Teatime in the City - 2016


Clinton and Obama in Charlotte

By Samir Shukla

Tuesday, July 5

We arrived in the blazing afternoon heat, noticed the two long lines snaking around buildings to the Charlotte Convention Center entrance and knew there was going to be a long, hot wait to get inside. Hillary Clinton was holding a rally and this time she was bringing along President Obama.

Several friendly volunteers attempted to steer people into different lines with different information, and I realized this was a very hastily organized event. It became chaotic likely because of President Obama's attendance. The volunteers and organizers simply didn't expect such a massive crowd for Clinton's rally in Charlotte. She was in town a couple months earlier for a rally and spoke to a much smaller crowd.

This event was for the history books. It has been decades since a sitting president joined an election rally for his possible successor to get the crowds buzzing and ready for the coming months of intense campaigning. President Obama has been itching to campaign for Hillary Clinton but waited until it was pretty much a sure thing she would be the Democratic nominee after a drawn-out primary battle with the insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign.

We sweated, bought a couple of overpriced water bottles from an entrepreneurial seller and finally made it into the Convention center after being “signed" in by volunteers, a simple process of loosely checking email confirmations and handing attendees a green or orange sticker. Some attendees simply got an X marked on their fists with a black magic marker.

After getting through the disarray in the heat, we strolled into the cooled halls of the center. At the entrance to the main hall, the security guards were stopping people as the hall had already filled to capacity. Our option now was to go upstairs. We made our way to the second floor hall with a large screen TV on the wall. We would watch the rally on the screen.

Clinton is not a naturally intriguing speaker, but she knows the game and tries to work the crowd in her own manner. She came out and talked about Obama's work over the years and essentially informed the friendly crowd that she would continue his work while adding her own narratives and policies into the mix. Obama, of course, is a polished public speaker. He immediately fired up the crowd further and went into a long, flowing speech building up Clinton and her work.

This was an inevitable pairing. Obama clearly needs Clinton to win and continue his work and solidify his legacy. She has attached the popular president to her campaign, because she will need all the ammunition she can get in her battle against Donald Trump. Obama clearly misses the campaign stage, after almost 40 minutes of pontificating he realized he maybe chatting a bit too long and joked with the crowd that he missed doing this.

She will clearly tap the President for future appearances to help pad the crowds and give her an edge. Obama remains hugely popular among progressives and democrats. Now that she is the official nominee and has received the endorsement of Senator Sanders, her path is clearer.

She is a formidable candidate but with Trump pummeling the GOP and conservatives into submission, the democrats underestimate him at their own peril. Clinton's challenge remains in the obvious historical nature of her candidacy to become the first female president. Can she define herself, tout her own experience and her talents to rise above Trump, and not rely too much on the boys – Obama, Sanders, and her husband Bill – to help her get to the finish line? Time will tell.

Samir Shukla is the Editor of Saathee Magazine