Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – As Hillary Clinton made history as the first woman to accept a major party’s presidential nomination, she told Americans that their country was “at a moment of reckoning” with “powerful forces … threatening to pull us apart”.
Addressing the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night, Clinton called for unity, saying it is up to Americans “to decide whether we’re going to work together so we can all rise together”.
To much applause, she told supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders that they shared the same cause.
In a speech that resonated with the audience, the former secretary of state and first lady rebutted many of the messages delivered by the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this time last week.
“Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes,” Clinton said.
“Most of all, don’t believe anyone who says: ‘I alone can fix it’.” The reference was to a Trump line.
Mentioning the billionaire tycoon more than 20 times, Clinton painted a picture of a failed businessman who does not pay contractors, makes business deals abroad, not locally, and lacks national security credentials.
‘We are clear-eyed’
Having visited more than 100 countries, Clinton presented herself as a more experienced candidate, a bulwark against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), and as a leader who will know how to deal with Russia and Iran, and guide a nation that she knows is frustrated and anxious.
“We are clear-eyed about what our country is up against. But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have,” she told the convention.
Even though Clinton spoke of threats at home and abroad, her broader message was one of hope – a stark contrast to the dark image painted by Trump in his acceptance speech of an America lacking “law and order” and marred by “terror”.
|A leaked cache of emails showed the DNC had favoured Clinton over Sanders [Reuters]|
“When people get to this point in either political party, they have a message of hope, a message that’s positive, constructive, gives people an aspirational notion of what they can come to,” said Steve Clemons, a political and foreign-policy expert.
Trump’s message was “that we no longer live in a world of trust, we live in a world we have to be afraid of.
“We have to be afraid at home, because people are seeing their jobs shift away and terrorists are coming into malls, and we have to be afraid abroad because we have bad players moving against American interests.”
The convention, which nominated Clinton, got off to a rocky start this week: a leaked cache of emails showed the Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had favoured Clinton over Sanders.
Although Schultz resigned her position, Sanders supporters staged a walkout following the roll call that officially nominated Clinton for their president.
Sanders’ supporters then held a sit-in at the media tent in protest, after the socialist senator endorsed Clinton and called on his followers to unite around the party.
|The convention organisers made sure to include disaffected conservative speakers [Reuters]|
The initial division seemed to dissipate following strong calls for unity by First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
All three warned about the consequences of a Trump presidency, which they said would pose a threat to the US at home and abroad.
“What almost always happens when the more centrist candidate gets the nomination, is that voters get the choice between two evils,” said David Meyer, professor of political science at UC Irvine.
“Trump makes that choice very easy for most Democrats. The polls I’ve seen suggest that the Sanders people are already coming around.”
More good jobs
Viewership of the first two nights of the convention was higher than its Republican counterpart last week, leaving aides relieved and hopeful that polls would bounce afterwards, as Clinton and her vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine tour Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In an effort to win over independents and disgruntled Republicans, Clinton’s campaign has made sure to include disaffected conservative speakers, such as former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and Jennifer Pierotti Lim, a co-founder of Republican Women for Hillary.
Clinton has also geared her economic policy to appeal to working-class white men, who usually lean Republican, and in her speech on Thursday night, she acknowledged Americans’ frustration, especially those in the working class, with economic problems exacerbated by the recession.
“My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States,” Clinton said.
“From our inner cities to our small towns, from Indian Country to Coal Country … I believe America thrives when the middle class thrives.”
Clinton touched on many raw subjects: gun violence, policing, immigration and race. She talked about the rights of the LGBT community, and reminded the crowds of how Trump had slammed women, Mexicans, prisoners of war, and people with disabilities.
“Here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump … This is it,” she said.
“So enough with the bigotry and bombast. Donald Trump’s not offering real change; he’s offering empty promises. What are we offering? … The choice is clear.”