PHILADELPHIA — Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s nomination Thursday night in a sweeping speech in which she promised to be a president for all Americans and presented a liberal agenda influenced by the ideas of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
Clinton also painted her Republican rival, Donald Trump, as a hotheaded, divisive figure who cannot be trusted as commander in chief.
“He wants us to fear the future and fear each other,” Clinton said of Trump. “Well, a great Democratic president, Franklin Delano 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.’”
The address was the culmination of a convention built to boost Clinton’s low trust and favorability ratings among the American public after a long and bruising Democratic primary. She conceded in the speech that she finds being in the public eye difficult and knows that many people don’t know what to think of her.
“The truth is, through all these years of public service, the ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part,” she said. “I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.” (A delegate shouted, “We love you!”) She then laid out her personal and professional biography, stressing her work helping children and survivors of the 9/11 attacks as a senator. She also drew on her Methodist faith to “do all the good you can.”
Clinton thanked her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders for putting economic and social justice issues front and center during the primary, and she gave her own liberal agenda for governing. She said she would work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, amend the Constitution to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, raise the minimum wage and make college tuition free for the middle class. “I believe Wall Street can never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again,” she said to cheers.
The speech at times felt like a laundry list of specific policy proposals Clinton would back as president — a far cry from Trump’s lengthy, broad-strokes address at the RNC. “I sweat the details of policy,” Clinton admitted, adding that it’s a “big deal” for her to have specific plans to enact change.
Clinton said she understood why Americans are anxious about national security and the economy, even as she rejected Trump’s vision of a dark country fallen from grace. “Some of you are frustrated, even furious,” she said. “And you know what? You’re right. It’s not yet working the way it should.” She added that a recent spate of terror attacks abroad and at home have left people “anxious” and eager for steady leadership. In contrast, she said Trump “loses his cool at the slightest provocation.”
She said she initially did not take all of Trump’s comments seriously, from his apparent mocking of a reporter with a disability to his disparaging comments about Sen. John McCain’s time as a prisoner of war. “It was just too hard to fathom — that someone who wants to lead our nation could say those things, could be like that,” she said. “But here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.”
During her speech, there were a few signs of lingering anger from Sanders backers in the arena. A delegate raised a red sign with “Keep your promises” scrawled on it. A handful of delegates in the Nevada section held “Jill Stein” signs up when Clinton took the stage, referencing the Green Party candidate. And some in the California delegation heckled her at several points during her speech, though other delegates quickly chanted “Hillary” to drown them out.
Clinton briefly acknowledged the historic significance of the night, calling it a “milestone” that she became the first woman to accept the presidential nomination of a major party. “Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come,” she said. “Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in-between.”
And then there was the customary drop of the balloons.