It was standing room only at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center on the eve of Super Tuesday when former President Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“She’s the best change maker I’ve ever known,” Bill said.
After a few jabs at the Republican candidates, he got serious about the changes his wife would bring to the country, working his way through her policy platform, which was what many supporters, particularly the younger ones, came to hear.
Kate Lussier, 17, won’t be able to vote in the primary, but she’s studying up for the general election.
“I have a general ideal about her policies, but I’m excited to hear what (Bill Clinton) has to say about them. I want to hear more details,” Lussier said.
The election will be decided, Bill said, in the space between the raging of the Republican candidates and the pretty picture painted by President Barack Obama in his last State of the Union address.
“There are too many people who look at that pretty picture and they can’t find themselves and their children in it,” Bill said and pointed to Millennials buried in college debt, coal country workers and “people who feel like the economy moved away from them.”
“The reason Hillary should be president is that she wants us to all rise together,” he said.
Hillary takes issue with the “make America great again” rhetoric of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
“She said, ‘We never stopped being great. We did stop being whole.’ We gotta be whole again,” Bill said.
The message resonated with the Westside crowd.
“In all my years I have never been here for such an exciting event as this one,” said Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5).
The line for Bill’s event wrapped around the Guadalupe long before doors opened at 3 p.m. A black sedan with exterior loud speakers circled the block broadcasting pro-Hillary messages, stirred the crowd. Hillary is leading the polls over her main competition Bernie Sanders in Texas, but this is the first time in recent memory that a Democratic presidential candidate has seen it fit to invest substantial campaign efforts in the historically Republican Lone Star State. Hillary stopped by San Antonio in October last year.
Republican candidate U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz also visited San Antonio today. Click here to read more.
Some diehard Clinton fans drove from surrounding cities for the chance to hear Bill speak. The former president encouraged the crowd to translate their enthusiasm into votes.
“We need you there tomorrow. We need you to bring people tomorrow. And then we need you all the way home,” Bill said.
Both Clintons are popular among Latino voters, especially those who remember the attention paid to the community during in their long political careers, beginning with the couple’s support of George McGovern when he ran for president in 1972.
“We know that this is where Hillary Clinton was in 1972,” said former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte. “She was working in the neighborhoods … registering voters.”
Clinton’s choice of venue spoke to that relationship, as did the group of voters like Victoria Herrera, who brought her three young children to the event.
“I love that he and his wife are fighting for us. And by us I mean Latinos,” Herrera said.
The group carried signs that said, “Fighting for us.”
U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett pointed out that Hillary Clinton would be the only candidate who wouldn’t get lost on San Antonio’s Westside. She understands the issues the community faces.
“We know she can deliver on the change that we need,” Doggett said.
In addition to support for the Latino community, Hillary’s strengths in foreign policy and immigration were the key issues for many in the crowd.
“I know she has more experience than any of the others on foreign policy,” said Yolanda Cuellar, 67.
Cuellar already voted for Hillary, and came hoping to hear more on her policies, in addition to showing her support.
“I want to hear that she’s going to help with immigration,” said Cuellar, who was born in Mexico and adopted by U.S. citizens as a baby.
Bill spoke to those concerns directly.
“We need to quit making straw enemies out of our immigrant community, especially our DREAMers,” he said.
In addition to the need for comprehensive immigration reform, Bill contrasted the images of walls promised by the Republicans with images of ladders, allowing all Americans to reach financial security and greater prosperity. Renewable energy and investment in infrastructure are two sectors Hillary sees as essential to America’s growth.
“We should do more to invest in America,” Bill said.
Flint, Michigan and the water contamination scandal serve as a wakeup call to the needed investment, he said. “Those rusted steel pipes are not the only ones in America.”
Hillary’s domestic economic policy harkens back to the success small businesses enjoyed during her husband’s presidency. She plans to ensure that while risky loans are kept in check, that money can still go into the business endeavors of minorities, women, and young entrepreneurs.
“She has a strategy to free up community loans again,” Bill said.
Broadband is another key to the success of people in rural and underserved communities, he said. Hillary is not only interested in adding resources, but also removing obstacles.
“We can rise together, but you have to take down the barriers, as well as build the ladders,” he said, citing health care costs, over-incarceration and college debt.
“Hillary proposes to give every single person the option to pay (college debt) back as a small fixed percentage of their after tax income for up to 20 years … it means you can move out of your parents home.”
Hillary would like to see public service as a way to pay back college loans, as well as the possibility to refinance college loans. Currently college loans cannot be refinanced, leaving many people with very high interest rates.
“If you could do that tomorrow, 25 million Americans would save an average of $2,000 a piece,” Clinton said.
Those solutions are for students with existing debts. Hillary intends to help new students graduate debt free.
In his introduction, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro voiced his confidence in her domestic and foreign policies.
“I think she is the best qualified person – man or woman, Republican or Democrat – to create opportunity for our country. She is the best person to keep Americans safe at home and abroad,” Castro said.
Bill pointed out his wife’s diplomatic record as a former U.S. senator and secretary of state from the Iran sanctions to her ability to garner bipartisan support.
“I know (Republicans) are being mean to her now. But that’s just because they don’t want to run against her, you know that,” he said.
The enemies America faces require diplomacy at home and abroad, which means effective mobilization through social media, and just treatment of domestic minorities, he said. “We go after wrong doers in America. We don’t go after categories.
Clinton ended with on a personal note, saying that Hillary’s activism and effectiveness spans beyond the 45 years he has known her.
“She just always makes something good happen. Always.”
*Top image: Former President Bill Clinton greets an audience member after his speech. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone