An Outsider Looking In: Report From a Hillary Clinton Rally in Rochester, NY

The venue for Hillary Clinton’s campaign stop  at Monroe Community College was The Samuel J. Stabins Health, Physical Education and Recreation Complex. Known on campus as Building # 10, it is  an architectural cross between an urban YMCA and a Cold War era Soviet research lab. It looks just like it sounds.

On this particular Friday evening in early April the building’s reddish brick facade looked even duller than usual, and the peach tinted clouds seemed heavy and out of shape. There was a line of people which numbered into the hundreds and wrapped around two academic halls, but there was more of a chill than a buzz in the air.

The parking lot was full of cars that students would never drive themselves. Reliable and financially responsible investments such as big, rectangular shaped GMC minivans, colt blue and lime green Honda Civics that will supposedly run forever, and salt-dirt covered Toyota RAVS that have stick figures on the windows. Other than a group of impromptu anti-Clinton protesters at the main entrance, and some vociferous local anarchists stationed across the street where the CNN van was parked, the vibe was unabashedly pro-Clinton and stereotypically placid.

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Nevertheless, if you really want to know who supports Secretary Clinton don’t look at the suits next to her on the podium or those who won tickets and showed up hours beforehand to sit inside a heated gymnasium. Look at the folks who had to stay outside-the ones who could not get to the campus in time because they had to work late, pick up the kids, or take care of a million other things; but they were willing to show up, wait outside, and to remain hovered-with cell phones in the air-underneath two  speakerphones in a brisk wind while tiny white pellets of snow splashed on their foreheads. And they did this with whining kids wearing Hello Kitty scarfs and construction bright yellow Spider Man jackets clamoring to go home. These are the ones who stick it out. They are Clinton’s real firewall. Among this hardcore base of supporters standing outside included clapping women with tight L.L. Bean wool fleeces and waterproof leather slippers, retirees with mercury grey, angel hair thin pony tails scribbling on loose leaf notepads, pudgy white Gen X fathers, foreign exchange students fresh off the Niagara Scenic Tour Bus, and a few melancholic Obama supporters mingling about with a look of quiet irritation on their faces.  These are the people who actually came to hear Clinton and not just see her. Some of them even bugged the security guards to let them in even after the event was over and the Secretary was no where to be seen.

As for her speech, I must say that the Secretary was hitting her stride. It was an impressive combination of detailed policy and progressive rallying points. She touched on all of the biggies which play well in a liberal post rust belt city like Rochester. “Florida is a big red flashing light telling us climate change is real.”  “I went to bat for the people of Flint!” “The fastest way to raise people’s income is to give equal pay to women for the work they do!” I want to be a good small business President!” I brought broadband to the Adirondacks!” Before Obamacare there was Hillary Care!” “I will defend marriage equality!” “I will defend voting rights!” “I will support debt free tuition!” “I will appoint a Supreme Court justice who will overthrow Citizen’s United!”

Perhaps the loudest applause came when she once more reminded her audience that President Obama picked her to be Secretary of State and that she was behind the team that finally brought down bin Laden. The other big applause came when she called Trump’s idea to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it an SNL skit. All in all, her entire speech was solid.  I thought Clinton was in top form and did what she needed to do. For her sake, what she needs to do is win New York and Rochester can help her accomplish that goal. This is a city that she took for granted a month ago but now-because of Sanders’ relentless drive and resonating message-must fight like hell to win. It showed in her speech. If Sanders takes Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica, anything is possible.

There was a low point for me. I was severely displeased with the Secretary’s diatribe against gun violence in which she essentially correlated Senator Sander’s votes against the Brady Bill as being indirectly responsible for the carnage in Charleston, S.C. Even if the two candidates have marked differences on gun legislation, to suggest that Sander’s history of voting on this issue is somehow responsible for an insane zealot’s act of unpredictable rampage is simply out of line. It is not the same as voting for a war that lasted more than a decade and cost trillions of dollars and countless human toil. It was a powerful speech but Clinton should aim to hold herself to a much higher standard than outright slanderous insinuations. Shouldn’t we all?

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