Hillary Clinton used her speech at the National Urban League in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Friday to accomplish two of her political goals: bashing her potential opponent next year, ex-Florida governor Jeb Bush, and connecting with the “Black Lives Matter” civil rights movement.
With Bush and Clinton appearing at the same event for one of the first times during the 2016 presidential campaign, the Democratic front-runner repeatedly blasted Bush, even though she did not use his name.
“I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a right to rise, and say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can't afford healthcare. They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on, they can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education, and you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote,” Clinton said.
“Right to rise” is one of Bush’s slogans. The Republican candidate opposes raising the federal minimum wage, has called for repealing Obamacare and phasing out Medicare for high-income retirees and backs voter ID laws.
The “Black Lives Matter” activists have emphasized the importance of saying the names of African-Americans who have been killed during or after controversial interactions with police. Clinton heeded this call.
“Trayvon Martin, shot to death not in some empty, desolate street somewhere, but in a gated community. He wasn’t a stranger, he had family there,” Clinton said. “Or Sandra Bland, a college-educated young woman who knew her rights, who didn’t do anything wrong, but still ended up dying in a jail cell. Together, we’ve mourned Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray, and most recently, Sam Dubose."
“These names are emblazoned on our hearts,” she said.
Bush, speaking more than an hour after Clinton to the largely-black audience, avoided talking about the former secretary of state. He instead emphasized his record in Florida as governor, particularly his appointment of black judges, expanding charter schools and Bush’s decision in 2001 to have the Confederate flag taken down from Florida’s capitol grounds.
“I put it in a museum, where it belongs,” Bush said to applause.
Bush also highlighted his support of programs that help ex-offenders get jobs after they leave jail, saying, “in this country, we shouldn’t be writing people off, denying them a second chance.”
Bush’s appearance at the Urban League was the latest illustration of one of his central campaign strategies: making overt, unsubtle appeals to minority communities. Bush is betting Republican primary voters, who are overwhelming white, will back him in part on the theory that he can win black and particularly Hispanic voters in the general election who didn’t support Mitt Romney in 2012.
Together, we’ve mourned Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray, and most recently, Sam Dubose
The former governor earlier this week did an interview in Spanish with Telemundo where he emphasized his support for immigration reform.
Bush, unlike the Clinton, did not invoke the phrase “black lives matter” or speak extensively about the controversies over interactions between minority communities and the police that have drawn national attention over the last year. But he spoke indirectly about those incidents.
“Trust in our vital institutions is at historic lows, “Bush said. “It is up to all of us to work diligently to rebuild that trust. That happens one person at a time. One politician at a time. One police officer at a time. One community leader at a time.”
And he did make a reference to the continuing legacy of racism in America, which Clinton discussed extensively.
President Obama “is speaking the truth,” Bush said, repeating an Obama remark that ‘for too long we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.”
Bush seemed aware of his audience, avoiding direct criticism of Obama or his policies. In 2012, Romney was booed at the annual conference of the NAACP after sharply criticizing the president.
Three other candidates spoke at the event, ex-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both Democrats, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a Republican and the only African-American candidate in the 2016 race.
Along with his speech, O’Malley on Friday released a comprehensive plan to reform America’s criminal justice system that is one of the most detailed any of the candidates have offered on the issue. He called for abolishing the death penalty for federal crimes and banning the use of solitary confinement for juveniles.