It wasn’t exciting, because everyone knew what was going to happen, and it did. It also wasn’t fascinating, because all the conflicts had been resolved before the evening began – but Bernie Sanders is now an afterthought and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee:
Hillary Clinton on Tuesday became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party on a historic night during which her campaign also sought to reintroduce her to skeptical voters and calm continuing tensions here.
Part of that task fell to former president Bill Clinton, who delivered a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that began by recounting his courtship of his wife and detailed her lengthy career in public service, including helping children, immigrants and people with disabilities.
“She’s the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life,” the former president said. “This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She always wants to move the ball forward. That’s just who she is.”
Bill Clinton also argued that Republicans had tried to turn his wife into a “cartoon” during their national convention last week in Cleveland.
“What’s the difference in what I told you and what they said?” he asked. “One is real and the other is made up. … You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.”
The party had moved on from Bernie, although it wasn’t pretty:
Clinton formally secured the nomination earlier in the night during the roll call of states, which ended with a symbolic gesture: Her primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, asking that Clinton be declared the nominee by acclamation, a move that prompted resounding cheers.
Soon after, Clinton sent out a video on Twitter showing Sanders’s remarks and declaring “Stronger together,” her campaign motto.
Sanders’s action, however, wasn’t sufficient to bring on board all of his delegates, some of whom walked out of the hall in protest, adding to the party’s difficulties this week in displaying unity as Clinton fights a pitched battle against Republican nominee Donald Trump.
That was a bit ugly, but insignificant:
During the roll call of states, Clinton, the former secretary of state, secured the 2,383 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination when the South Dakota delegation cast its votes.
Sanders, the runner-up for the nomination, appeared on the convention floor at the end of the process and made a motion to suspend the rules.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders said.
With the motion seconded, a loud roar of ayes arose, making her the nominee at 6:56 p.m. Eastern time.
A select few didn’t participate in that load roar:
Sanders’s move to nominate Clinton, confirmed by reporters this afternoon, nonetheless took many Sanders delegates by shock. Some members of the Sanders-heavy Oregon delegation, who had been holding home-made cloth signs with slogans like “We Are the 99.9%” and “No Justice No Peace,” dropped the signs, their mouths gaping.
Following the roll call, some exited the hall, chanting, “Walkout! Walkout! Walkout!” As the program continued, most of the seats in delegations from Maine, Kansas, Alaska and Oklahoma – all states Sanders won against Clinton – were empty.
“This is what idiocy looks like,” said Cheryl Everman, a Clinton delegate from Maryland. “Democracy is whoever gets the most votes, wins. It’s so silly.”
Some of the protesters doubted that Clinton won.
Some of the protesters are bad at math, but at least they missed the entirely predictable show that followed:
After the nomination was complete, speakers offered testimonials about Clinton’s public service across a range of areas, and her campaign aired an accompanying series of videos with archival footage showing her efforts.
The program, billed as “Fights of Her Life,” appeared aimed at rehabilitating the image of a candidate with unusually high unfavorable ratings – though not quite as high as her Republican opponent – and deep-seated trust issues.
Speakers talked about Clinton’s work for women and families, social justice, health care and global security, among other issues, her campaign said.
They included former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D), who recounted Clinton’s efforts to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program while first lady.
“She never forgot who she was fighting for,” Dean said.
The presentations also paid tribute to Clinton’s tenure of secretary of state, highlighting efforts to fight human trafficking, as well as various diplomatic endeavors.
“She sees a world where girls are not captured and sold, but are fearless and bold,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Yes, everyone has heard that, and all of it may be true, but it was still a bit dreary, even if it had to be done:
Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said that Tuesday night’s programming is designed to remind Americans about the former secretary of state’s long public service career.
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with her accomplishments,” Mook told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” noting that former president Bill Clinton will give the night’s big speech.
That should have made the difference – Bill Clinton is seldom dreary and often goofy and sometimes amazing – and that may have made the difference. At the Atlantic, Ron Fournier says Bill Clinton got it right:
Just before Bill Clinton strode onstage to be his wife’s character witness, his wife’s convention planners played a video tribute to him. “When he said stuff, you believed it,” a man dressed in union gear said of Bill Clinton, “because you lived it.”
This was no accident: An overwhelming number of voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton. That credibility and character gap is the one thing that might stop Americans from electing a second President Clinton. And so the master of persuasion bragged on and on about his wife: career highlights, familiar anecdotes, and enough warm and cheesy sentiments to launch a thousand wedding toasts.
Well, it was warm and cheesy:
“If you were sitting where I am sitting and you heard what I heard at every dinner conversation and … on every long walk, you would say this woman has never been satisfied with the status quo about anything,” Bill Clinton said. Having been the candidate of change in 1992, Bill Clinton knows his wife faces headwinds against Donald Trump’s promise of radical, unruly change. “She always wants to move the ball forward,” Bill Clinton said. “That’s just who she is.”
He started at the top, with the oft-told story about how he first met Hillary Rodham in law school, following her around campus until she finally said, “If you’re going to keep staring at me … at least we ought to know each other’s name. I’m Hillary Rodham.”
Clinton paused to let the delegates laugh, then said, “Whether you believe it or not, momentarily, I was speechless.” More laughter, then: “We’ve been walking and talking and laughing together ever since.”
Laughing and talking, he said, through her decision in college to change her registration from Republican to Democrat; her legal services project in college on behalf of poor children; her summer internship in a workers’ camp; her work at a hospital with victims of child abuse; and her extra year in law school to work at a children’s studies center.
“She was already determined how to make things better,” Bill Clinton said. “Hillary opened my eyes to a whole new world of public service.”
He continued: She helped desegregate schools in the South and find justice for black children unjustly imprisoned.
Meanwhile, he said. “I was trying to convince her marry me.” He finally did (“I married my best friend”) and they moved to Arkansas, where Hillary Clinton opened the first legal aid clinic and fought to improve public schools.
But then he stopped rambling:
He methodically and glowingly walked through her political resume. First lady of Arkansas. First lady of the United States. US Senator. Secretary of State.
And victim – Clinton drew loud applause when he explained why Republicans have worked so hard to smear her reputation—and, yes, damage her credibility.
“A real change maker is a real threat,” he said. “So your only option is to create a cartoon.”
That was the whole point of this, that she wasn’t a cartoon:
A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted this month found that 67 percent of respondents considered Clinton “not honest or trustworthy,” a number largely due to her decision to stash her government email on a private server and lie about it. Trump’s credibility ratings are hardly better—and, as far as such a thing can be measured, he exaggerates, misleads, and lies far more than any candidate in the modern era, including Clinton.
And yet the race is essentially tied.
Bill Clinton asked Americans to trust him: Trust her, he said, and she will trump Trump’s capacity to change. “She is the best darn change maker I have ever known.”
In short, look at the real person, not at the Republican carton version of her. That may not be possible after all these years, but it was worth a try, which David Maraniss says made for an odd speech:
There has never been a speech quite like the one Clinton delivered here in Philadelphia. A husband speaking on behalf of his wife – that has been done before. A former president speaking in support of a prospective president also is nothing new. But the combination of the two is unprecedented. A former president who wants to be first man extolling the virtues of a former first lady who wants to be president. Only the Clintons.
“Only the Clintons” applies in so many ways. Only the Clintons have been hanging around together at the top of American politics for a full quarter century. Only the Clintons can excite and then exasperate their fellow Democrats with such dizzying predictability. Only the Clintons (or maybe now Obama) can send the Republicans into paroxysms of rage and the deepest, darkest pools of conspiracy theorizing. Only the Clintons can keep going and going no matter what obstacles others or they themselves throw in their way along their long and winding path.
Her work for the Children’s Defense Fund, their time in Texas for the 1972 McGovern campaign, the first time he met the Rodham family in suburban Chicago, Bears fans all, his efforts to get her to marry him, once, then twice – he went through the story of their lives together as though he was talking to friends in a bar, easy and relaxed, a Cliff’s notes sanitized version of a more complicated story, but a love story nonetheless. Thick and thin, joy and sorrow, yes, but no mention of the events that led to his impeachment or any of the other personal misdeeds that tore at their private relationship and endangered their political lives together.
Perhaps he should have mentioned that, but it didn’t matter:
It was an unusual speech from beginning to end, as the husband tried to make the case for his wife through a quiet, rambling, at times touching, at times prosaic love letter the likes of which no modern convention has ever quite seen or heard.
Well, it will never happen again, and Andrew Sullivan passes along this tweet – “Compared to this Bill Clinton speech, I’m not sure any of the Trump family had ever actually met Donald Trump before last week.”
Sullivan was impressed:
I really like the choice between the “real” and the “fake”, the doer rather than the shower, the listener rather than the tweeter, the experienced pol rather than the untested strongman. It’s time to expose Trump as fake, as all bluster, and Bill Clinton did it. It dragged a little in the middle there, and I desperately want someone to take on Trump politically with the skills Bill has. But as a reintroduction to this figure we know so well it was superb. …
He tried to humanize her – and tried to shift the “change” mantle from Trump to Clinton. Again, he understands that this dynamic is essential in an election year when most think we’re on the wrong track.
Sullivan also cites Erick Erickson on that other matter – “GOP shouldn’t be questioning the motives of keeping a marriage together. They kept a vow that Trump broke twice.” Ouch! And Sullivan adds this:
He’s using her boringness into an asset. It’s achievement versus flash; granular work versus grandstanding. A nice counterpoint to Trump.
As George W. Bush once put on that banner, Mission Accomplished, but Bill wasn’t alone:
Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under Bill Clinton, also delivered a scathing attack on Trump’s foreign-policy approach.
“Many have argued that Donald Trump would harm our national security if he were elected president,” Albright said. “The fact is: He has already done damage, just by running for president. He has undermined our fight against ISIS by alienating our Muslim partners. He has weakened our standing in the world by threatening to walk away from our friends and our allies – and by encouraging more countries to get nuclear weapons.”
She’s a bit sensitive about these things:
Born in the former Czechoslovakia, Albright said she recognizes the dangers of Trump’s views on foreign policy and his dalliances with Russian leader Vladimir Putin all too well. From what she’s seen of Clinton – and Albright’s seen a lot of her, both as a first lady and a secretary of state – she understands this too, she said.
“Take it from someone who fled the Iron Curtain,” she said. “I know what happens when you give the Russians a green light. Trump’s dark vision of America, one that’s isolated in the world and alienated from our allies, would be a disaster.”
Sullivan adds this:
Finally, some kind of statement with regard to Putin’s open support of Trump (and vice-versa) – but it’s still very weak. They are fighting a candidate who has trash-talked the U.S., who wants to start a trade war, who wants to disband NATO, who wants to allow Russia to pick off Eastern Europe and the Baltics.
And they’re letting him get away with all this, with only occasional demurrals so far. They have not so far spelled out the grave danger Trump poses to our national security and world peace. I hope at some point someone has the sense to go for the jugular.
This is serious:
It is not so much that Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win, so they can divvy up Europe between them. It is that Trump intends to do to American democracy what Putin did to Russia’s fledgling democracy – turn it into an illiberal Potemkin democracy in which the strongman always gets the final say. Trump is not even trying to disguise this agenda. He has told us quite plainly that he will use the powers of his office to persecute his opponents and put them in jail; that he will purge the government of any neutral civil servants; that he will pursue anti-trust action against media challengers; that he will demonize and quarantine a free press; and that he will order criminal acts in the military.
Against this threat, his ludicrous “policy” proposals are almost irrelevant. It’s our democracy he threatens. And our way of life.
There is that, and then there’s this:
In one of the more jaw-dropping moments of the night, Representative Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat, just flat-out accused Trump of war-profiteering:
“Where was Donald Trump in the days, and months, and years after 9/11? He didn’t stand at the pile. He didn’t lobby Congress for help. He didn’t fight for the first responders. Nope. He cashed in, collecting $150,000 in federal funds intended to help small businesses recover, even though, days after the attack, Trump said his properties were not affected. Hillary sought those funds to help local mom-and-pop shops get back on their feet. Donald Trump saw it as a payday for his empire. It was one of our nation’s darkest days, but for Trump, it was just another chance to make a quick buck.”
Some people love that about him, but Trump is not Clinton:
She took office as New York’s junior senator just eight months before the Twin Towers fell, and the terrorist attack profoundly shaped her views regarding America’s intelligence apparatus and military strategy.
First up was Joe Sweeney, a former NYPD detective who spent many days at Ground Zero after the attack. He was one of the thousands of workers who were exposed to the poisonous dust swirling around the remains of the World Trade Center towers. “At the time, the EPA assured us that the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe,” he said. “That information was dead wrong. Thousands of my friends and brothers and sisters in blue were exposed to terrible toxins that have caused lifelong health problems.” But Clinton was there, Sweeney said, demanding medical care for first responders and sticking with the cause for more than a decade.
Russell Berman adds this:
Those who watched closely the introductory video that aired before Joe Sweeney’s speech on Hillary Clinton’s work after 9/11 will note the voice of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who rose to national stardom in the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks. But unlike most retrospectives of that terrible day, these clips did not feature Giuliani in a glowing light. Instead, they showed him assuring the public, and by extension first responders, that the air in and around Ground Zero was safe. We now know it was not. The choice to feature Giuliani in a critical light was an interesting one. He and Clinton have long been rivals and nearly faced off in the 2000 Senate race. And just a week ago, the former mayor excoriated Clinton in a passionate prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention. With this small dig at Giuliani’s vaunted post-9/11 legacy, Clinton exacts some measure of payback.
That works, and Priscilla Alvarez notes that this worked too:
When the lights beamed on Mothers of the Movement, the crowd chanted, “Say-Their-Names, Say-Their-Names.”
“Give me a moment to say thank you,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, while holding back tears. She also thanked God: “We are not standing here because He’s not good; we’re standing here because He’s great.”
Tony Goldwyn, who plays Fitzgerald Grant in ABC’s Scandal and is the co-chair of the Innocence Project’s Artists Committee, introduced the Mothers of the Movement, a group that includes the mothers of slain black men and women, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Jordan Davis. “They understand that we must reach out to each other because of our diversity, because we are stronger together,” Goldwyn said. “Hillary says we can’t hide from these hard truths about race and justice in America. We have to name them and own them and then change them.” A video featuring the mothers was aired in the convention hall, before they took the stage.
One by one the women told their stories in a raw and emotional moment.
“She knows that when a young, black life is cut short, it’s not just a loss. It’s a personal loss, a national loss – it’s a loss that diminishes all of us,” Reed-Veal said to a standing ovation. In an emotional plea, she urged voters to head to the polls. So did Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin.
“We are going to keep telling our children’s stories, and we are urging you to say their names,” McBath said. “We are going to keep building a future where police officers and communities of color work together in mutual respect to keep children like Jordan safe.”
Conor Friedersdorf sees the damage here:
“His life ended on the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as a parent didn’t,” said Jordan Davis’s mother. It was one quote in a series of moving and terribly sad speeches from black mothers whose sons were killed violently.
The modesty of “the ask” from these black mothers – “say their names” – should be a wake-up call to the Republican Party, which hasn’t managed even that much. Surely the GOP can do better on this issue.
This is an inspired way to convey the necessity of racial justice in policing, while in no way attacking the police. Again, motherhood is being used as political weapon. But this time, no one is accusing a politician of being a murderer; no one is blaming anyone specifically for these lives cut short; no one is fomenting hatred or bitterness. The rhetoric is from the great African-American Christian tradition – and it’s more authentically Christian than anything we heard in Cleveland.
Of course Republicans insist that the Black Lives Matter movement is a hate group, and that they’re the real Christians – so these women are whiners inciting violence. That’s a little harder to maintain now, even if they will maintain that. They may not have the moral high ground much longer.
That’s heavy stuff, but Nora Kelly notes a light moment:
Actress Elizabeth Banks mimicked Donald Trump as she walked onto the stage, backlit with white light and strutting to Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” as the Republican nominee did last Monday at the Cleveland convention.
She tried to liven up the crowd: “Some of you know me from The Hunger Games, in which I play Effie Trinket, a cruel, out-of-touch reality-TV star who wears insane wigs while delivering long-winded speeches to a violent dystopia,” said Banks, a University of Pennsylvania grad. “So when I tuned into Cleveland last week, I was like, ‘Uh, hey, that’s my act.'”
Queen criticized the Trump campaign for playing their 1977 hit without permission. My guess is the Clinton campaign asked for their blessing before tonight.
That was pretty cool, but the evening was about reliable boring Hillary, which Ezra Klein says is just fine:
Another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.
This work is a grind – it’s not big speeches, it doesn’t come with wide applause, and it requires an emotional toughness most human beings can’t summon.
But Clinton is arguably better at that than anyone in American politics today.
And she’s not a cartoon. Trump is. Maybe that was the point of the whole evening. And in November we’ll find out if America loves cartoons.