While on the campaign trail in Las Vegas, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton sat down with ESSENCE Editor-in-chief Vanessa K. De Luca to discuss the issues that matter to us most and why she hopes to earn Black women’s votes.
ESSENCE: Thank you, Secretary Clinton, for spending time with ESSENCE. Let’s jump right in: In 2012, more than 70 percent of eligible Black women voters went to the polls and 96 percent of them voted for President Obama. How do you plan on energizing this bloc to vote for you in 2016?
HILLARY CLINTON: First, thank you, Vanessa. I’m delighted to be talking with you today. I think what’s remarkable and worthy of great attention is the percentage of Black women who vote. Black women understand [that] politics and government have a direct effect on their lives. I want to build on the progress that has been made under President Obama. I am absolutely unabashed in saying that I don’t think he gets the credit for what he’s achieved.
There’s a very clear set of issues that are particularly important to African-American women. I will continue to reach out to say, “Look, we’ve got to build on the progress. I can’t do it without you. I want to know what you need, and I want you to know that I’m going to do everything I can to respond to those needs.”
ESSENCE: In a poll we conducted with civic engagement group Black Women’s Roundtable last year, we asked our audience to tell us the top three issues they found to be the most critical in deciding whether they would vote for a particular candidate. The issues were affordable health care, living wage and college affordability. How can the middle class participate in the affordable health care plan in ways they are prevented from doing right now?
CLINTON: I was thrilled when President Obama got the Affordable Care Act through. I will be looking to see how we make it truly affordable so that the co-pays, the premiums [and] the deductibles don’t take such a huge chunk out of a woman’s or a family’s budget. Women are eligible for Medicare starting at age 65, but what about the women between 55 and 65 who are maybe facing health challenges but don’t have Medicare? What about caretakers, all the women who cut back on their work hours or stop their work life to care for a child, a spouse or an elderly relative? They are hurt when it comes to social security, so how do we take care of that? I want to look at this broadly to figure out how we help people get the quality affordable health care that everybody needs and deserves at different points in their life.
ESSENCE: Let’s shift to the second issue. Black women with a bachelor’s degree are making $10,000 less than the average White male with an associate’s degree. How do you plan to address the signi cant pay gaps for us?
CLINTON: More good jobs with rising incomes is the centerpiece of how we’re going to provide a higher standard of living for people. There is still too much explicit and implicit bias in employment, hiring and promoting that, again, disproportionately affects African-American women. I am in favor of raising the minimum wage, and support the efforts that have already been successful in New York and California to raise it to $15 per hour.
I want to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so that you’re not retaliated against if you try to find out what you’re paid. Right now if you and I are working for the same company and we’re having lunch together and I say, “Well, I’m making X an hour or my salary is Y,” and you say, “But we’re doing the same job and I’m making X minus or Y minus,” we could both be fired for that.
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Vanessa K. De Luca