Obama Headlines Rally in Support of Michigan Democrats

(photo by Callie Teitelbaum)

by Callie Teitelbaum

Former President Barack Obama spoke at a rally for the Michigan Democrats at Cass Tech High School in Detroit on October 27th. Thousands of people gathered outside Cass Tech waiting for the doors to open at 5:00 P.M.

The rally was held in support of the Michigan Democrats running for federal and local office in the midterm elections and emphasized the importance of voting on November 6th.

Obama was welcomed on stage by Debbie Stabenow, who is running for re-election to the U.S. senate, and the Cass Tech band at 8:00 P.M. Obama spoke about the importance of voting in the midterms.

“The main reason I am here is to make sure that all of you vote in what I believe might be the most important election of our lifetime,” Obama said. “The stakes in this election are really high. The consequences of sitting on the sidelines in this election are dangerous and profound because America is at a crossroads right now…the character of our country is on the ballot.”

Obama stated in his speech that politicians often try to scare, distract, and place voter rules on citizens to prevent them from voting. He mentioned examples of Americans being distracted in 2014 with the threat of Ebola, in 2016 with Hillary Clinton’s emails, and how “the most important thing” in this election is “a bunch of impoverished refugees a thousand miles away,” Obama said. He concluded that the American people must no longer fall for these diversions.

Obama enumerated upon what he said were lies of politicians, specifically, Republican candidates who are running campaigns in support of the the Affordable Care Act and protecting insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, despite their previous attempts to continuously overturn that law.

“What we have not seen before in our public life is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, boldly, shamelessly, lie,” Obama said.

Obama endorsed Stabenow, saying she is the person who will protect healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions along with Elissa Slotkin, who took leave from CIA to take care of her mom, and is now the Democratic nominee for Michigan’s 8th congressional district.

Obama drew attention to the current administration who he claims continuously caters to America’s elite and how that must change. He endorsed voting on Proposal 2 and further condemned deceit by politicians. “When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn’t matter, when people can just make up things, then democracy, it doesn’t work,” Obama said.

Obama later stated, “The only check on bad behavior is you and your vote.”

Obama made sure to list the vast number of issues that will take time to fix and said that while one election will not change everything, it is a start.“ The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference,” Obama said.

Prior to Obama’s speech, a variety of political figures spoke to either endorse candidates or campaign for their own nomination. The main political issues discussed included healthcare, public school education, women’s rights, and ending gerrymandering in the state of Michigan.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at the rally and expressed his support of Proposal 2. Advocates of Proposal 2 hold it out as a citizen-led movement to end gerrymandering in Michigan with the intent of bringing voting power back to the people. “This [Michigan] is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country,” Holder said.

Proponents of proposal 2 claim that in passing the proposal, district lines will be drawn more fairly so they are not manipulated to support one party. Government transparency will increase because meetings where the district boundaries are mapped will be open to the public instead of occurring behind closed doors.

Over 430,000 people in Michigan signed a petition in support of bringing Proposal 2 to vote on November 6.

Brenda Lawrence, congresswoman of the 14th district, fired up the crowd when addressing all the women in the audience. This midterm election holds a record number of female Candidates on the Democratic ticket. Lawrence stated that while women are 51% of the population, only 20% of congress is made up of women.

“We saw an example of all men sitting down to screen a candidate and have a hearing on sexual assault in the senate,” Lawrence said. “Now women, this is our year.”

Lawrence spoke about women’s empowerment and the need for equal pay and healthcare rights. “If you have not awakened. If you have not been moved. If you have not reached a level of understanding that this is our time,” Lawrence said. “It’s our time to stand up because this next generation of girls and young women are looking at us because we have a responsibility to establish a country that says ‘One nation under god indivisible with liberty and justice for all’ includes women.”

Lawrence emphasized the importance of voting and encouraging others to vote. “Every woman cannot go to the poll and put the sticker on themselves and say ‘I voted.’ You better have four or five [women] behind you that you’re bringing,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence took a moment to address those who are concerned about the large amount of female candidates on the ticket. “If you look at the credentials, if you look at the skill, if you look at the hard work…you will stand them next to anyone and say ‘They are the ones we need to fight for our protections,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence introduced Haley Stevens who is the the Democratic nominee for Michigan’s 11th congressional district. Stevens served as Chief of Staff on the U.S. Auto Rescue, saving General Motors, Chrysler, and 200,000 Michigan jobs. Stevens stated that STEM, education, workforce development, and “restoring checks and balances” are her top initiatives as well as to “Stand up to Betsy Devos.”

Slotkin spoke after Stevens. Slotkin worked for 14 years in national security, took 3 tours in Iraq with the military, and served alongside two Presidents, one Republican and one Democrat. “I’m running for congress because I believe that the tenor and tone of politics in Washington is fundamentally unbecoming of the country that I served and the country that we all love,” Slotkin said.

Slotkin spoke about healthcare and shared that when her mother was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer she was denied healthcare because of her pre-existing condition of breast cancer when she was a young mom. When Slotkin’s mom lost her job, she lost insurance. She went 5 and half years without insurance and filed reports for bankruptcy while dealing with medical bills.

In 2017, Republican members of the House of Representatives and Slotkin’s current opponent in the congressional race voted to “gut protections for people with preexisting conditions,” Slotkin said. This healthcare issue is what inspired Slotkin run for office.

Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic nominee for Governor, spoke about her campaign and endorsed candidates for office. Whitmer was a member in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2001 to 2006 and a member of the Michigan Senate from 2006 to 2015.

Whitmer expressed her initiative to protect medicaid expansion, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. Whitmer emphasized education, having votes count, and access to clean drinking water as priority initiatives. Whitmer spoke about the weight of the upcoming election to encourage voters.

“This is not just about a rally,” Whitmer said. “This is not just about a moment. This is about an election that is going to impact our life not just for the next two year, the next four years, the next ten years, for generations. This election will impact.”

Whitmer endorsed Garlin Gilchrist as her running mate, Dana Nessel for attorney general, Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State, and Samuel Bagenstos and Megan Cavanagh for the Michigan Supreme Court.

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