A full roster of elected officials and almost 200 people packed the Rhode Island Democratic headquarters in Warwick Saturday morning to kick off a statewide effort to support presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. The storefront office was standing room only as the governor and our congressional delegation energized attendees with their perspectives on the race and the importance of a Clinton win.
The rally, which began at 10:30, lasted about half an hour, after which many of the attendees pulled out cell phones and laptops and began to make calls for Clinton. Governor Gina Raimondo started off the event by talking about the critical nature of November’s choice.
“There’s more at stake in this election than any I can remember in my lifetime, because the consequences of Trump presidency are so terrible that it’s hard to even fathom,” said Raimondo.
She went on to talk about what she says when asked by voters why she supports Hillary, stressing Clinton’s values and experience. “Hillary’s values are what I believe are the right ones: making college affordable, investing in K-12 education and universal preschool, raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure and building an economy from the middle out, not from the top down. And she’s the most experienced person ever to run for the US Presidency.”
Sen Jack Reed picked up on the theme of experience. “She is the best prepared individual to lead this country that I have seen in my lifetime. On the other side, we have an individual that lacks the emotional, experiential abilities to be President. That is obvious for all to see.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse drew on American and Rhode Island history to make his case for Clinton. “People say that we have a divided country. Well, we do. But in our history, we had a country so divided that we were fighting a civil war. And in that civil war, we could not have been more divided. What did the President then do? He called us to the ‘better angels of our nature.’ Donald Trump stirs the darkest demons of our nature.”
Whitehouse continued, “Bigotry is deplorable. Period. And that’s a Rhode Island lesson that goes back to when George Washington, when he was campaigning for President, wrote to a Rhode Island synagogue guaranteeing that it would always be the policy of the United States to give ‘to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.’” Said Whitehouse, “Tell that to Donald Trump.”
Rep. Jim Langevin (D-2) echoed Whitehouse, saying that Trump draws on some of his followers’ worst impulses. “I hope that when we go to the polls in November that we speak loud and clear as a nation that we reject that kind of politics.”
“This election,” said Rep. David Cicciline (D-1), “is a referendum on the founding principles of this country. We’re a country that was founded on the ideas that everyone should be treated with dignity, free from discrimination, that everyone should have an opportunity to get ahead, have access to quality education, make decisions about their own healthcare, and in so many ways, this is a referendum on those ideas.” He added a pointed personal observation: “Jim and I know first-hand serving in the House what the country would look like if Donald Trump and the Republican Party have their way.”
Democratic Party Chair Joe McNamara (RI D-19) closed the rally by asking the room to finish a few sentences by reading off cards that were handed out to attendees at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. McNamara led the group in a series of powerful and emotional call-and-response prompts. “We know that we are stronger together,” said McNamara. “Under a Clinton administration, all families will…” The whole room shouted, “Rise Together.”
“And we know that bigotry will never prevail,” said McNamara, “because…” “Love trumps hate.”
“And with a President Clinton, we know that we will have…” “A future to believe in.”
As the attendees broke to make calls, a reporter for RI Future asked Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse specifically about the importance a Clinton win for efforts to combat climate change and protect Rhode Island’s shoreline.
Whitehouse cited two reasons that make a Democratic win essential. “First of all,” said Whitehouse, “Trump has gone down the sort of lunatic path of pretending that climate change is a hoax, and that all the scientists and every American scientific society, all the scientists at NASA and NOAA, the scientists at every American national lab, are all wrong or are in on some evil conspiracy. Which is almost creepy as a point of view, it’s so wrong.”
“And then, second, he’ll be representing a party that basically has become the political wing of the fossil fuel industry. So, for both of those reasons, it makes it far less likely that anything will get done if he’s the President. Now, Nature does not forgive, and sooner or later, it will become clear to everybody that we’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake. We just don’t want that realization to come too late.”
An RI Future reporter caught up with Rep. Cicilline to ask about the reticence of some to throw their support behind Clinton, and what he would say to local progressives who are still on the fence.
“Anyone who examines these two candidates carefully, who shares progressive values, frankly, the values of our Party, will see it’s very clear that there is only one candidate who both has a record of getting things done in this area, and also a set of policies that will really advance our country and move forward on many important progressive priorities. Ultimately, elections are about choices, and while I know there was a lot of enthusiasm for Sen. Sanders — and I’m a huge fan of his, he raised some incredibly important issues in the campaign — I think he would be the first to say that the campaign was not about him as a person, it was about a set of issues and a commitment to move forward on those issues.”
Cicilline continued that a Trump win, “Would set back our movement and our country significantly, and this is going to be a close election. We can’t take anything for granted. We need to work hard to vindicate the progressive values we care about by electing Sec. Clinton.”