3, 2016
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Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a Yes on Prop. 61 rally at the California State Capitol. Nov. 7, 2016
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The crowd outside the California State Capitol listening to Sanders speak in support of Prop. 61. Nov. 7, 2016
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Prop. 61 supporters listening to Bernie Sanders outside the California State Capitol. Nov. 7, 2016

We Cannot be Afraid

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Richie Compton, left, and Eric Winger kneel at a makeshift memorial for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting outside of the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center on June 13, 2016. (Jacob Langston/Orlando Sentinel)

Yesterday, around this time, I woke up looked at my phone and found out that there was a shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. When I showered and dressed, I went to the living room and turned on CNN.

It was then that I found out why I can no longer be afraid.

49 people were killed and 53 were wounded, making it the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. But then I also found out that the nightclub, Pulse, was a gay nightclub, making it the deadliest incident of violence against the LGBTQ+ community according to the Washington Post.

The shooter, who I will not dignify by mentioning his name, is reported to have called 911 and pledge to allegiance to ISIS some time before the shooting. The terror group also took responsibility for the shooting. This also makes it the deadliest terror attack since Sept. 11.

The liberal wing calls it an act of hate directed towards the LGBTQ+ community. Terrorism is only an afterthought and that this shooting stands as yet another reason why the country needs stronger gun-control.

The conservative wing focused on the terrorism aspect. Not wanting to upset their evangelical base, they consider the attack on a gay nightclub being only an afterthought.

I believe that homophobia and radicalism go hand-in-hand in this specific instance. Both were major motivations for the shooter. Depending on whose Twitter feed you look at, it’s an either/or situation. Both sides of the political spectrum want to portray it as being black and white.

It is not. There are a myriad shades of gray, each differing in a complex series of context and motivations.

Considering a lot of people were killed for no reason, this of course shouldn’t matter at all. But during times of relentless sorrow, we try to find reason where there is none. It’s the healing taking effect in real-time.

I will not discuss how Florida’s gun laws played a part in this attack. I have written at length my views on gun-control and I will not do it again. Instead, I will focus on the motivation: homophobia.

It is true that the ideology – which is not at all Islam – shared by groups like ISIS and others condemn homosexuality as a sin on par with murder. The fact that the shooter adhered to this strict ideology of Islamic holy texts is a factor in his prejudice. According to the shooter’s father, he became enraged after seeing a same-sex couple kiss in public. This happened a few months before the attack. However, Islamic extremism is not the only faucet of homophobic rhetoric.

“The United States can’t forget to tackle the ways that homegrown ignorance and anti-LGBT rhetoric and violence still contribute to the marginalization of our fellow citizens,” wrote Karren Attiah in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune.

As has been abundantly clear in many instances, members of the conservative wing are to blame for the normalization of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and discrimination. Attiah also points out in her op-ed that Florida senator Marco Rubio created a “marriage and family advisory board” that supports conversation therapy. Congressman Devin Nunes (R-California) voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation in 2007 and for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed into law a bill that bans transgender people from using public restrooms that corresponds with their gender identity. As many companies like PayPal and Deutsche Bank have halted plans to create hundreds of jobs in the state.

Yet all of those politicians have either released statements or tweeted about the Orlando shooting. Most of them offering condolences and thoughts and prayers. Whether they are aware of their own hypocrisy or not we’ll never know.

The shooter’s father also posted an online video saying acknowledging that homosexuals are sinners, but that it is up to God to punish them – I guess that makes it better.

Though this country has made great strides towards equality for all marginalized groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, there are still deep biases and prejudices that exist and Orlando reminded us all of that.

After the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land, there were still a few holdouts. As chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore ordered that the ruling be ignored and that the ban on same-sex marriage continue. Kim Davis, the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. When Davis was jailed for ignoring the ruling, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee jumped on it as a means to strengthen his national profile.

Thankfully all three of these people were brought to justice. Moore has been suspended from the bench and awaits a hearing before the state’s Court of the Judiciary. Davis is allowing her office to issue licenses to same-sex couples but without her signature. Huckabee, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2008 and 2016, is no longer a part of the equation. All together, these three individuals represent a culture’s unwillingness to accept change.

But LGBTQ+ rights does not stop after marriage equality. According to the Human Rights Campaign 28 states still allow housing discrimination based on sexual orientation while 30 states still allow it based on gender identity. Twenty-nine states still allow public accommodations to discriminate based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Thirty-five states still do not have legislation that address discrimination against LGBTQ+ youths in public schools.

If this were a race of people or specific ethnic group, it would be unacceptable by the mainstream culture. But somehow a majority of states still believe it’s acceptable to look at us and say we are second-class citizens.

The shooter was raised in an environment and society that normalized homophobia and transphobia. As a result 49 people were killed.

It is fitting that the 70th annual Tony Awards were broadcasted on Sunday. Theater has always been a haven for outcasts, and LGBTQ+ youths know a lot about being outcasts.

“Your tragedy is our tragedy,” said Corden with the entirety of the theater community behind him, all with little silver ribbons.

In addition to James Corden’s touching tribute at the beginning of the broadcast, the most powerful moment was during the opening number when children stood in the spotlight, then darkness, and when light flooded the stage, they all turned out to be the acting nominees.

There are a lot of emotions that we’re experiencing and the hurt may never go away. But we cannot be afraid. If we’re afraid, the extremists and bigots wins. We cannot let them win. We’ll keep holding our parades and waving rainbow flags. We’re going to do these things because it’s who we are and also because it infuriates them.

We have the freedom to be who we are and they hate that. They also hate videos like this:

They never win. So let’s not be afraid.

Recount (2008) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on April 16, 2016

Recount_(film)Score: 4/5

As the 2016 presidential election draws nearer and the cycle continues to electrify with surprises, I am reminded of the influence of past elections.

Like a kaleidoscope that assaults our fields of vision with aggressive intensity, each election cycle brings with it defining images and phrases: “I Like Ike,” Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall, Mitt Romney and his “binders full of women.”

But the 2000 presidential election can be summed up in one phrase: There’s a problem with the numbers in Florida.

These are the most important words spoken in Jay Roach’s 2008 HBO film “Recount.” The movie, which premiered on television, dramatizes the events that transpired in the Sunshine State when Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore became locked in an eleventh-hour decision over who would be the rightful winner of the presidency in 2000.

State campaign officials were left  to figure out who actually won Florida, which in turn would determine who won the presidency. The close margin of votes between the two candidates in Florida prompted an automatic recount of votes.

“Recount” opens with problems with the “butterfly ballot” in Palm Beach, Florida. Candidates were listed on both sides of the ballot with the punch card in the center. The confusion that elderly voters experienced is represented by a single woman who looks at her ballot, and then at the sign in the booth that says “time limit in voting booth is five minutes.” She finally punches a hole into her ballot, but the only problem is that she doesn’t know whom she has voted for.

This is the moment it all began. It was the moment when every lawyer in the country had to learn about chad (small pieces of paper punched from the ballot when the voter chooses a candidate) and whether hanging chad (punched but still partially attached) and dimple chad (punched but all corners still attached) had to be counted. It was the moment Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (Laura Dern) became a national name.

Harris can only be described as a whack-job, and Laura Dern is a master at playing a whack-job. She’s been thrust into one of the most important positions in the world, and she abused it for the sake of herself. Everyone on both sides of the election can see it. Because it’s so clear that she’s trying to push the recount into Bush’s favor, leaders of the Bush campaign become afraid that Americans would think they’re influencing her (which they’re not).

During election years, the animalism of people comes out, and 2000 is no exception. Death threats are sent to members of canvassing boards during the proceedings. A protest in Miami-Dade County almost erupts into violence as a group of Bush supporters nearly attack a Gore lawyer. The canvassing board feels so threatened they decide to end recounting proceedings.

As history has shown, Florida eventually goes to Bush. The truth is that the Gore campaign stood no chance against the complex apparatus of think tanks, law firms and state officials that supported Bush in Florida. It didn’t help that George W. Bush’s brother Jeb was governor, either.

At the end of “Recount,” a Gore aide approaches a Bush aide on a tarmac and asks him if the best man won. Whether the best man won the election or Florida will never be known, despite the images of Katherine Harris and hanging chads that defined that election cycle.

What images will define the 2016 election?

“Recount” is currently available for streaming on HBO Go, HBO Now and Amazon Prime.