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Clinton critical of nation's direction in Pittsburgh speech

Wes Venteicher
| Friday, July 13, 2018, 3:09 p.m.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton criticized the nation’s leadership and called on people to vote in November during a speech Friday morning in Pittsburgh.

In her first public appearance in the city since losing to Donald Trump in the 2016 election, Clinton painted a dark picture of American politics and urged people to bolster grassroots efforts to elect Democrats.

Without naming Trump, she criticized the administration for its efforts to end pre-existing condition protections, its tax cuts for “the wealthiest few,” its changes to discrimination protections for students and the administration’s practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

“They are trying to rip the heart out of America,” she said. “They want to turn us into transactional units, where I get this and you get that and it’s like a man-eat-man, woman-eat-woman society. They want to turn us against each other. They want to divide and conquer.”

She spoke for about a half-hour at Downtown Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center after receiving a women’s rights award from the American Federation of Teachers, which is holding its biennial convention there this weekend.

She referenced the union’s support in her 2016 campaign, saying, “We have to gear up again, because the challenges we face now are truly unlike any that we’ve seen for quite some time.”

She touched on the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which determined that public employees who aren’t part of unions don’t have to pay for collective bargaining, calling it “wrongly decided.” She also criticized Trump’s pick of Washington, D.C., Circuit Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, saying the choice would negatively affect rights of women, LGBT people, workers and others.

“I used to worry that they wanted to turn the clock back to the 1950s, now I worry they want to turn it back to the 1850s,” she said.

Clinton encouraged people to vote, suggesting low turnout among Democratic voters contributed to her defeat.

“After the 2016 election, I kept running into people who would burst into tears and often they would say to me, ‘I’m so sorry I didn’t vote. I didn’t think you needed me,’ ” she said.

“The most critical battle of all will be fought in the voting booths next November,” Clinton said. “The single best way to fight back … is to show up in record numbers.”

The theme of the convention, which drew more than 3,000 people, is “We care. We fight. We show up. We vote.” Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are scheduled to speak at the event, which includes a march Saturday to demand more investment in public education.

The union’s president, Randi Weingarten, set a similar tone in a speech before introducing Clinton, saying, “We are in the battle for the soul of our nation.”

Weingarten said “these fights are winnable.”

She referenced some of the division that has existed in the Democratic Party between progressives who supported Bernie Sanders, who is a Democratic Socialist, and Clinton, hte former secretary of State. The Democratic Socialist movement is gaining steam, including with recent wins for state House in the Pittsburgh region by Sara Innamorato and Summer Lee, even as moderate candidate Conor Lamb won in a Republican-leaning district outside the city.

Weingarten said that in November, “we must be together and we must be all in … which is why I am so glad that both Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are with us at this convention.”

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wes at 412-380-5676, or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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