Hillary’s Visit to Toronto: A Time for Celebration of Our Resistance

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  by  Virginia Smith

Democrats Abroad members celebrated Hillary Clinton’s September appearance in Toronto with drama, discussion, and a show of commitment. DA member Sue Alksnis, who attended the event costumed as Lady Liberty, was one of a group of DA volunteers who talked with the ticket holders, mostly women, as they stood in line for hours, about the importance of voting in the 2018 midterms if they are Americans. Ken Sherman, attired as Uncle Sam, also canvassed the lines. “I was overwhelmed by the numbers of Canadian women in attendance. I estimated at least 5,000,” he told Democrats Abroad.

The members of the group that engaged with people in line about voting were Melinda Medley, Gail Littlejohn, Kim Stone, Annie Parry, Shannon Parry, and Erin Campeau. The group was coordinated by Brooke Scott, who reported after the event that there “was such a positive feeling, some sadness and frustration, but actually a nice change.” The organizing team for the event included Danielle Stampley, Karin Lippert, and Julie Buchanan as well as Brooke. Both the volunteers and organizing team communicated the hope and energy that Democrats need to fuel their activities, now and in 2018.

A life-size cardboard cutout of Clinton also contributed to the drama of the event. Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti described how delighted her mother was to be photographed with the cutout. “This was her Woodstock.” DA member Tracy Hudson enthusiastically photographed ticket holders who wanted to be shown with the Hillary cutout and many others too. Over 100 photos were taken under the watchful scrutiny of the Secret Service officers who were there to protect the former First Lady.

 The event also featured serious discussion of the election and its outcome. The processes of talking about  and understanding the Democratic loss are vital to ensuring success in the 2018 elections. Sue Alksnis told an interviewer at CP24 about the importance of talking honestly about the 2017 result. After the election, “we were talking nonstop about it all the time, at home, at Democrats Abroad, and at work.” Hillary herself started the discussion with her book What Happened, and she made it clear that she is not afraid to tackle the facts.

Ken Sherman told DA that, in her talk, Hillary told the audience about how she emerged from her many walks in the woods, not only to reflect on her loss, but also to empower more women to seek elective office. She also said that “she believes that the Russian involvement in the election directly impacted her loss, but not as much as FBI Director James Comey’s announcements concerning her email investigations.” 

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The loud noise made by Trump was also a factor in the outcome. In a CBC Radio interview after the event, DA member Karin Lippert talked about how the anger Trump tapped into “worked as theatre and was covered as theatre…A lot of people thought that the election was entertaining. Attention was paid to his statements and not to policy.”

The chief issue addressed in Hillary’s talk was the need to bring more women into the political arena. Audience members cheered when Hillary proclaimed that “The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics.” In her interview, Sue pointed out that, even though Hillary did not win the electoral college vote, she broke the glass ceiling by being the first women candidate for a major U.S. political party.  “She is a role model for women.”  In the CBC interview, Karin talked about the need for fresh personalities and about possible new presidential candidates such as Senators Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kamala Harris (California), and Kristen Gillibrand (NY).

Hillary’s determination to gain strength and insights from the 2016 election is providing inspiration for Democrats in the U.S., Canada, and across the world.  Does her election setback mean that she should just go away? “Absolutely not!” Karin told the CBC.

Karin then further reflected on Democrats’ responses to the election: “The fact that she has more than survived helps to heal the wound a little – the excruciating pain of losing the election. On November 9, 65,844,610 people who voted for the winner of the popular vote (and many people who chose not to vote) woke up with broken hearts and a sense of doom. Thank God Hillary picked herself up and wrote What Happened. We need her book, her voice, and her smart analytical mind and commitment to democracy going forward. She’s promised to dive into the middle of the fight, which she called ‘an assault on truth and facts.’ It is a global fight. And, thankfully, so is the reach of Democrats Abroad. We’re in a unique position to make a difference in the 2018 and 2020 elections, starting now. I for one am energized!”

The celebration at the Hillary Clinton talk resulted in concrete gains for DA. Ken said that, in the canvassing, over 50 Americans signed up to indicate their interest in joining Democrats Abroad. “They pledged to vote in the 2018 midterm elections,” the big event that is setting DA’s  agenda for the near future.

 After Hillary’s talk, Danielle Stampley, the DA lead for the event, addressed more than 40 DA members and their friends who gathered for a meal at a local restaurant to discuss her presentation, DA’s work during the coming months, and America’s long-term political future. The presence of the life-size Hillary cutout at the restaurant contributed to photo taking and to an overall festive spirit. This sharing  showed how fun and fellowship can be great energizers for the serious work ahead.

Hillary Clinton will doing book signing at events in Montreal on October 23 and in Vancouver on Dec. 13.