The likely choice in the November general election between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton leaves voters with just two options, building walls or building bridges, former President Bill Clinton said Sunday in a speech that closed a four-day United Farm Workers convention in Bakersfield.
Like virtually every other speaker at the UFW’s 20th Constitutional Convention, Clinton issued an urgent call to arms to Democrats to turn out to vote. In his roughly half-hour of remarks, he focused on what Democrats could do for Hillary as much as what she could do for them, and painted the consequences of what a Trump win would mean in dire terms.
And he reminded audiences in Bakersfield and again in Delano early Sunday evening that the eyes of nations have turned to the United States as one of the most divisive presidential elections in recent memory rolls on.
“We are now being looked at all over the world because these fears are present all over the world. Will we show the world a future of including diversity, shared prosperity, shared community and, yes, shared citizenship?” Clinton said, pausing when applause interrupted him. “Or will we say ‘Oh, it’s just too much. Never mind the facts, never mind the truth, never mind the human potential.’ ”
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He was warmly received by the UFW, which endorsed his wife earlier this year. UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta drew a chorus of boos and catcalls from the audience of around 3,000 when she briefly mentioned incumbent Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield.
At the convention, held every four years, UFW members vote in new officers, review their progress and challenges, and celebrate their history. On this Sunday, they also had Trump to contend with.
Clinton referred several times to the wall between the U.S. and Mexico that Trump has said he would build if elected. But he mentioned the candidate himself just once, calling him “the other guy.”
Instead, he stayed focused on the big picture – what his wife has done and what the country needs – leading the engaged, boisterous crowd through her history from law school to present day.
“We need comprehensive immigration reform for the path to citizenship. We need equal pay for women, and childcare. And we need to look at the prisons of this country and let these people who have been here too long for nonviolent offenses get the education they need and the training they need to go to work,” Clinton said.
Others who spoke earlier had no problem name-checking Trump and putting him down.
“I have a message, a very simple message ... to Donald Trump. To Donald Trump and all those elected officials, politicians that continue to say this rhetoric, let me be very clear. We are Californians and we will not be terrorized,” said California state Senate leader Kevin De Leon. “It’s our goal to have better working conditions and better salaries, to earn $10 an hour which is today legally the minimum wage.”
Amanda Renteria, a Tulare County native and Hillary Clinton’s national political director, relayed a story of her family being denied service at Denny’s when she was a child because of their Hispanic heritage, and said “somebody like Trump should not be telling this country who belongs here and who doesn’t.”
“As a Latina of the highest position in this campaign, born and raised in a place like this, I need your help. I need you to vote,” said Renteria, who challenged Valadao two years ago and lost. “Because if not, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to say we need respect in this community, in this nation?”
Clinton used Trump’s wall to great effect, and said his wife would build a different architectural structure if elected: a bridge.
“This election is about whether you want the walls or the bridges, whether you want to see everybody fighting like crazy over a small and shrinking economy or whether you want to put everyone together on a massive escalator to the future so we all rise,” the nation’s 42nd president said.
The day made a great impact on those who attended.
“I thought it was pretty brave of him to come to Bakersfield. We’re a conservative community,” said Margaret DeArmond, a registered Democrat. “Pretty wonderful, actually.
“They know how important the Hispanic community is to Hillary,” said her friend Leah Shields, echoing a theme one of Bakersfield’s 25 mayoral candidates also pointed out.
“I think that we well know the Latino and Hispanic communities have a low voter turnout,” said candidate Gilberto De La Torre, 26, a political science major at Cal State Bakersfield. But, he noted, “these people are starting to vote.”
Young Bakersfield mother Fatima Sarabia, 18, had no trouble explaining the mighty power of farmworkers as she cradled her son 4-month-old son Cesar and waited to hear Clinton speak.
“Who’s going to do the farm work and pick the grapes? America needs us Mexicans,” said Sarabia, as her other son, 1-year-old Alan, stood on a chair between grandma Maria Baez and dad Marcos Sarabia, a farmworker.
The June 7 primary and Nov. 8 general election, she said, will affect all farmworkers.
“It is very important for us to vote and other people to vote,” Fatima Sarabia added. “We don’t deserve to be kicked out of here. The only thing we’re doing is working.”
Bill Clinton at Fresno State
Former president Bill Clinton will speak at Fresno State Monday on behalf of his wife Hillary Clinton, who is battling Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president. Also appearing at the event will be Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union.
When: 11:15 a.m.; doors open to the public at 10:15 a.m.
Where: Satellite Student Union
How: Public members who want to attend are being asked to RSVP ahead of time. The link can be reached at fblinks.com/clinton