By Caroline Kenny
COLUMBIA, S.C.–Just 12 hours before the polls opened in South Carolina, Hillary Clinton was joined on stage by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and several other celebrities and prominent politicians on Friday night to get supporters fired up and ready to vote in the state’s Democratic Primary.
In a crowded Boyd Plaza outside the Columbia Museum of Art on Main Street in downtown Columbia, Clinton spoke about issues that resonated with the middle-class residents of the city, including expanding health care, taking on the gun lobby and striving for economic equality. Among the items she discussed that drew the loudest applause was affirming her belief that President Obama should nominate a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
[vimeo 156988059 w=474]
“I hope Americans of both political parties will rise up,” Clinton said, “to tell the United States Senate to do your duty.”
Clinton was joined on stage by her husband, who had been making his own separate campaign stops around the state all weekend. The couple were reunited at this event, and Bill opened by introducing his wife to the crowd.
He spoke about spending summers on Kiawah Island, off the coast of Charleston, for several years with his family. Chelsea, their daughter, learned to ride her bike on the shores of the Palmetto State, and they spent 20 New Year’s celebrations on the island, making good memories, he said.
“We love this place,” Clinton said, “and we are grateful to all of you.”
In 2008, Clinton suffered a two-to-one loss to Barack Obama in South Carolina after originally leading, especially among African-American voters. Several political strategists attributed this loss to angry outbursts from the former president while campaigning for his wife in South Carolina.
Bill’s comments were considered by some to be racially insensitive. Among the things he said included reminding people Jesse Jackson won the state’s primaries in his unsuccessful runs for the nomination in the 1980s. The comment was seen by many as an insulting suggestion that Obama was succeeding in the state due to his race. South Carolina’s democratic electorate is almost 60 percent African-American.
According to South Carolina’s sole Democrat in its congressional delegation, Rep. Jim Clyburn, Bill Clinton called him in the middle of the night during the 2008 campaign saying, “If you bastards want a fight, you damn well will get one.”
The Clintons and Clyburn have since made amends. Clyburn endorsed the former Secretary of State on Feb. 19 and the Clinton South Carolina state director is a former Clyburn aide.
Many African-Americans in South Carolina say they are voting for Clinton due to her husband’s legacy and the work he did for the African-American community during his time in the White House.
“Equality, across the board, is so important,” said Bashana Ferreoo, an event attendee and Clinton supporter from Charleston. “Her husband strove for equality, especially economic equality, during his presidency and now she talks about it all the time so I believe, based on his legacy and her history that she will work for it.”
Steps from the South Carolina State House, where the Confederate Flag was lowered last summer after a white supremacist shot and killed nine African-Americans at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, Clinton made it a point to discuss her plans on gun control and separate her view from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who she says is not as strong on the issue.
“We need to close the gun show loophole, to close the online loophole, to close what is being called the Charleston loophole,” Clinton said, “to end the immunity from liability that the Congress and my opponent gave to the gunmakers and sellers.”
Despite a protester across the street yelling about Benghazi into a megaphone that could be heard throughout the rally, supporters were excited to get out to vote and volunteer.
Many in attendance had traveled from Chicago to South Carolina, after spending weeks in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada helping knock doors and get people out to vote.
“We know Hillary from many, many years ago,” said Helen Latimore, a Chicago native. “She wants to help all of us actually make America great again.”