Analysis: For Clinton in 2016, Living History on Unexpected Levels…
PHILADELPHIA—Sixteen months ago when she pulled the trigger on one of the worst kept secrets in the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton knew, if successful, she would make history.
But as she strode out onto the stage to roaring cheers in the Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia last Thursday, Clinton faced another dimension of history. She was clearly aware of it, as evidenced by her speech.
“Now America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart. Bonds of trust and respect are fraying,” the former secretary of state of said.
It was the beginning of an extended riff on the country’s need to elect a steady hand to lead the country, building on an entire convention’s worth of speakers who declared Donald Trump unqualified, bigoted, not conservative and, in fact, insane.
Clinton always knew she could make history as the first women to serve as commander-in-chief. Her election, as her nomination itself was, will be a remarkable achievement.
However, she came to the lectern last week in Philadelphia on the precipice of another historical point in American history. It may be that 2016 becomes the moment that the American experiment is truly tested.
“It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together,” Clinton said in an allusion that seemed to flow beyond the nation’s immediate troubles.
It is easy to lose sight of this as Trump sinks—for now—in a patch of quicksand he dove into head first. Trump’s polling has had its bumps before and an extended Clinton lead may prompt the media to jump on the latest tidbit about an undisclosed email that details her lunch one day in Kazakhstan.
Even a modest list of the SS Clinton amid a storm on the electoral sea could prompt a bout of media scolding and Democratic Chicken Littleism. Suddenly the fate of the Republic could seem insecure again.
This is probably at the high end. Most likely more like 5-7, and it might not last. https://t.co/nApHAutzZC
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) August 3, 2016
A little more than 80 years ago wide swaths of Europe rejected liberal democracy amid popular demands for change. Certainly the Depression-era Weimar Republic was worse off than the US is today, but fears and discontent, arguably, have been stoked for far longer in this country.
To the extent that Trump believes in anything, whether fascist or not, his beliefs are antithetical to the virtues of the United States. Discrimination against Mexicans and Muslims—both groups that have been in this country for far longer than the problems Trump promises to fix—paired with empty nationalism sounds eerily like the self-glorification of this country or that in the 1930’s.
The fervor bordering on violence among some supporters—which includes actual hate groups—may not indicate latter-day brownshirts, but it is trouble. His promises to reign in “unfair media” are too, far more a threat than any dictator charge hurled at Barack Obama.
“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 in her acceptance speech, a line that resonated with many Republicans who loved Ronnie dearly.
The lead-up to Clinton’s speech flag-waving and honor of military service during the convention was a rebuke to Trump’s midnight. A convention, guided by values and often faith, embracing Americans regardless of race, creed gender or sexual orientation and seeking a fairer society, countered the despair of Trump’s Republican National Convention.
The DNC had a kind of fear too, but a justified one. However star-spangled, there was room in that arena for skepticism of government collection of data, opposition to militarism and bloated defense budgets and acknowledgement of America’s sins.
Not so before Trump’s pulpit two weeks ago in Cleveland. In Trump’s America there were absolute answers available only from a strongman—him (with or without advisors, it doesn’t matter)—who will deliver, in unspoken ways, glory for the US once again. The only progress the GOP made—on LGBT rights—was delivered by one of the gravest threats to free speech.
For this reason it is important that Republicans like Meg Whitman and retiring congressman Richard Hanna have come out for Clinton. Whitman has called Trump “a dishonest demagogue” that threatens the country. Her pleas will likely do little to move the masses Trump has seduced, but it is symbolically important.
Elected Republican leaders, even amid Trump’s assault on them, remain largely boxed in by a competing interests in decency and self-preservation. They are victims of a monster they set loose nearly eight years ago in their unyielding opposition to Barack Obama.
7. Now, if Ryan withdraws his endorsement it looks petty. He tolerated the attacks on a gold star family but not himself.
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 2, 2016
While this crisis within the GOP and the challenge facing the nation—related to, but different form the one Obama faced—is unlikely to undo the decades of Hillary-hating, it brings a novel irony. Having lost her first bid for the presidency to a man who sought a political realignment and a post-partisan America—and who solidly endorsed her—it now falls to Clinton fulfill that promise out of necessity.
“You heard from Republicans and Independents who are supporting our campaign,” she said in Philadelphia. “Well I will be a President for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. For the struggling, the striving the successful. For all those who vote for me and for those who don’t. For all Americans together!”
Clinton is not naive about how big any bipartisan moment will be or how long it will last. But beyond being the first women president, she steps into a broader historic moment, hopefully leading the better angels of a nation against its worst. If successful, she faces the burden of history once more: correcting long-simmering faults that justifiably fueled this dangerous discontent afoot in the land.