Hillary Clinton brought her campaign for president to the National Baptist Convention USA in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday. The Democratic nominee used gospel verses and personal stories to distinguish herself from Donald Trump.
People attending the convention are almost entirely African-American, conservative, middle-aged and dressed to the nines. In her address, Clinton, a life-long Methodist, quoted scripture to knowing smiles and nods. Some audience members even recited lines along with her.
Clinton talked about growing up in the Methodist church. She said the youth minister took them to meet African-American and Latino children attending churches in inner-city Chicago and see Martin Luther King, Jr. deliver a speech.
Clinton said those experiences and a career-long interest in helping people in poverty gives her an appreciation for the struggle of many African-Americans and other minorities that Donald Trump does not have.
“People who look at the African-American community and see only poverty, crime and despair, are missing so much,” said Clinton.
She said they are ignoring things like vibrant black-owned businesses, historically black colleges and the church.
“Well, I see you. I see the work you do, and the lives you change,” Clinton said to sustained applause.
But Clinton did not see as many people as she may have liked. Three thousand or so Baptists showed up, but the room was initially set for thousands more.
Trump supporters crowed the lackluster attendance as a sign that Clinton is slipping, and claimed that the Republican candidate continues to jam arenas when he speaks.
Clinton did not mention Trump by name but said “her opponent” is dangerous, especially for minority communities.
“Our nation’s values are being questioned in this election,” said Clinton softly. “We are facing a candidate with a long history of racial discrimination in his business, who traffics in toxic conspiracy theories like the lie that president Obama is not a true American,” she said, bringing up what was clearly sore subject with many in the room. “If he doesn’t even respect all Americans, how can he serve all Americans?” asked Clinton.
Clinton said she would tackle a long list of policy initiatives if elected president. She vowed to launch a massive jobs program, steer more investment to poor neighborhoods and lower the cost of college. Clinton also vows to address issues brought up by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Together, we’ll face head on systemic racism and work to reform our criminal justice system from end to end because everyone, in every community, should have respect for the law and be respected by the law."
Trump counters that policies championed by Clinton have left African-Americans in dire shape, suffering high unemployment and bad schools. He recently asked what they have to lose in voting for him.
Frank Morris is a national correspondent and senior editor at KCUR 89.3. You can reach him on Twitter @FrankNewsman.