The vicious presidential primary season has led to an even harsher and uglier race for the White House. The natives have gotten restless and have turned on each other—Bernie supporter against Hillary supporter against Trump supporter.
National elections in this country are always malicious. They are always personal. It’s easy to forget how very nasty the 2008 primary season was when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was running against then-U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and supporters of each candidate vowed to never support the other. Spoiler alert: They did. Hillary became part of President Obama’s cabinet as Secretary of State, and primary season was promptly forgotten, as the nation’s ADD was distracted by another news cycle’s feeding frenzy.
This is why I couldn’t get personally invested in this year’s presidential primary. As a Democrat, I support the party and the platform. Both U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary spoke to different issues that appealed to me. I back Bernie’s stance on income inequality. I stand behind Hillary’s role as a voice for women across the globe. Bernie’s populism represents the little guy who needs a voice. But Hillary refuses to speak out against Common Core, the failing nationalized public education system. Bernie lacks foreign policy expertise. Hillary voted for the Iraq war.
Nah, forget about it. I figured it was best I step back, let the chips fall where they may, and vote for whomever earns the Democratic nomination. It’s not worth fighting with my friends and neighbors over it. Besides, we have Trump supporters to condemn.
And then on Sunday, more than 100 people were shot, and 49 killed, in Orlando, Fla. And my priorities came into focus.
I am a one-issue voter. My issue is guns. My candidate is Hillary.
After 20 first graders were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. four years ago, the attempt to keep firearms—particularly assault weapons—out of the hands of violent citizens became an issue that spoke to the core of who I am: a mother. Twenty mothers’ laps were empty that night, lacking the weight of a 6-year-old that I am intimately familiar with. It hurt. And it matters.
As Hillary stands to accept the nomination as the first woman ever to become the presidential candidate of a major political party in the United States, it occurs to me that in this context, Hillary is not just the best candidate despite being a woman, but because she is.
As a U.S. senator representing New York, Hillary co-sponsored the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban. She has been a consistent and unwavering supporter of gun violence prevention.
According to Donna Dees-Thomases, founder of the Million Mom March, which held its first pro-gun control rally on Mother’s Day in 2000, Hillary was a “major force behind the original Brady Bill,” which mandated federal background checks on those who purchased firearms in the United States and imposed a five-day waiting period on gun purchases.
Dees-Thomases is an unabashed Hillary backer today. Having spent time with Hillary during the lead up to the march, which ultimately drew 750,000 supporters in Washington, D.C., she had a close-up view of Hillary’s stance.
“She marched with the hundreds of thousands of mothers for the Million Mom March,” she said in an email. “We met with her when she was a U.S. senator. She listened and voted against giving immunity to the gun industry.”
Dees-Thomases believes that being a woman gives Hillary an advantage over the other candidates.
“Hillary is fearless, and has the fortitude to push through the reasonable regulations to keep dangerous weapons out of dangerous hands,” Dees-Thomases said. “And like most women, she is a multi-tasker. I am certain she can focus on improving the Brady background check and an assault weapons ban. At the same time.”
In response to the Orlando shooting, Hillary gave a speech in Cleveland on Monday that was heartfelt and direct. She presented clear ideas not only for how to address the scourge that gun violence has wrought on this country, but also how to “defeat ISIS and the other radical jihadist groups in the region and beyond.”
She didn’t mince words. She didn’t hedge. She stood up.
“The Orlando terrorist may be dead, but the virus that poisoned his mind remains very much alive,” Clinton said. “And we must attack it with clear eyes, steady hands, unwavering determination and pride in our country and our values.”
Weapons of war like those used in Orlando and San Bernardino have no place on our streets.https://t.co/jTFExpjcPd
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) June 13, 2016
Her plan to defeat ISIS and other extremist groups included gaining ground against them in Syria and Iraq, and using coalition forces to prevent them from establishing more strongholds in Afghanistan, Libya and Europe, where terrorist attacks have become more prevalent, as the tragedies in Paris and Brussels have shown.
Yet, it will take more than that, she said.
“I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets,” Hillary said. “And we may have our disagreements about gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few essential things. If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist link, you shouldn’t be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.”
“And you shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show,” she continued. “And, yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.”
Common sense gun reform shouldn’t be the near-impossible achievement of a Congress that has a conscience. It should not be a third-rail topic of a presidential candidate. And it should never be an off-hand dismissive comment made by someone running for our highest office, such as when Donald Trump quipped in January that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?”
Ladd Everitt, a Merrick native and director of communications at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a national organization based in Washington, shared his personal views on Hillary’s candidacy recently with the Press, especially her stance toward the National Rifle Association.
“One really encouraging sign for people who care about gun violence prevention is how Hillary Clinton has made this issue such a priority in her presidential campaign,” he said. “Her heart is in this fight, but it’s also clear that calling for tougher gun laws is good politics in a rapidly changing America. Her calls to build a national movement to take down the NRA are exactly what we need in this moment. Bold, fearless, determined.”
Across the country, gun violence prevention advocates are pinning their hopes on Hillary.
“As a mother and a grandmother she has our backs,” said Dees-Thomases. “And when she takes on the gun lobby, we will have hers.”
She’ll have this mother’s vote.
Featured Photo: Hillary Clinton surrounded by family members of victim’s of gun violence during an event in Port Washington. Photo credit: Michael Davidson for Hillary for America/Flickr