Judith Lewis Mernit

Judith Lewis Mernit writes about energy, the environment, economic justice, and public health from Los Angeles, California. Her work has appeared in High Country News, Sierra Magazine, Yale Environment 360, TakePart, The Atlantic, and the LA Weekly.

Recent Articles

Overcoming Black Doubts About the Census

Today fears about privacy and census confidentiality loom large among African Americans.

Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political and social issues. The American Prospect is co-publishing this piece. If all politics is local, then census participation is hyper-local, particularly in California, which the Census Bureau ranks among the hardest-to-count states in the nation. The obstacles that stand in the way of an accurate census can’t be swept aside on the federal level, nor from the vantage of a state capital. Doubts about the confidentiality of information, for instance, have to be assuaged by people who understand those doubts; fear that any encounter with the government is perilous have to be addressed by people who fight those fears themselves. And in 2020, those fears will run high in the hardest of the hardest-to-count communities—and not just because Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had wanted to add a series of questions about citizenship to the census form. (The effort failed but may still...

A Trumpified Census Won’t Limit Its Undercount to Undocumented Latinos

The citizenship question will lead to undercounting millions of Latino, Asian, and immigrant households, many with legal status—and nowhere more so than in California. 

Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues. The American Prospect is co-publishing this piece. If all goes according to the Trump administration’s plan, the U.S. Census form in 2020 will ask people to state whether they’re citizens of the United States. It will also ask citizens if they were born in Puerto Rico or Guam, if they were naturalized and when, and whether they were born outside of the country to U.S.-born parents. And it will, say researchers who study the accuracy of the decennial census, terrify many a potential respondent—not just undocumented residents, but legal residents and their children as well. In a political environment demonstrably hostile toward immigrants, says Cindy Quezada of the of the Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative in Fresno, “Just the word 'citizen' causes panic.” As, perhaps, it should. Emails and other documents that emerged...

Trouble in Republican Paradise

The Great Awakening of Dana Rohrabacher’s Orange Coast District

(Mindy Schauer/The Orange County Register via AP)
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political and social issues. The American Prospect is co-publishing this piece. Bethany Webb has lived in coastal Orange County for 40 of her 56 years. She rides a Harley and knows the surfers and served on PTA when her children were in school in Huntington Beach (“HB” to the locals). And yet she did not know the worldviews of some of her friends until the summer of 2016, when the heated presidential race forced people into their ideological corners. “I found out that nice, funny people I knew were harboring ugly, racist thoughts,” Webb says. “I unfriended people I’d known for 40 years. I called one a racist to his face.” She also found out that other nice, funny people shared her beliefs. “We thought we were alone in our ideals. Now we know we’re not.” In the swank seaside hamlets of California’s 48th Congressional District,...