THE LIBERALS PACKED ’EM in for Tuesday’s State of the Union watch party at the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada offices downtown.
ProgressNow Nevada, DREAM Big Vegas, Mi Familia Vota, members of the Latino Leadership Council, Madres Unidas por Justicia, Planned Parenthood, members of various labor groups and others joined the party. If they were lefty, they were probably there, about 75 of them all told, to take in the speech and share a potluck dinner.
The event had one really big draw: Las Vegas’ Alan Aleman, a CSN student who was brought here to Nevada and the United States at age 11, was in the guest box of First Lady Michelle Obama. Aleman’s parents and family were at the PLAN offices to watch the president’s annual address to Congress.
Aleman is a so-called “DREAMer,” an undocumented immigrant who, by dint of presidential executive order, can legally stay in the United States to finish his education and look for work. Obama has built a reservoir of good will among Latino families and nonprofit groups with the order he issued last year, so it was not surprising that the lines in his speech focusing on immigration reform got some of the loudest support from the crowd.
The president got rounds of applause for most of his essential points, but here is the unscientific ranking of the progressive community’s enthusiasm for the various parts of his second-term agenda:
• Passing comprehensive immigration reform, as outlined in Obama’s visit to Las Vegas in January.
• Ending tax deductions for companies closing down U.S. factories to move them overseas.
• Addressing climate change.
• Providing pre-school education to all kids.
• Raising the national minimum wage.
• Passing gun control legislation — actually, multiple rounds of applause.
• Spurring economic development and American manufacturing.
• Protecting Americans’ access to vote, without six-hour waits for 102-year-old women.
• Putting women, gay men and lesbians on an equal basis in the military.
• Boosting the nation’s cyber-defenses. (One person clapped.)
People don’t usually expect a lot from State of the Union addresses. They can be dry recitations of the coming agenda and calls for cooperation from recalcitrant members of Congress. But they still generate a lot of discussion, noise and fodder for the nattering nabobs of the Fourth Estate.
“It’s a laundry list, but it’s a really important laundry list,” said Teresa Crawford, a Henderson nurse and perennial progressive volunteer activist. She gave Obama points for pushing gun-safety legislation and addressing climate change “in detail.”
Jenna Fox, a 23-year-old former Obama for America field organizer from Las Vegas, said she was happy to hear the president support implementation of the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — and immigration reform.
“I’ve got a lot of friends who are immigrants,” she said.
But the Aleman family may have been the happiest family in the hall. Ismael and Adriana Aleman said after the speech that they never dreamed that their son, Alan, would be sitting with the first lady to hear the president address the nation.
“We’re happy that the president will be able to do comprehensive reform so that there will be a future for Alan and for all of us,” Ismael Aleman said.
(Full disclosure: Launce Rake once worked for PLAN, but he would have preferred to watch the speech at a Republican house party.)