Hillary Clinton was in Minneapolis on Tuesday night to talk about domestic terrorism. She chose Minneapolis, ostensibly, because 10 Twin Cities men have been accused of trying to join ISIS, and U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has plainly stated that Minnesota has a terror-recruiting problem.
About 950 guests RSVP'd for seats in the packed U of M auditorium. Ordinary folks who thought they could just show up to hear the speech were turned away at the door. For over an hour after Clinton’s scheduled start, the crowd sat, waiting.
When she finally did appear behind a rope divider, Clinton delivered a punchy five-point plan for cutting off ISIS' online recruitment and jihadist travel abroad. She touched on the need for a tougher response to terrorism after the San Bernardino shootings, and reminded everyone in the audience that she won’t tolerate Islamophobia. It was all very smart, confident, and at moments — such as when she told the story of a Muslim soldier who sacrificed himself to save others from a car bomb — even poignant.
Still, Democrats have been slow to warm to Clinton, who's often viewed as the quintessential corporate liberal more concerned about being the first woman president than advancing the cause. Though the fractures within the Democratic Party get less press, a sizable faction of Bernie Sanders supporters are still wondering if they can hold their nose and vote for the woman presumed to be the party's inevitable nominee.
Jaylani Hussein of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who nervously attended Clinton’s speech to see if she would overdramatize terror recruiting in Minnesota, said he was grateful she didn’t go too far. However, Clinton mistakenly said that U.S. Attorney Luger’s Building Community Resiliency Pilot Program was supported by the Somali community, Hussein said, when in fact most Somalis would rather not be under surveillance by the FBI.
But since the top Republican candidates are all trying to outdo each other to see who can hate Muslims more, he’d settle for Hillary.
“I think Bernie is a better candidate, but he doesn’t have the traditional support,” Hussein said. “Clinton is Clinton. She does bring the baggage of wealth and the old Clinton regime, which did a lot of good things but also a lot of bad things.”
Bad things like reducing immigrant aid and deregulating banks.
On social matters, too, Clinton has been slow to arrive on issues dear to progressives. As late as 2008, she didn’t support legalizing gay marriage. Now that the Supreme Court’s affirmed it, she’s all about it.
Partners Constance and Erica Fields are willing to give Clinton the benefit of the doubt.
“You know what, everyone changed,” Erica said with a shrug. “Everyone who’s straight, at some point in their life, was probably prejudiced or homophobic. They were all, 'Oh why did they need to get married?' I don’t look at that flip-flop as a flip-flop so much as an eye-opening event for her.”
For Constance, what the Republicans have pulled on Planned Parenthood this past year was just too much, and she’s looking to Clinton to continue the universal healthcare initiatives she started alongside her husband.
Prahith Chakka, a U of M senior, wouldn’t call himself a Clinton supporter in the slightest. He’s supporting John Kasich at the moment, but that’s not looking great, he says. And since Clinton just happened to drop by his school, Chakka took the opportunity to hear her out.
“I do like that she of course has strong foreign policy credentials, serving as Secretary of State, but I do believe the party has moved way too left to identify with them anymore,” he says.
But for most of his college Democrat friends, Clinton just falls short of what they’re looking for, even if she is the most realistic choice.
“There’s a lot of excitement for Bernie Sanders of course, but I think there’s an agreement that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee, and they seem to be okay with that.”