Cassandra Thomas was busy making sandwiches in her store, so when a representative from the Hillary Clinton campaign showed up Tuesday morning in her Brightmoor neighborhood, asking if Thomas could step outside for a minute to talk, she declined. She is, after all, the co-owner of the very popular Sweet Potato Sensations, and in that responsibility she has quite a few things to tend to.
But then the Clinton representative, being somewhat persistent, asked again if she could come outside for a sec. But the answer was still ‘no’. Too busy. Besides, Thomas didn’t know at the time that this woman was a Clinton representative. To Thomas, she was just some woman who kept wanting her to come outside, trying to convince Thomas that this was something she “really would not want to miss” and would she stop making those sandwiches for a minute and step outside. Please.
“So I sent my daughter out there, and then my daughter came back and whispered in my ear, and I said whaaaaaat? And then I said ‘Oh my goodness.’”
The ‘Oh my goodness’ was because Thomas’ daughter had just informed her that Hillary Clinton, the former New York Senator, Secretary of State, and now frontrunner Democratic presidential candidate for 2016 (not to mention wife of former two-term President Bill Clinton) wanted to drop by for a visit. Like, in about an hour or so. Or less. Which, incidentally, would mean that the media knew about the visit before she did. Still, viewing the growing pack of restless and agitated journalists that had gathered across the street from her establishment, waiting for the signal to swoop down in the Name of the News, was probably a clue that something slightly different than usual was kind of up.
“This was not planned. We knew about 15 minutes before she got here. This was a very pleasant surprise. We asked her what made her come here, and she said the flight that brought her in was late, and she asked three folks where was a good small business to visit and they all said Sweet Potato Sensations. That’s nothing but God,” said Thomas.
So now that Thomas knew what this was about, yes, she definitely had time for Hillary Clinton. And it wasn’t much longer before the police cars started arriving at the business that she and her husband have owned since 2006 when it was just a boarded up building (she has been in business for 28 years). Then came the Secret Service. And then came…Hillary. As would be expected, the candidate posed a few questions to the staff about what was the best selling item, what was it like being a small business in the area, etc. Then she shifted her attention to the media, where she said the following:
“I want to be the small business president, and I’m making a real point of identifying and visiting small businesses that are successful, sometimes against the odds, that really provide either a service or a product that people in their communities are buying up and giving a base for further growth. That’s what we need to do more of. I mean, 60 percent of the jobs in our economy are created by small business. We’re just not paying enough attention to removing the obstacles and the barriers so that more people can have the sort of success that we’re seeing here.
“I’ve seen a lot of the community efforts, the coordinated commitment from government, business and civic groups and individuals, homeowners, philanthropy, to really make a big commitment to Detroit. And that catches my attention, because the more we can bring people back into working on behalf of their own futures? And the neighborhoods they live in and the communities they’re a part of, that’s what’s going to bring back cities like Detroit. I’m really encouraged by what I see happening in Detroit. I’ve followed it as closely as I could, and there’s a real opportunity here.”
Clinton has been receiving a growing level of criticism throughout her campaign for being virtually inaccessible to the media, oftentimes brushing right by the pack without uttering a mumbling word beyond her prepared remarks and not allowing for any follow-up questions, so it was somewhat of a relief that she did answer at least several questions before the media were all ushered – politely at least – right back out the front door of Sweet Potato Sensations. She even answered an off-the-planned-script question from one reporter about the Trans Pacific Partnership, who asked her to respond to the concern among some about how the Trans Pacific Partnership might affect Detroit workers.
“First of all I’m going to wait to see what’s in it. I’ve said that. And I’m going to judge whether or not it creates good jobs, whether it protects the jobs we have, and whether it’s good for our national security. And I’ve made clear some of the specifics that I think need to be in there. When I was Secretary of State, we worked with both the auto companies and the UAW to make some changes in the South Korean trade deal. The jury is still out, but we listened and responded because we inherited a deal that neither the companies nor the workers were particularly excited about. So I saw first hand how we can bring people together and try to improve the opportunity for American companies and American unions and American workers to get a better deal.”
As for how she rated Michigan’s importance in the campaign?
“Michigan’s always important, to me personally, and I think to the country.”
Pretty much how we feel in Michigan too. Clinton’s decision to visit a Black-owned small business in Detroit is not insignificant because the world is truly watching every step she takes. Should Clinton become our next President of the United States, we’ll see how much she truly remembers about that visit. Whether it was just a convenient photo op or an actual indicator of how she is formulating her domestic policy – or even an urban policy.