Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and former President Bill Clinton have an intertwined political history.
Brown had worked in the Clinton administration, and then when Brown was running for re-election, Clinton came to town to work a fundraiser/supporter event before Brown’s narrow loss.
The two men were together again Monday, at a church in Northwest Jacksonville. Clinton, stumping for Hillary; Brown, introducing the 42nd President, and re-introducing himself to a Democratic base who misses him exponentially more with each passing news cycle of the Lenny Curry administration.
Brown, who has been absent from public life in Jacksonville since July, chose an interesting time to make his return.
Corrine Brown is, perhaps, in serious legal trouble that might preclude her running in 2016. And Alvin Brown is the biggest name of the four Jacksonville candidates (others being Audrey Gibson, Mia Jones, and Tony Hill) who could run in her stead to ensure the newly drawn CD 5 remains a Jacksonville seat.
Alvin Brown, when introduced, let out a Hello Jacksonville … and got a whoop of acknowledgement, before thanking the volunteers.
Brown said Clinton “has spent her whole life breaking down barriers,” ensuring that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you can reach your God given potential.”
As well, Brown said Clinton was “the most qualified candidate in the race,” who could “close the education gap” and provide “equal pay for equal work because America needs a pay raise.”
Brown, “truly humbled to be here today,” introduced Bill Clinton as a “true friend for Jacksonville” who “made the tough decisions as President.”
Alvin Brown spoke of the Bill Clinton economic record, of “really putting America back to work,” before introducing a distinctly rapsy-voiced former President Clinton.
And so started the main event.
Clinton acknowledged members of the crowd, including Tony Hill, before going into a bit about how “this is a different type of election” with “stuff you’ve never seen, especially from the other guys,” before pivoting to a reference to the optimism in the Obama SOTU with regards to job creation and strong economic numbers.
“Yet we’ve got all this stuff going on … all this finger-pointing,” Clinton said.
“The picture the president painted is accurate, but most people don’t see themselves in it.”
A lack of pay raises. Children at risk of losing their lives to violence and other problems. “We have to face all that,” Clinton said, before mentioning the death of Aiden McClendon in a drive-by.
“This would have been his second birthday,” Clinton said, sounding like Lenny Curry.
“We don’t have an economy yet that works for everybody, and even if we did, there are so many barriers.”
Clinton said his wife was trying to change all of that.
Then Clinton went in to an anecdote, where his wife said “you know, I’m not a natural politician like President Obama or my husband … but I do like doing the job.”
Clinton then recounted his story of proposing to his wife three times. Eventually, she said yes, and came to Arkansas.
Clinton said of his wife that “she’s always focused on what she can do to make things better.”
“What I think we need is a change maker,” Clinton said. “She has walked the walk for a very long time.”
Much of what Clinton said about his wife was a recounting of her record as a change maker, spanning the period from her work in the Children’s Defense Fund and from the first lady position in Arkansas, as a fighter against the kind of institutionalized injustices that were common in the South back then and today, in different ways.
“There are thousands and thousands of Americans under the age of 40 who have had better lives because of her because she always makes something good happen,” Clinton said.
One of those good things was upgrading education standards in Arkansas.
Then came Washington, a “different world,” where the Clintons fought for health care reform.
“We tried, we failed, we didn’t have 60 votes,” yet they were able to pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program by “sticking it in the balanced budget bill so the Republicans would vote for it.”
As a result, 8 million kids have health insurance who wouldn’t otherwise.
Clinton extolled his wife’s work in the Senate, including bills passed to benefit veterans with bipartisan support.
“‘We think your wife cares about our issues … more than anyone in either party,'” Clinton said a veteran told him.
Former President Clinton, playing to the crowd sometime later, noted that Jacksonville needs an infrastructure program. His implication was President Hillary Clinton would help with that.
“Think how many jobs would be created if we took up every rusty pipe in America,” Clinton said, referencing Flint.
Clinton addressed phenomena like gun violence at Sandy Hook (“this is crazy”) and the Supreme Court vacancy (“sometimes you’ve got to find common ground, and sometimes you’ve got to stand your ground”), in light of the battle over the Court, the future of which seemingly will be decided by the next nominee.
“There’s no question that over a 40-year period she’s the best change maker,” Clinton said.
“Tear the barriers down. Tear them all down.”
The former President’s speech felt like a trip down memory lane for some on hand, but for others, especially the politicos on hand whose rise to prominence happened in the context of the quarter-century-long Clinton era, it was welcome comfort food.
“We need a world-class change-maker,” 42 said, “and she is the best I’ve ever known.”