Hillary Clinton waited a long time to be the last speaker on the stage at a Democratic National Convention. Last night, she earned that distinction by officially accepting the party’s nomination to run for president of the United States.
She is to be congratulated for that and for being the first woman to be the standard-bearer for a major political party. Getting there was not easy. The obstacles, some of her own making, were many.
But the real question going into the convention was not whether Clinton would receive the nomination, but what she would say upon getting it. Turns out she had a lot on her mind, and delivered it effectively, the workmanlike policy wonk elevating her game but staying within herself.
The strong notes came early and often.
She showed that she gets the frustration felt by millions of Americans, an anger channeled by Sen. Bernie Sanders in their arduous campaign.
Her top mission as president, she said, would be to create more good jobs with rising wages, “especially in places that for too long have been left out and left behind.” That’s the right priority, even if she came to it late, and she was smart to identify the nation’s inner cities, small towns, coal country and industrial Midwest as being among those desperate for such attention. She thanked Sanders and wisely encouraged his supporters to join in. “I’ve heard you,” she said. “Your cause is our cause.”
While acknowledging the challenges facing the country — “a moment of reckoning,” she called it — Clinton said the nation was not cowering in fear, a rebuke of Donald Trump’s pessimism. And she rightly gave voice to the concern of many about Trump’s temperament. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons,” she said.
Americans, she added, are always clear-eyed about what confronts them and always rise to the occasion, an optimism that Trump does not embrace. And she correctly rejected Trump’s egocentric vision of himself as the country’s savior, saying, “None of us can do it alone.”
It is part of the emerging theme of Clinton’s campaign, and she referenced it over and over — work together, rise together, fix it together, stronger together, “make it happen together.” It’s a powerful vision for a country that needs one in this time of increasing divisiveness, a nation where no one acts alone, where anything worth doing is done together. And she rooted it in tales of her middle-class upbringing.
Clinton even used that to address the thorny issues of gun violence, race and immigration, defining chasms of our times, saying she refuses to believe we can’t find common ground: “That starts with listening to each other. Hearing each other. Trying, as best we can, to walk in each other’s shoes.”
Understanding what it’s been like to walk in Clinton’s shoes is not easy. No one else has done this. And last night, she finally connected her story to Americans. “Because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone,” she said. “After all, when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit!”
Hillary Clinton still has to win over many Americans. But for now, this must be said: She earned her place in this contest and her spot on that stage.