The Democratic National Convention culminated last night with an address by former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who is now the official Democratic candidate for President. In her speech accepting the party’s nomination, Clinton appealed broadly to both the progressive wing of her party as well as to Republicans and independents.
Her speech took aim at her opponent, Republican candidate Donald Trump. She criticized Trump’s views and personality, comparing them unfavorably to policy goals that will likely appeal to the wider audience outside of the Convention hall. In one especially cheered line, Clinton stated “We will not build a wall; instead we will build an economy where anyone who wants a good job can get one.”
Clinton’s speech pursued themes previously established at the Convention: an optimistic outlook for the United States; empowerment for disadvantaged groups; and an emphasis on the importance of improving democracy. Clinton also reached out to Senator Bernie Sanders’ supporters, speaking to Sanders directly: “You put economic and social justice issues front and center … Your cause is our cause.”
Delegates in the arena appeared to be notably more enthusiastic on this final day than they had at the beginning of the week. Nathan Soltz, a Clinton delegate from Oregon, described how he perceived Sanders’ delegates to be engaging in a “grieving process” that eventually will result in a more unified Democratic Party.
Compared with the schedules for the other days of the Convention, the lineup of speakers on Thursday did not include high-profile speakers, other than the remarks by Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea. Yet many of the lesser known speakers proved to deliver highly memorable remarks.
Chad Griffin, President of the Human Rights Campaign, energized the crowd early in the evening by critiquing Trump, asserting that the Republican candidate had “struggled to read the letters LGBT off a teleprompter” during his remarks at the GOP Convention in Cleveland. Later in the evening, LGBT activist Sarah McBride made history as the first openly transgender person to address a national party convention.
Combat-veteran and Illinois state representative, Tammy Duckworth received loud cheers for her attack on Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Russia, stating “I didn’t put my life on the line for our democracy so you could invite Russia to interfere with it.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi gave wide-ranging speeches that addressed Democratic policy priorities and spoke to Secretary Clinton’s character. In a notable segment which echoed the words of South Carolina Party Chair Jaime Harrison, Cuomo stated that the Republican argument of wanting to “take us back to the old days, the good old days” would take us back to a time “before the Civil Rights Act … before minimum wage and worker protection laws … before Roe v. Wade.”
Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm received cheers for her speech on improving the American economy through investments in manufacturing and education.
In an effort to appeal to non-Democratic voters, Doug Elmets, a Republican and member of the Reagan administration, channeled Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s famous debate retort, stating: “I knew Ronald Reagan; I worked for Ronald Reagan; Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan”
Perhaps the biggest surprise hit of the evening was Khizr Khan’s speech about the patriotism of American Muslims. Khan’s son, US Army Captain Humayun S. M. Khan, had been killed in Iraq while saving the lives of fellow soldiers. As an immigrant from the United Arab Emirates, Khan put a face to the target of Donald Trump’s rhetoric broadly disparaging Muslims. While holding up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, Khan asked Trump if he had ever read the document, telling him to “look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law.’”
Retired General John Allen, former Commander of the United States Forces in Afghanistan, gave a speech that in years past might have been more likely to have been delivered at a Republican National Convention, with its strong support for American military power. To repeated chants of “USA, USA” from the audience, General Allen stated strongly that “our armed forces will not become instruments of torture.”
As the evening came toward its conclusion, Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother, mentioning both her inspirational service as well as bedtime stories and movie nights with her mother. After the introduction but before Secretary Clinton’s address, a short video narrated by Morgan Freeman reminded the audience of Secretary Clinton’s accomplishments in promoting educational reform in Arkansas, a national Children’s Health Insurance Program, support for 9/11 responders, and the decision making that led to the capture and death of Osama bin Laden.
Overall, the final night of the convention showed how Democrats will likely try to depict their candidate over the next three months: as a caring mother and grandmother, a steady, detail-focused leader, and a unifying figure in a country increasingly seen as divided.