Dwight Jones, the Black mayor of Richmond, Virginia and a former chairman of the Virginia Democrat Party, has become the highest ranking Democrat to appeal to volunteers from abroad to help defeat Donald Trump.
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Jones has more experience than most local level politicians dealing with the world’s press and dignitaries after successfully bidding for and staging the World Cycling Championships last year. And he is sure he knows how the world is looking at America now as Trump closes in on the presidency.
“I think the rest of the world is very scared about Donald Trump being elected President,’ Jones, 68, said. “And so they should be. The effect on international relations does not bear thinking about. To have a man with a temperament so at odds with being President and who could declare war, or cause a war is a scary prospect for the world.
“And I understand why there is so much interest in this election across the world, which is unlike any other in my lifetime, after all this man will have access to nuclear weapons and influence other countries with nuclear weapons.”
In 1936, a clarion call was sent out to left-wingers worldwide and the International Brigades were formed in Spain to defeat fascist dictator Franco. Mayor Jones would be happy to see more foreign volunteers turning up to help his party.
“We need all the help we can get to stop Trump winning. America is the world’s big brother and protector so to have Trump become President would be bad for the world. It makes sense people from other countries would want to volunteer.”
The Mayor loved having the world on his doorstep during the World Cycling Championships and seems only too happy to welcome a global effort to help win his swing state for the Democrats. There is a history of politicos from across the world volunteering in American elections, with members of the UK’s Labour Party often volunteering for the Democrats. However, the sea change was in 2008 when hundreds of volunteers from across the world helped the Obama campaign in Miami alone. However, 2016 might be the first election when the volunteers’ primary motivation is to stop a candidate from being elected instead of being inspired by a candidate to help gain office.
As the sun starts to set on Obama’s administration, Mayor Jones credits the President for improving social justice and civil rights. “Obama has to get credit for putting the civil rights and social justice on the agenda. He has helped the debate about police violence in our communities. We have to have a police force that is respected but the bad apples have to be removed for the good of everyone.”
Jones is delighted that Virginia senator Tim Kaine has been declared Hillary Clinton’s VP pick. He spoke at a welcome home rally for Kaine last week.
“The rumors started six months ago, and we realized he really was in the mix.Then a month ago, insiders started to talk that he was going to be her man, and then in the two weeks before she named him it got really intense. He had announced his support for Hilary before she had even announced she was running, so she really knew that he had her best interests at heart.”
Mayor Jones has known Kaine for 30 years and believes in him, not just as a VP candidate but as someone who could assume the nation’s highest office if need be.
“The main reason she picked him is because he really will be ready to step in if anything happened and when you are one heartbeat away from the presidency that is the most important qualification. His knowledge of world affairs, being on the foreign relations committee in the Senate, means he knows what is happening on the world scene as well as his good work in local and national government. He is a very humble man and makes people feel if they are his best friend.”
Jones, who is also a Baptist minister, believes Kaine, the mayor of Richmond between 1998 and 2001, has the right motives to be in public office and has been a good friend to African-Americans.
“He has always cared deeply about social justice, and as Richmond is a city with a lot of poverty. I also know he has faith and that God is important to him.”
Kaine and his wife, the daughter of former governor Linwood Holton, purposely chose a black church when they set up home in Virginia in the 1980’s and have been members of the St Elizabeth Catholic Church in Richmond ever since. Kaine has continually raised African-American issues throughout his career, and was elected Mayor of Richmond by a majority Black electorate.
“When he was governor, I was in the legislature and saw how well he implemented policies,” Jones says. “And as mayor of Richmond, I have to work closely with him as a Senator to get federal aid through. He shares with me a desire to reduce the poverty in this city. To have him as Vice-President will be great for Virginia and Richmond because of the attention we will get, plus it is also always nice to have a friend in position of power to call on. He will be Vice-President of the whole country, but you never forget where home is.”
Jones backed Obama in 2008 but was in no doubt about picking Hillary Clinton this time around.
“I backed her as soon as I could sign the papers. She is so qualified for the job and I am 1000 per cent behind her.” The Mayor will be campaigning for Hilary and aims to ensure his city of Richmond backs her heavily. “The people of Richmond will vote for Hilary, I am sure for that. And now Kaine is on the ticket, it makes everything even more exciting. Richmond has a history of being inclusive, of being multi-racial and Donald Trump’s message of division will not be popular with voters.”
Jones says Kaine is the polar opposite of Trump’s VP pick, Indiana governor Mike Pence.
“Pence is an ultra-conservative Tea Party politician whose politics will just not resonate in places like Virginia. Tim has so much more experience. His time a volunteer in Honduras was important in his development, as was his time as a civil rights lawyer. The two men are just not comparable.
Tim’s brave as well. Virginia was one of the first states to try to reintroduce voting for those who have committed a felony in the past. I really back this, because if someone has served their punishment for a crime they should be allowed back into society and voting is a part of being a citizen. To be punished for the rest of your life is just not American.”
Mayor Jones laughed at the suggestion Gore might have defeated Bush in Florida in 2000 if Clinton had not banned felons from voting, but knows only too well that it is no joking matter and that every vote will count on November 8. Jones is in his final term as mayor and admits the timing would be perfect if a call came from Washington if the Democratic ticket is elected.
“I am not thinking of anything besides being Mayor of Richmond at the moment but I would always answer the call to serve my country in whatever way I can.”
“But we need to win this election first.”
Steve Zacharanda is the author of Obama and Me: The Incredible True Story of a YouTube Sensation. He has won the UK’s Midlands Weekly Journalist of the Year in the last two years, his twitter handle @stevezacharanda and website iswww.stevezacharanda.com