PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton, accepting the Democratic nomination Thursday night for the chance to become the first female president in history, said the nation was at a “moment of reckoning” and asked voters to “work together” to prevent “powerful forces” from splitting the nation — a reference to her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.
In her address, Clinton sought to tout her years of experience in the public sector, address a trust deficit she has with the public, reach out to progressives who favored Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont over her, and warn about the prospect of the brash developer as president.
Clinton took aim at Trump’s claim that “I alone can fix” the nation’s problems. “Those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us,” she said. “Americans don’t say: ‘I alone can fix it.’ We say: ‘We’ll fix it together.’ ”
In the end, it was an address that outlined her themes and strategy for winning the White House in November. Clinton promised to increase jobs when preventing companies from moving them overseas, make corporations and the “super-rich” pay their “fair share of taxes,” work to make public college free, keep “the country safe,” address gun violence while not repealing the Second Amendment, and tackle climate change.
Clinton acknowledged a nation where “bonds of trust and respect are fraying.” She painted Trump as trying to divide the nation.
“America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart,” Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention. “We have to decide whether we’re going to work together so we can all rise together.”
Clinton then segued to harshly criticized her opponent’s dark tone and portrayal of a diminished United States. She used the sunny slogan of a Republican icon, Ronald Reagan, against Trump.
“He wants to divide us — from the rest of the world, and from each other,” Clinton said. “He’s taken the Republican Party a long way — from ‘Morning in America’ to ‘Midnight in America.’ He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.”
Clinton said Trump “talks a big game about putting America first,” then blasted his use of overseas labor to manufacture “Trump”-stamped products.
She said, “Please explain to me what part of ‘America First’ leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado. Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan. Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio. Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.”
Challenging Trump’s fitness for office, Clinton said the developer “loses his cool at the slightest provocation. Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
After Clinton’s speech, Trump sent out several tweets, including: “No one has worse judgment than Hillary Clinton — corruption and devastation follows her wherever she goes,” and, “Hillary’s wars in the Middle East have unleashed destruction, terrorism and ISIS across the world.”
Political commentators on both sides of the political divide agreed that Clinton tried to hammer home the Democrats’ theme that Trump is temperamentally unfit with the line about his tweets and nuclear weapons.
Former Barack Obama chief campaign strategist David Axelrod said on CNN that the race comes down to that critique. On MSNBC, Steve Schmidt, who advised Sen. John McCain’s bid for president, also evoked the quote as a standout.
Democratic economist Austan Goolsbee said on Fox News: “She was specific on her policies in a way that her opponent’s was not.”
On the same show, conservative host Sean Hannity and Trump campaign strategist Kellyanne Conway countered that Clinton’s speech fell flat because it was padded with platitudes.
The address represented the culmination of a week in which Democrats tried to fulfill a two-pronged mission: convince voters that her wide experience makes her far more qualified, and that Trump is too erratic to trust.
It was not all harmony. On several occasions, Sanders supporters began pro-Bernie or anti-Hillary shouts with the much, much larger Clinton faction drowning them out by chanting “Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!”
In a stirring moment on Thursday night, a Pakistani immigrant whose 27-year-old military son was killed in Iraq slammed Trump for “smearing” Muslims and asked whether he ever visited Arlington National Cemetery.
“You will find all faiths, genders and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing,” said Khizr Khan, with his wife standing beside him at the podium.
On the Democrats’ final convention night, speaker after speaker referred to Trump calling for an immigration ban on all Muslims, characterizing Mexican immigrants as murderers and rapists, filing for bankruptcy multiple times, and instances of him insulting women.
More than a dozen military leaders took the stage to question the Republican’s judgment.
“I tell you without hesitation that Hillary Clinton will be exactly the kind of leader America needs,” said retired Marine Gen. John Allen, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “I know this, because I served with her.”
All of it was meant to persuade voters who might be skeptical of Clinton to fear a Trump presidency.
Clinton sought to portray herself as the candidate who could be trusted on national security, in part because of her experience and steadiness — and Trump’s lack of both.
“The choice we face is just as stark when it comes to our national security,” Clinton said. “Anyone reading the news can see the threats and turbulence we face. From Baghdad and Kabul, to Nice and Paris and Brussels, to San Bernardino and Orlando, we’re dealing with determined enemies that must be defeated. No wonder people are anxious and looking for reassurance — looking for steady leadership.”
Khan, a legal consultant who lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, told the story of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, who was killed by a bomb in 2004 while protecting other soldiers in his command. The father talked of his son’s commitment to their chosen nation and his death in service, an arc that would have never happened if Trump had his way on immigration.
Then he shook the thousands in attendance when he addressed the Republican directly.
“Let me ask you. Have you even read the U.S. Constitution?” Khan said. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he said: “I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’ ”
Khan had been introduced by NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who follows Islam and used levity to take a shot at the Republican.
“I’m Michael Jordan,” Abdul-Jabbar said to laughter when he took the podium. “I said that because I know Donald Trump wouldn’t know the difference.”
Doug Elmet, a former speechwriter for Reagan, said he was voting for a Democrat for the first time because Trump was a “petulant, dangerously unbalanced reality TV star.”
“I am here tonight to say I knew Ronald Reagan, I worked for Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan,” Elmet said, echoing a line that Lloyd Bentsen, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1988, used against his Republican counterpart, Dan Quayle, when Quayle likened himself to President John F. Kennedy.
Clinton was introduced by her daughter, Chelsea, who tried to soften the candidate’s image with childhood stories about homework and dance recitals, and tales of Clinton’s interactions with her grandchildren. Chelsea Clinton called her “my mother, my hero and our next president.”
With Emily Ngo