By Barrington M. Salmon (The Washington Informer, NNPA Member)
Three days before the District of Columbia’s Democratic Presidential Primary, President Bill Clinton came to the nation’s capital seeking to energize residents ahead of the final primary on the 2016 Democratic campaign calendar.
Clinton – who traveled to Washington, D.C. from Louisville, Ky., where he eulogized three-time world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali – didn’t make any public statements, but met with city and other officials before socializing with an awed and reverential crowd which quickly converged on the former president in front of Eastern Market.
“He told me it was good to be back in D.C.,” said Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. “I hope it’s a foreshadowing of things to come. It will be good to have them back in [Washington].”
Allen said he wasn’t surprised at the outpouring of affection from residents, some who had taken part in Gay Pride events, others who came to the weekly flea market and the rest who just happened to be passing by.
Allen recounted the story of a young intern from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office who asked Clinton if she could take a selfie with him.
“She fought to get close to him, asked and he agreed, saying as long as it didn’t cause her to lose her internship,” he said with a laugh.
Clinton, surrounded by a phalanx of grim-faced Secret Service agents, held court, shaking hands, engaging in animated conversations with a steady succession of people and taking selfie after selfie. Hillary Clinton campaign officials who organized the former president’s visit, said the plan was to have Clinton walk through Eastern Market towards Barracks Row but Clinton never made it more than 10 feet from the door from which he had emerged.
At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds watched the afternoon unfold with a bemused smile.
“He’s here because his wife, who will likely be the next president, has another engagement. They want us to know that they’re here with us every step of the way,” said Bonds. “You can see how folksy he is. People just gravitate towards him. He’s taking his time with people. He’s conversant, not just saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’”
Nura Zaki, a Chicago native who’s in D.C. for a summer internship, was one such person who met and talked to Clinton. The 21-year-old student body president of Valparaiso University in Northwestern Indiana, stood with a group of friends wide-eyed, sporting a broad smile. She and her friends then made their way to Clinton and nestled up close to him to take selfies.
“Am I excited? Yes!” she said. “It’s a big surprise. I was here picking out peaches. I took a class on the presidency last semester. I took a selfie with him. This is very unreal, but it’s so cool.”
A number of onlookers said they approve of Hillary Clinton’s outspoken support for D.C. statehood.
“She has offered full-throated support of D.C. statehood and that has resonated with residents,” said Allen.
LaDavia Drane, Hillary Clinton’s National African-American Outreach Director, agreed.
“She’s always been really strong on D.C. statehood and D.C. residents should really feel good about that,” said Drane, 33, former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Almost a month ago, Clinton wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Informer where she said, unequivocally that as Americans, it’s time that Washingtonians have a say in their own status and are allowed to handle their own affairs.
Clinton wrote: “…Enfranchisement isn’t solely a matter of individual rights. In the case of our nation’s capital, we have an entire populace that is routinely denied a voice in its own democracy,” she said. “Washington, D.C., is home to nearly 700,000 Americans – more than the entire population of several states. Washingtonians serve in the military, serve on juries and pay taxes just like everyone else. And yet they don’t even have a vote in Congress.
Hard as it is to believe, America is the only democracy on the planet that treats the residents of capital this way. Lacking representatives with voting power, the District of Columbia is often neglected when it comes to federal appropriations.”
Many of the District’s decisions are also at the mercy of right-wing ideologues in Congress, Clinton asserted, “and as you can imagine, they don’t show very much of it. Everything from commonsense gun laws to providing women’s health care and efforts to cut down on drug abuse has been halted by Republicans, who claim the District is an exception to their long-held notion that communities ought to be able to govern themselves.”
“Solidarity is no longer enough. We need a solution. That’s why, as president, I will be a vocal champion for D.C. statehood.”
Last week, Clinton clinched the 2,383 delegates needed to seal up the nomination when she won the California primary, effectively ending Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ effort to snatch a key victory. The pair have fought a tough campaign with Sanders rallying liberals, progressives and young people, Clinton representing establishment neo-liberal and more hawkish Democrats and as a consequence, the verbal clashes and acrimony between supporters on both sides has sometimes reaching a fever pitch.
Sanders is yet to endorse Clinton, but he met with President Barack Obama on the morning of June 8 and about an hour later, Obama endorsed Clinton via Twitter and in a videotaped statement where he praised Clinton’s judgement, values and experience.
“I want to congratulate Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States. I know how hard this job can be, that’s why I think Hillary will be so good at it,” Obama said. “I’m with her. I’m fired up. And I can’t wait to get out there and campaign for Hillary.”