Hillary Clinton should have gone to Selma.
Clinton, the polarizing politician who is the likely Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race, skipped one of the nation’s most significant civil rights events in decades – and her absence was inexcusable.
President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, 100 members of Congress, former President George W. Bush, numerous civil right leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton and thousands of citizens – black and white – from across the country gathered to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” last week but Clinton was nowhere to be found in the state of Alabama.
Clinton was in Miami for an event for the Clinton Foundation but surely Bill Clinton could have held it down in Miami while Hillary appeared in Selma.
The Clintons have made civil rights the cornerstone of their legacies. Bill Clinton was affectionately known as America’s “first Black president” before Obama actually filled that role. At one point during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hillary had more prominent African-Americans supporting her than Black folks supporting Obama.
If Clinton is serious about running for president – and she would need a sizable segment of the Black vote to win the election – then it would only seem prudent for Clinton to show up in Selma, sit on the stage with the other dignitaries, and show her support for civil rights legislation and restoring the Voting Rights Act.
In 2013, The U.S. Supreme Court eliminated section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which required states with histories of minority voter suppression to get permission from the Justice Department before changing voting laws.
“Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we are getting closer,” Obama told the crowd. “Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding, our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge.”
Perhaps Clinton was simply pre-occupied by all the controversy surrounding the revelations that she didn’t have a government e-mail account as Secretary of State, instead using a personal account. Critics have said the practice raises questions about her commitment to transparency and public-records guidelines.
For the first time since the e-mail scandal broke, Clinton held a press conference Tuesday to address the fallout. She said repeatedly that she used the personal e-mail account only as a matter of “convenience.”
While speaking in Miami last week, Clinton mentioned “Bloody Sunday,” calling the event “a historic anniversary of the long march of towards equality and a more perfect union. But also recommitting to carry the cause forward into the 21st century.”
It was too little, too late. Speaking about the “Bloody Sunday” event from Miami instead of from Selma frankly seemed like an afterthought and perhaps even a slight to African-American citizens who are feeling legitimately disrespected by a Republican-controlled Congress and the virulent racism that seems to be more widespread everyday.
While Black legislators blasted Republicans for not showing up in Selma, members of the Congressional Black Caucus did not publicly criticize Clinton for skipping the event, perhaps because Clinton may be the only Democratic candidate who can rally a multicultural electorate and win the White House in 2016.
Clinton has not formally announced her candidacy for president, so we don’t know whether she’ll run or not though I suspect she will toss her hat in the ring. That being the case, Clinton should have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with all the other demonstrators in Selma and publicly declared her support for civil rights legislation.
Clinton took her stand for social justice from Miami, but ultimately, she should have stood where the people that mattered most to her election could see her.
What do you think?