Last night’s historic moment almost seemed anti-climactic. I had shed my tears at the historic milestone when Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination. I held my breath for weeks thereafter until Bernie Sanders had endorsed her, making it clear just how high the stakes are in this election. Last night was all about reinforcing that message: whatever Hillary Clinton’s flaws, this country can’t afford to put Donald Trump in charge. As she put it, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Her speech was solid but not soaring. Yet she showed elements of humor and self-awareness that are not typical for Hillary Clinton’s public persona. She acknowledged that, despite her 40 years of public service, there are people who still don’t get her. At every turn, she reinforced that as a nation we are stronger together. Referring obliquely to Trump, she warned “Don’t believe anyone who says ‘I alone can fix it.’” That devalues the contributions of our troops on the front lines, police, teachers, workers, and more. Let’s fix it together was a recurring theme. “We have to work together so we can rise together. Donald Trump wants to divide us from the rest of the world and from each other.”
The tone of optimism, while still acknowledging problems and challenges, differentiated Philadelphia from Cleveland. It was morning not midnight for a great nation. Clinton restated how far we’ve come since 2008, saying President Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves. She acknowledged things are not yet working right and that people are right to be frustrated and furious. Her wholehearted embrace of the President will be tricky as Republicans try to harness that rage and fury and tie Clinton to the unsolved problems responsible for the anger.
She touched most of the issues that figure in the 2016 campaign, from security and Wall Street reform to student debt, from income inequity and Citizens United to reducing gun violence. At the end, we were reminded that Donald Trump is proud he doesn’t like to sweat the details. In Hillary Clinton we have a wonk and a doer, a person who (unlike her opponents) loves getting into the details of programmatic problem solving, a fighter, a person who was taught from a young age to stand up to bullies. While she reeks of status quo, she understands the need for change, is capable of negotiating change, and is a voice for responsible change.
Other than testimonials and the accompanying video, Clinton didn’t deal directly with the trust issue that shockingly has two thirds of those polled finding her even more untrustworthy than Trump. I want her to be more transparent. I want her to shed her bunker mentality. I’m not confident she can do it, or that her handlers want her to do it. But here’s the bottom line: the tone she sets for civic discourse is closer to where this country needs to be than the ignorance, mendacity, narcissism, rashness, hatred, thin skin and acid tongue that this year’s Republican nominee has to offer.
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