It’s been months since Hillary Clinton held a rally in New York, but with her adoptive state’s April 19 primary closing in, she chose the Apollo Theater in the heart of Harlem to kick off her campaign here. In 2000, when Clinton was a U.S. senator for New York, her residence was in Harlem at a time when the neighborhood was still regarded with some suspicion by the rest of Manhattan. The line to enter Wednesday morning was three blocks long, and when she finally arrived Clinton was greeted with a roar.
As she presented U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who, like her presidential opponent Bernie Sanders, was born and raised in Brooklyn, she took a friendly jab at Sanders about his accent. She smiled and the audience applauded, but this was not a rally about other people. She talked about herself and her allies. Results, security and unity were the watchwords of the rally. Pragmatic words that connect with New York City, a town that’s often described as “not America” but, as Clinton says, is actually “the best of America” — the melting pot where races and beliefs coexist.
To be sure, there was no lack of attacks on her competitors. Mainly she sniped at Republicans and Donald Trump, which to most of the GOP old guard could certainly be considered two different things. But she also lashed out at Sanders, suggesting his policy proposals aren’t feasible. “This is New York. Nobody dreams bigger than we do,” she said. “But this is a city that likes to get things done, and that’s what we want from our president, too.”
“We need her and she needs our support,” said a 75-year-old black voter named Lisa, paraphrasing the Clinton slogan “Fighting for us.” “We” in this case refers to the black community. “I like Sanders,” she said, “but Hillary I see as more grounded. Politics is not an easy job. She’s a woman, knows that there are problems if you’re not a male or white.”
“In 2008 I voted for Obama,” says Sam, a 50-year-old African American. Now I’m voting for her. With Obama I felt that my rights would be protected, and I think she knows best how to continue on this path.”
From the stage, Clinton emphasized the importance of solidarity among disadvantaged groups: economic, racial, disabled, LGBT. “Republicans always say when I talk like this that I’m playing the gender card, and my response is pretty simple. If fighting for equal pay and paid leave is playing the gender card, then deal me in.”
“It is important that whites use their privileges to help African Americans,” says Tyra, a 40-year-old accountant. “This is exactly the Hillary program, not revolution.”
There’s nothing revolutionary in Clinton’s words, but it was very reassuring: Remain united, struggle together and all will be well. The time she attacked Sanders more frontally was regarding gun control, but she did so not to talk about him but about herself — how she fought to regulate weapons even before it was fashionable, and, until recently, Sanders supported a more literal meaning of the Second Amendment.
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