Saturday 24 February 2018

Clinton urges unity as US faces day of reckoning

Former US President Bill Clinton applauds his wife. Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images
Former US President Bill Clinton applauds his wife. Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at the end of the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Lisa Lerer

After the most divisive and cut-throat campaigns in recent memory, Hillary Clinton ended a four-day convention celebration with a plea for national unity and tolerance.

Having emerged as one of the most distrusted figures in American politics, she must convince voters that she, rather than Republican rival Donald Trump, can bring a riven nation together.

"America is once again at a moment of reckoning. Powerful forces are threatening to pull us apart," Ms Clinton said to a rapt Democratic convention audience.

"And just as with our founders, there are no guarantees. It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together."

After a convention speech aimed squarely at undercutting Mr Trump, the first female presidential nominee embarks on a bus tour through two Rust Belt battlegrounds, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The billionaire believes he can make headway in those states with blue-collar white men, a demographic that has eluded Ms Clinton and was unlikely to be swayed by a convention that heavily celebrated racial and gender diversity.

Mr Trump's tweeted response to Ms Clinton's speech captured his pitch to those voters. He slammed the former secretary of state as an ineffectual defender against terrorism and blasted her judgment.

"Hillary's vision is a borderless world where working people have no power, no jobs, no safety," he wrote.

Starting with a rally yesterday at Temple University, Ms Clinton, accompanied by running mate Senator Tim Kaine and their spouses, will focus on economic opportunity, diversity and national security, themes hammered home this week by an array of politicians, celebrities, gun-violence victims, law enforcement officers, and activists of all sexualities and races.

Their goal is to turn out the coalition of minority, female and young voters that twice elected US President Barack Obama while offsetting expected losses among the white male voters drawn to Mr Trump's message.

Democrats contrasted their optimistic, policy-laden message with the darker vision and less specific platform that marked Mr Trump's turn during the Republican convention a week earlier.

Mr Kaine said, "there's still an awful lot of repair work" to be done on the economy, particularly with regard to job creation, but he insisted, "We don't have a single issue in this country that we can't tackle." He said job creation would be the top priority if Ms Clinton wins the White House.

Selling that message will depend on whether Ms Clinton can reach voters walled off by longstanding distrust. Despite her decades on the public stage, many know Ms Clinton as much from Republican attacks as her resume, a fact Ms Clinton confronted head-on: "I get it that some people just don't know what to make of me, so let me tell you."

The stakes are high: A loss to Mr Trump would not only end Ms Clinton's political career, it could be a devastating coda to her and her husband's political legacy and leave the Democratic Party weaker than it has been in a generation.

In her speech, Ms Clinton offered an open-hand to backers of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, saying, "I've heard you. Your cause is our cause."

Yet resentments lingered throughout the convention, with a handful of attendees heckling during her address.

Throughout the convention, Democrats tried to convey the stakes of the election not only to Sanders backers but to Republicans concerned about Mr Trump's bombastic tone and foreign policy positions.

Speaker after speaker cast Mr Trump as intolerant, inexperienced and dangerous, including the Pakistan-born immigrant father of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq, who held up a copy of the Constitution and insisted that Mr Trump "has sacrificed nothing."

Irish Independent

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