Published: Thursday, July 28, 2016 @ 11:47 PM
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016 @ 11:47 PM
By: Laura A. Bischoff, Lynn Hulsey - Columbus bureau
Philadelphia — In a speech that painted Donald Trump as a dangerous demagogue who offers only empty promises, Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s nomination for president Thursday and vowed to work toward healing the country’s divisions on race, guns and immigration while confronting the “powerful forces” that threaten to pull the nation apart.
The speech itself was historic as Clinton said she would accept the nomination and become the first woman to represent a major party in a presidential election. But her message also showed how the political battle will be fought over the next several months —and how she plans to attack Trump.
Clinton made clear she will fight toe to toe with the Republican nominee if necessary.
“Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again,” she said in a reference to his signature line. “Well, he could start by making things in America again.”
As for the dire view of the state of America portrayed by Trump at last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Clinton quoted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Clinton said Roosevelt “came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than 80 years ago, during a much more perilous time: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
After accepting the nomination, Clinton said she was “happy this day has come” — not just for her, but for “grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men, too — because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone,” Clinton said.
She also thanked U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who battled her nearly to the end for the nomination but ultimately threw his support behind her.
“You put economic and social justice issues front and center where they belong,” she said. “And to all your supporters here and around the country I want you to know I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”
The speech capped a week that included protests, leaked emails and lousy logistics for just about everyone who attended. But all that seemed to fade into the background for the delegates when Clinton took the stage. Many in the room were brought to tears.
Building up to Clinton’s big night, the Democrats put forward their biggest political stars — Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and more — and celebrated with top entertainment talent such as Lenny Kravitz, Sarah Silverman, Paul Simon and Alicia Keys.
Protests continued outside the arena — and at times inside — but there is a sense that the party accomplished what it set out to do at the beginning of the week, which is to leave Philadelphia with some semblance of unity.
“Just like the Republican convention, the Democrats got more unified as the week went on,” said Kyle Kondik, political analyst at the University of Virginia and author of The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President.
Neither convention went entirely according to script. WikiLeaks released emails just before the Democratic National Convention that showed the supposedly neutral Democratic National Committee favored Clinton over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the primaries. That prompted DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz to resign just as the convention got underway and enraged the Sanders crowd.
Sanders supporters protested in downtown Philly as well as at the convention site. Twice, huge throngs of Sanders supporters demonstrated inside the media tent, capturing journalists attention. And at a rally in downtown Philadelphia, Green Party candidate Jill Stein made an appeal to disenchanted Sanders supporters to back her bid for president.
Sanders himself, though, moved to bridge the divide and delivered a forceful endorsement of Clinton and a repudiation of Trump, the New York billionaire who was a punching bag for many of the speakers here.
During his speech Thursday, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said, “Donald Trump looks out only for Donald Trump, no matter who he steps on along the way. …Trump says he wants to run our country like one of his businesses. I guess that means he wants to slap his name on it, make false promises, and then scam innocent people out of their savings.”
Some of Clinton’s statements about Trump on Thursday were even more forceful, portraying him as someone who acts as if he alone can solve the country’s problems.
“Americans don’t say: “I alone can fix it,’” she said. “We say, ‘We’ll fix it together.’”
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said Democrats are still divided after Philadelphia.
“They’re trying to do a 180 from everything that they’ve talked about, stood for and been for the last many cycles,” said Borges. “To hear Tim Kaine come out last night and the first word he uses to praise Hillary Clinton is consistent. I mean, are you kidding me? These seeds that they’ve sown of divisiveness now are taking root and they’re going to have a real problem and continue to have real problems uniting their party going into the future.”
Added Bob Paduchik, Trump’s campaign director in Ohio: “Voters are tired of the same old Washington corruption and back room deals and will vote for change in November.”
Kondik said both parties had their troubles during their conventions — in Cleveland many prominent Republicans, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, never entered the convention hall.
The challenge for the GOP is keeping its conservative base engaged and unified, he said, while the Democrats need to get the Sanders voters — particularly young ones — to turn out at the polls.
Most public opinion polls have the race razor thin. A poll released Thursday by Rasmussen Reports showed the contest is a tie while a survey from the Los Angeles Times released Wednesday shows Trump leading by seven points, according to Real Clear Politics.
Clinton’s speech was seen as her opportunity to set the tone for the race ahead and capture a bounce in public opinion from the messages — most of them more uplifting than was heard in Cleveland last week — directed at the American voter.
Although Clinton supporters are quick to tout her resume and accomplishments, the lift that took her to a place no woman has gone before was a clear source of pride for many in the convention hall.
“The doors are flying open,” said Connie Pillich, a former state representative and a Clinton delegate from Cincinnati. “When I was a kid it never entered my mind that we would have a woman for president.”
Staff writer Barrie Barber contributed to this report.