On Saturday, the former Secretary of State made an appearance at New England College for a segment called Come Ask Hillary Anything, likely a reference to the popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) series on Reddit. Taking questions from undergrads and grad students, the candidate made her appeal to the youth.
A young female graduate student asked about #BlackLivesMatter and police misconduct, inquiring about what the candidate planned to do about basic survival issues. Clinton said that she supports the BLM movement, and added, without many specifics, that America needs more police reform. She then pivoted.
“Homicide is the leading cause of death in young African American men.” As in, if we’re talking about police brutality, let’s not ignore “black on black” crime.
The candidate went on to discuss police killings, and to credit gang and civilian killings as her motivation for supporting sweeping gun reform. She also mentioned loopholes that allow shooters like Dylann Roof to acquire weapons for massacres. It was a de-racialized answer to a racially charged issue.
For those hoping for a fleshed-out racial justice platform—for example, one that includes offering incentives for hospitals to open trauma centers in areas of high gun crime—her answer rang hollow.
In another exchange, Hillary mentioned meeting a generic Sanders voter who was enthusiastic about free college for all. The secretary outlined why she opposes socializing higher education, arguing that if government provides free schooling, “you will never get the cost down.” It was all rather unconvincing, given that less than 30 percent of Americans are currently able to earn a bachelor’s degree or higher under the current system.
“There will be no incentive for state governments to lower the cost, to get out of building state prisons as opposed to building colleges again,” she claimed. “If you can afford to pay for your child to go to college, you should pay to go to college.”
Then more routine points. Clinton was asked how she will overcome so-called voter distrust, and worked through the requisite inquiries about her email server. Then came a question by an NEC professor about Muslim Americans, and about what role the president can play in combating ISIS. Her answer, once again, was typical, describing Islam in explicitly foreign terms.
“There’s a struggle going on inside Islam,” Clinton said. “It’s a movement that’s going to be transformational. There’s a lot of concern about Muslim leaders that I have talked with about the best way to approach this … As president I would do whatever I could do to support Islamic leaders, and there’s already been some effort, which I hope can take hold.”
Missing from her answer was any mention of controversial programs like Countering Violent Extremism, and of potential violations of the Fourth Amendment. Nothing about eroded civil liberties either, or about double standards in how the First Amendment is sometimes applied to American Muslims.
Hillary continued to speak about Muslims in non-American terms, mentioning the schism between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Again, left out were acknowledgments of issues like the profiling and entrapment of Muslims in this country. Her answers were reductive, talking about Muslim Americans as tools in the War on Terror without addressing the actual situation of Muslims. Many of whom are new voters, and who are unlikely to vote Republican.
After the event, I met an undecided young man from Londonderry who introduced himself as Ahmed. When he said he’s leaning towards Hillary, I asked him why.
“I guess I’m of the opinion that although Hillary has her demons, the system is so broken that it’s almost a necessary evil,” he said. “The very reasons I do not like Hillary as a candidate may prove to be what makes her superior to Bernie.”
Hardly a ringing endorsement.
This report was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and is part of their “Manchester Divided” coverage of the madness leading up to the 100th New Hampshire presidential primary.