Former President Bill Clinton says his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is a “change-maker” who will create a more inclusive economy and politics.
That was the former president’s message as he made stops in the Chicago area Tuesday, starting his morning shaking hands on the West Side of Chicago. Later, he gave a 45 minute, almost academic speech at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston to hundreds of supporters.
The line around the synagogue started forming hours before Clinton took the stage. Ten-year-old Elizabeth Mendoza stood with her mom and grandma, passing the time by poking and re-poking her bright, Hillary campaign button in and out of her vest.
Elizabeth’s mother Sophia and grandmother Delores also sported Hillary campaign gear, and said they’ve driven all over the Midwest to help organize for Clinton. They said it’s not that they don’t like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, it’s just that, as Delores puts it, there’s more to the race than offering free college tuition.
“His main focal point is getting younger kids like college kids - I have two kids in college - free education, and this is like the only thing they’re thinking of: ‘Hey, we’re not gonna have that student debt, you know it’s gonna be free education.’ But how are we gonna pay for it? Ok, well Wall Street’s gonna pay for it? How? It’s just words to us,” she said.
With just a week to go until the Illinois primary, Mendoza wants Clinton to focus on those young voters to try and pick up some of them from Sanders.
Inside the synagogue, it seemed a very hoarse-sounding President Bill Clinton got that message. He shared stories of a young barista working at a coffee shop and living with parents to pay for college, and a new lawyer struggling to pay off student debt.
He told supporters that Hillary Clinton would increase Pell Grants and add more work study programs, and she’d create a two part program to allow refinancing or consolidation of student debt.
President Clinton said Sanders’ education funding plan would make things worse for students.
“I think her idea is better for one simple reason: I think if all we do is subsidize tuition, it’ll just lead to inflation and tuition costs,” Clinton said.
The former president said his wife’s education plan is just one small part of her efforts to create a more inclusive economy and political system that will build on the legacy of President Barack Obama. Clinton said Obama “did everything he could do, often with one hand tied behind his back. It just took time, we have to burn through the wreckage.”
But Clinton says there was a theme within his wife’s time as first lady and U-S Senator: “she didn’t do anything in Washington without Republican’s support. It was amazing.”
He told supporters the reason Republicans have been “mean” to her since she left the Secretary of State’s office is because they’re afraid she will win.
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @laurenchooljian.