No presidential saxophones were played, but President Clinton and the band Soul Asylum helped raise about $500,000 for Democrats at the youth-oriented fundraiser. Clinton appeared to a sold-out crowd at the Fine Line Music Cafe in downtown Minneapolis following his commencement address at Carleton College. (Listen) He urged the audience to take the coming presidential election just as seriously as the previous two. Observers called the event a success at welcoming new people into politics, as well as helping fill the party's campaign coffers.
After his speech in Northfield, President Clinton talked about higher education, tax cuts, and his wife's Senate big with local residents. Read more. Photo: Laura McCallum
AMONG THE FESTIVE and fashionably-dressed crowd awaiting entrance to the Fine Line Saturday, there was a sense of seeing-and-being-seen to add to the expectant hype. The front of the line was set apart for big-ticket Democratic donors, while the $100-dollar-a-head group gathered behind them.
Aklilu Dunlap, a preppily-dressed lawyer in his mid-30s, says he came because he appreciates Clinton's regard for African-Americans. "It isn't a button he wears on his chest, it's a community he considers a valuable component of the world he lives in," Dunlap said.
Others in line said they like the president, but some said they disapproved of his behavior during the impeachment investigation. Across the street, Clinton faced another slate of critics; protesters held signs decrying military aid to Columbia, Iraqi sanctions, and welfare policy. But before the president's arrival, about 20 Minneapolis police began moving the protesters farther away to cordon off the area, which the crowd resisted.
A scuffle ensued when a young man with a megaphone was seized and handcuffed by police. Then he and his loudspeaker were thrown into a police van and driven off.
Police would not say why the man was arrested. As Clinton began his address inside the small nightclub, the tone was happier, if hotter. Fire marshalls finally closed the doors to some attendees. The president told the audience the current prosperity and reductions in crime have only upped the ante for this fall's elections.
"I'm not running, but I know a little something about this election," he said. "It's just as important as the other two were. If somebody asks you why you're here and why you're doing this you tell them, 'It's a big election, big test of a country how you deal with all these good times.'"
And he touted Vice President Al Gore as the candidate to keep those good times rolling. "Now you've got running for president in the Democratic Party, the most experienced effective vice president in history, who cast the tie-breaking vote on the economic plan in '93 that got us to where we are today, who cast a tie-breaking vote the other day to close the gun-show loophole that required child trigger locks."
Shortly after the president's speech Soul Asylum took to the stage. The overjoyed DFL State Chair Mike Erlandson pronounced the event a success. "I had the opportunity to visit with the president after the event was over and he turned to me and said, 'Mike, this is the best young-people event I've been to anywhere in the country and I'll come back and help you do it again.' You couldn't get a higher compliment than that!"
Erlandson says more youth-oriented events will be held as the campaign season progresses. Soul Asylum charged a third of their usual fee to perform. The rest of the proceeds go to the Democratic National Committee and the state DFL.