The Clinton Disconnect

Presidential hopeful struggles to define campaign

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Michael Kushner
Michael Kushner

Growing up, Hillary Clinton inspired me. I loved the former first lady who defied traditions by running for public office and becoming a serious contender for the first female president. I admired her moderate ideology and willingness to cross party lines in a highly polarized government.

But as she stood across the room from me at a campaign event, I struggled to connect with her at all.

“This is Clinton Country!” repeated like a broken record at former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s rally on May 26. But Clinton couldn’t even fill the venue. The free public event at Parkside Hall in downtown San Jose, which holds 3,000 people, had an estimated 2,000 attendees. A Bernie Sanders rally held the week before in Sacramento filled Bonny Stadium with as many as 20,000 enthusiastic followers.

The rally began with praise for her commitment to diversity and inclusion. San Jose city council member Magdalena Carrasco, who introduced herself as the “proud daughter of Mexican immigrants,” said Clinton wants to give “us” hope and opportunity.

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s sentiment made me further question whether the diverse, collective “us” was actually present.

“Hillary Clinton understands we are all better off when we are all better off,” Newsom said. “She understands what Dr. King talks about so vibrantly, right? That we are all bound together by a web of mutuality. We are all in this together.”

Looking around the room, the diversity the secretary claimed to represent was hardly present. The disconnect between Clinton’s claims and the audience turnout is worsened by the many Latinx people and organizations that protest against her presidential bid. Some Latinx have been critical of Clinton’s pandering to their community, her conflicting opinions on immigration reform and her foreign policy.

The Brown Berets, a Chicanx activist group in Watsonville, protested her event in Salinas holding signs reading “not my abuelita” and “blood on her hands,” in reference to her involvement with the 2009 Honduran coup and the recent death of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres. Her campaign garnered similar reception at other stops like her East Los Angeles Cinco de Mayo event and a rally at La Escuelita in Oakland earlier this month.

The same communities she claims to represent are the ones that often protest against her.

Hillary Clinton and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom greet rally attendees in San Jose on May 26. Stephen de Ropp
Hillary Clinton and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom greet rally attendees in San Jose on May 26. Stephen de Ropp

In the speech I witnessed, Clinton also claimed to represent the interests of millennials. She preached her commitment to lowering costs of higher education and expanding opportunities for America’s youth.

Before the event started, I watched as they scrambled to find college students in an audience of baby boomers. This happened after the main stage was at “maximum capacity” and older individuals were turned away. Despite the stream of top 40 pop hits, many of the audience members were 50 and over.

Perhaps most problematic were the blatant contradictions in her own speech. That day, Clinton embraced a federal $15 minimum wage. Yet following a contested April 14 debate with Senator Bernie Sanders, her campaign claimed “she has supported raising the federal minimum wage to $12, and believes that we should go further than the federal minimum through state and local efforts, and workers organizing and bargaining for higher wages.”

That’s not exactly the same as a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

Later, Clinton trumpeted her support of overturning Citizens United, a Supreme Court decision which upheld that corporations can’t give money directly to campaigns but can persuade voters through “other means.” Meanwhile, her campaign’s contribution list features corporations like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley. A UC Santa Cruz student, Jon Cho, called her out for accepting these donations but was swiftly removed by secret service.

The former secretary did offer some goals for her potential presidency. She spoke on the need for infrastructural improvement, investment in education, relieving student debt and protecting the environment. Her discussion on investing in clean energy to stimulate the economy and protect the environment reminded me of her pragmatic progressivism.

But so much of her 30-minute speech was spent contrasting herself with the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and justifying that, unlike him, she supports the working class. Yes, Clinton is a better option than Donald Trump. Trump is wildly inexperienced, racist, misogynistic and promotes violence. However, I don’t want to settle for the lesser of two evils.

As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I respect her experience in politics. She’s the only candidate with strong foreign policy experience, a crucial skill to being a commander in chief. Of the three candidates, her experience and bipartisan efforts will make her the most likely to pass a meaningful agenda.

But last week’s rally disappointed me. Her speech made me question what her platform was. Many of the ideas she did introduce contradicted previous statements. While I still support her candidacy, it’s apparent that Ms. Clinton has work to do in defining her presidential goals.