Former United States President Bill Clinton spoke to a capacity crowd at Rackham Auditorium yesterday, capping 4 hours of political fanfare aimed at rallying voters to support Congressman John Dingell (D–Ann Arbor) and other Democratic candidates throughout the state in next week’s midterm elections.
Clinton told the audience that this year’s election has made him “somewhere between disturbed and ticked off,” urging voters to participate in the election to continue propelling Democratic policies and initiatives forward, especially in the state of Michigan which has been supportive of him in the past.
“I love Michigan,” Clinton said. “Michigan’s been good to me and I try to be good for Michigan. And John Dingell has been good for you.”
In order to help the ailing economy, Clinton emphasized the importance of balancing the national budget and creating new jobs, specifically in the green energy and technology sectors. He said that Dingell’s focus on these goals has helped make Michigan an “advanced battery manufacturing sector,” but said there is still much work to be done.
“There’s always a gap between when you start fixing things and people feel fixed,” Clinton said. “The challenge for our party is this election is occurring in the gap.”
Clinton said that since the Obama administration has tried to fix the debt left by the Bush administration, about 70 percent of it has been absolved. Despite this, he said the effects have yet to be felt by the American public since the majority of jobs lay in the final 30 percent — but that progress is being made to eliminate it.
“Give us two more years,” Clinton said. “You gave them eight years to dig the hole, give us half the time, four more years, to get out of it.”
In response to Republicans who claim that the Democrats have been over-spending and trying to implement Socialist policies, Clinton pointed out that Democratic policy helped established a balanced budget during his time in office, which the Bush administration failed to achieve.
“I almost gag when I hear these Republicans,” Clinton said, “lambasting the president and the Democrats in Congress, ‘Oh they’re such big spenders, they’re crazy quasi-Socialists, they’ve gone hog wild.’ I have a simple question. Who was the last president to give you a balanced budget?”
Clinton added that in the quest to develop a strong economy, voters should arm themselves with knowledge just as they would going into a football game.
“I guarantee that half this crowd could give me a detailed discussion on the probability of Denard Robinson playing in the next football game,” he said.
“When something matters to us like football, the facts are important to us, and we know them,” Clinton continued. “I propose we conduct this election like we are getting ready to play a football game because this is exactly what we’re doing in the international economy, and we better be ready when we play.”
To increase international competition, Clinton said the U.S. must continue focusing on financing jobs and education in the small business, green energy, technology and infrastructure sectors. Since these types of jobs require more specialized skills and knowledge than some other jobs, Clinton said it is crucial to continue fighting for student aid programs to allow more students to embark on these programs — something he said Dingell has always fought for.
“If you care about putting people to work, who can go to work tomorrow morning, you’ve got to vote for John Dingell,” Clinton said.
In closing, Clinton stressed the importance of mobilizing the youth vote. He said expected voter profiles show that student the number of voters is expected to decrease 55 percent from the 2008 presidential election.
“Young people who don’t vote are literally playing Russian roulette with their own future,” Clinton said. “We’ve got to go back to number one, and we can do it if we re-elect John Dingell.”
Dingell spoke before Clinton, thanking audience members for their support in his campaign efforts. He said that while he has had the ability to work in Washington D.C. for the past 55 years, he never forgets the constituents he is representing in Michigan when working to implement policy.
“I might have the pleasure and privilege of working for you in Washington, but I’ve never forgotten who sends me there and who I work for,” Dingell said. “I work for the working men and women of Michigan, for jobs in our auto industry, for medical care for all Americans, for information technology and clean energy jobs in the future.”
To help working families, Dingell said he hopes to prevent Republicans from giving tax cuts to the wealthy, privatizing Social Security and cutting Pell grants. Dingell said many Republicans call this fight “class warfare,” something he said he believes the Republicans made possible.
“It’s a Republican war on middle-class family,” Dingell said. “Not on my watch and not on your watch. “
Before introducing Clinton, Dingell said Democratic presidents like Clinton and Barack Obama have led the country with kindness and consideration for the greater good of the American people, something he said the Bush administration failed to do.
“He governed this country with great compassion,” Dingell said of Clinton. “That’s something we lacked for the next eight years of the administration of our 43rd president, but that we regained two years ago with President Obama.”
Numerous other Democratic leaders and political candidates spoke while the crowd waited for Clinton and Dingell to arrive, including an opening message from Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and special appearances from Former Congresswoman Lynn Rivers, Congressman Sandy Levin, United Auto Workers President Bob King, Deborah Dingell, wife of John Dingell and a political activist, and Brendan Campbell, chair of the University’s Chapter of College Democrats.
Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) who is vying for a State Senate seat spoke too, as did Jeff Irwin who is running for a seat in the State House of Representatives. Secretary of State Candidate Jocelyn Benson, Attorney General Candidate David Leyton and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Candidates Alton Davis and Denise Morris also spoke.
Like Clinton and Dingell, the speakers emphasized the importance of the youth vote in the midterm election in order to move Democratic ideals forward.
Hieftje’s opening statement stressed the importance of rallies and events like this across the nation in increasing Democratic turnout, especially among youth voters.
“We want you to be the disciples, the people who will go out and convince others that they need to show up at the polls and they need to vote Democratic,” Hieftje said.
Campbell also spoke about the importance of the youth vote in helping to shape the policies of the state of Michigan, and in turn the country. He said he aims to overturn sentiment that student participation will decline in this election.
“I know they’re wrong, you know they’re wrong,” Campbell said. “But it’s up to us to show them they’re wrong in nine days.”
In a passionate speech preceding the brief break before the introduction of her husband and Clinton, Debbie Dingell told the crowd how her husband’s campaign is “not going to leave a single stone unturned” in the quest for Democratic support.
“We’re fighting for jobs, we’re fighting for the economy, we’re fighting for health care, we’re fighting for the future of America,” she said.
Many students in attendance said they felt excited about voting after the event, including LSA sophomore Yonah Lieberman, who is also a member of College Democrats.
“Students are a huge percentage of the vote, and we really need to get out there because we’re important, we’re the next generation,” Lieberman said. “The things that the lawmakers do now are going to affect us tomorrow.”
LSA sophomore Emee Ta said she enjoyed the fact that Clinton localized his speech and made it relatable to Michigan residents and students. As a first-time voter in this election, she said she was glad to be there to listen and get involved in the campaigns.
“I really liked the fact that he related it to students and he even mentioned Michigan football, which is nice that he can relate to people like that,” Ta said. “It was definitely interesting.”