Upon returning to my palatial digs in Manchester I planned the rest of the day. I rsvp’d to a Ted Cruz town hall at Joey’s Diner (that sounds promising) down in Amherst southwest of here, opening at 4 p.m. My neighbor at the Rubio event had said Hillary Clinton was appearing today in Dover at 1:30. Google tells me Dover is northeast of here, near Portsmouth. I should be able to make it, but the return straight from Dover down to Amherst would take an hour. If I go to see Clinton I might be too late for Cruz. This is what comes of not having a large efficient staff. Or planning ahead. What would Bob Woodward do? I have to try to see Clinton; she’s the big kahuna and unlike all these Republicans, she’s someone I know will actually be her party’s nominee. (I look forward to seeing a Bernie event, but really…)
The drive to Dover, still in pouring rain, is fine. I resort to having the iPhone talk me through the directions as I didn’t have time to write them down in advance. Clinton’s event, billed as a ‘get out the vote’ event rather than a town hall, is in the Rivermill at Dover Landing, which sounds like a catering hall or upscale condo development. It turns out, as I drive past it (“destination reached” says the lady in the phone) to be a real mill. It’s a large old brick building at the edge of the river, no longer a working mill but now apparently offices, a restaurant or two, etc. The river is the Cocheco, an Indian name, and Dover was settled in 1623, oldest spot in the state. Unfortunately neither the English colonists nor their 19th century successors, despite being admirably commercially-minded, thought much about parking. This oversight becomes problematic as I cruise around without finding a spot not already reserved for businesses in the building. The maze of surrounding curving streets, other large mill buildings, heavy rain, and this damn river always popping up in the way, do not ease my mind. I eventually park on the main street a half mile away. It looks like a legal spot, no meters or signs in sight, but as I start walking I see a parking pay station on the next block, with signs about hours, so I buy the max three hours’ time, quite reasonable at $2.25, and go back and stick the slip on my dashboard in case it applies to me.
Ten minutes later I enter the event site and encounter a first: a police and Secret Service presence, complete with emptying one’s pockets and being checked by metal detector. Umbrellas are to be left at the door. The large room is already full, seating arranged auditorium-like all facing a low stage platform (mike, stool, water bottle in place). I stand along the side of the room with others, but with a good view as the lane in front of us is being kept clear by police and campaign workers.
The crowd, about 300, covers all ages. I see only one black person; he’s sitting in the reserved seats in the front row. The difference I notice from other crowds is that this one is two-thirds, maybe even three-quarters, women. There is another difference I can’t put my finger on for some time but finally see: this group is more affluent than the ones I’ve seen to date. They aren’t necessarily dressed formally, no suits and ties or dressy dresses, but their informality is fashionable, women in tailored slacks and scarves, men in long sweaters that tie with a belt. No work-clothes, overalls, heavy coats. It looks like Larchmonters in church. If they came from work, it was in an office.
Hillary is 40 minutes late. Before she arrives, a video shows scenes from her public life, back to Children’s Defense Fund days, but it breaks down a couple of times so we are all glad when her introducers come on stage. Two of these four women read their remarks from papers in their hands. Note to campaign staff: tell them not to do that.
But now here she is! Huge applause, great enthusiasm. Hillary is energetic, perky, smiling; great to be back in Dover: “Some people” say I should just skip New Hampshire, but “not on your life!” “I’m fighting as hard as I can!” Big applause.
But her speech does not much refer to Bernie. The theme is the Republicans and Clinton says the “most important priority is that none of the Republican candidates be elected. What they stand for is so wrong.” To the extent she mentions any Republican’s proposals or statements they are one person’s: Trump’s. More generally she notes that the Republicans who came in after her husband used the same trickle down economics that didn’t work before, and we ended up with the great recession. The Republicans will take us backward; Hillary will take us forward.
She is in favor of ‘common sense’ gun control laws ‘without being inconsistent with the Second Amendment.’ We must preserve the Affordable Care Act; in the next sentence she actually says ‘and make it affordable.’
And we must change or repeal Citizens United, “even if it takes a constitutional amendment.” (At the risk of abandoning my bloggeristic impartiality, which probably is already shot, I must say I shudder at the thought of messing with the First Amendment.)
She delivers a red-meat speech for blue-state voters and the audience interrupts frequently with cheers. Unlike the other candidates I have heard thus far, Clinton does not ask for their votes. It strikes me that she assumes, probably correctly, that this crowd loves her and will vote for her. She is not trying to convince them she’s the best choice; she is exhorting them to do what they all know needs to be done.
When question time comes, four of the six people called on do not ask questions at all. The first is just a thank-you, from a young woman who says she is a legal immigrant from Mexico, now a U.S. citizen, who says she ‘reacted’ to a person who told her, if you’re a legal immigrant you must be a Democrat; she says she replied No, I’m not a Democrat for that reason (i.e. she is a Democrat for other reasons). Clinton thanks her.
The next is from a man who left Damascus recently; he mentions an orphanage there. He is in tears and has trouble finishing but says we ‘need to clean out ISIS.’ Clinton says “I certainly believe ISIS must be defeated – they are a cancer.” The crowd is silent. When she goes on to say she refuses to put American ground forces into Syria, they applaud.
The third is from a girl of about 7, held in her mother’s arms and standing on a chair: “What laws would you change?” Clinton thanks her for being here, and discusses fairness in application of the law.
The fourth is from a man I actually know of, John Dore, who is a professional arbitrator. He asks about labor-management animosity. Clinton notes that collective bargaining helped build the middle class, but she notes we need ‘balance’ between unions and capital/management. It’s a good answer.
The fifth is from Barbara from Maine who is a former Clinton convention delegate, presumably from 2008. She asks Hillary to talk about methadone clinics in view of New England’s addiction crisis. Clinton supports creating more recovery programs.
The staff is saying time’s running out so Clinton, in a show of fairness to the many hands still raised, says her campaign aide next to the stage will now point to the last questioner “with his eyes closed.” I scan the crowd in the area he is aimed at and surprise myself by correctly picking the person he is about to choose: she is in her 20s and tall with blonde pigtails and big glasses — Heidi by way of Vanity Fair. I would have chosen her myself. Turns out if we think she is harmless we are both wrong – she is a plant (I believe) from an outfit called Governing Under the Influence, which tries to get the money out of politics. She asks about two large campaign contributions to Clinton from big oil. Clinton’s smile vanishes. She says “I don’t know anything about that” and goes on to her points on campaign finance and Citizens United.
With that, it’s over and she leaves the stage to cluster with fans; selfies and handshakes all around. I am thinking I probably can’t make the next event in time but it’s worth a try, so I depart. Good thing I do – I forgot we will all need to find our umbrellas in the huge pile of them on a table out front. I find mine in about two minutes of searching, but when the main crowd hits, it won’t be pretty. And it’s still raining.
But at least I don’t have a parking ticket.