DNC delegates make history, and Bill Clinton draws portrait of Hillary as change maker

REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
Former President Bill Clinton speaking during the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Something historic happened last night. A woman — Hillary Rodham Clinton — was nominated for president by one of the major U.S. political parties. It’s a big-time breakthrough, although by now it had come to seem inevitable. But I’m old enough to know how close to unimaginable it would have been not that long ago, and enough of a feminist to know how big a deal it is. If Clinton wins the election, it will be even bigger.

“The day after she’s elected, everyone will be a feminist,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority, interviewed on the convention floor after the roll call.

“I hope on my tombstone, it will say: ‘Roz Wyman was a mother and she helped get Hillary Clinton elected in 2016,’ ” said Roz Wyman, 85, a California delegate. Wyman didn’t mention this, but Wikipedia reveals that she is a long-time crusader for women’s rights, became, in 1953, the youngest person ever and just the second of her gender elected to the Los Angeles City Council, and attended her first Democratic National Convention in 1952 and every one since then except one.

Klobuchar’s message

Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator, Amy Klobuchar (the first woman senator from our fair state), got a full-fledged speaking slot and used it to say, among other things:

I’m here to make the case for a leader who … is focused on security: Security for our country, our economy, and our democracy. A leader who knows we are all more secure when women have the opportunity to lead with their heads high and their strides strong. That leader is Hillary Clinton. She sees a world where girls are not captured and sold but are fearless and bold; where they lead, not follow. And where when someone tells a young woman, “You fight like a girl,” her answer is, “Yes, I do. And I’m proud to be that girl.”

(Full text of Klobuchar’s remarks here.)

In addition to a celebration of the historic nature of the nomination, Tuesday night was an evening-long infomercial too, with the still sore feelings of some of the Sandersistas drifting further off the main stage.

The main act: Bill

Other than the roll call, which made official an outcome that has been clear for a couple of months, and a lot of pretty cool videos and show-biz, the main act of the evening was the speech by Clinton’s husband, Bill, himself a former president (as if you didn’t know that), which added another layer of historicity (first-ever former president to make a speech on behalf of the presidential candidacy of his own spouse).

Bill Clinton is a gifted speaker. And I believe he was a pretty good president, although much of the good stuff from those years is seriously undermined by his personal failings, which included some staggering shortcomings in the category of faithful husband.

For me, this unacknowledged piece of the back story seriously undermined the effectiveness of Bill Clinton’s otherwise touching performance. It purported to be a love story, in which he met a girl, fell in love with her, had to ask her three times to get her to marry him, and grew to love and respect her more and more through the years. To leave out the humiliations he inflicted on his wife through his many, many infidelities lent a phony ring to what otherwise would have been a marvelous testimony to a woman he knows well and admires. Having gotten that off my chest, I’ll say no more about the missing back story.

The part of the story he told was of a woman who is “the best darn change maker I ever met in my entire life.”

“Change maker” was a word and a theme he returned to again and again. As if by some miracle of choreography, when he started calling his wife a “change maker,” cameras panned the convention floor, where delegates were waving signs with “Change Maker” printed on them.

On the PBS commentariat panel, liberal columnist Mark Shields suggested that the “change maker” stuff was supposed help the Dem ticket with a public that may be reluctant to elect Clinton if they think she represents a continuation of the policies of the Obama administration. I guess this builds on the belief, which I think is overdone, that after two terms of one party, a change-hungry public is likely to prefer the nominee of the non-incumbent party.

Takes on the GOP’s image of Hillary

Bill Clinton told story after story in which his wife brought positive change to problem areas that crossed her path. “How can you square all this with what you heard at the Republican Convention? he asked. “You can’t. Because one [version of Hillary Clinton’s life work] is real, and the other is made up. You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.”

The possibility that his wife’s life story is one of using government to improve lives, in Arkansas and everywhere else she has lived and worked, is awkward for Republicans, Bill Clinton said, because, “If you win elections on the theory that government is always bad and will mess up a two-car parade, a real change maker represents a real threat.”

“So your only option is to create a cartoon, a cartoon alternative,” Clinton said, referring to Republican portrayals of her career. But he said that the Democrats had figured out which version was the real Hillary: “Good for you because earlier today you nominated the real one.”

Equal time: Channel surfing after the convention, I heard CNN’s pro-Trump panelist Jeffrey Lord pick up on Bill Clinton’s “cartoon” theme, and flipped it, thus:

I think I can safely say that on the left side of the spectrum, including some moderate Republicans, Donald Trump has been made into a cartoon, which most assuredly, he is not. … If you run for president of the United States, that will happen.

Comments (20)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/27/2016 - 10:40 am.

    I think…

    the fact that Bernie Sanders made final motion to suspend the roll call vote and nominate Clinton, which actually led to the immediate nomination of Clinton… deserves a mention.

    As for the rest of it, whatever. Let’s just get this over with and hope Clinton can beat Trump.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 07/27/2016 - 10:41 am.

    For the web…

    …it’s a fairly long article, but I highly recommend:

    https://thepolicy.us/thinking-about-hillary-a-plea-for-reason-308fce6d187c#.4ji4w2iow

    The author’s theme is that much of the hostility to Hillary by people on the political right has little to do with much beyond the fact that she’s a – gasp – female with ambition, and the brains and dedication to do something with that ambition.

    Speaking as someone inclined to be suspicious of her Wall Street ties, I found it persuasive.

    Jeffrey Lord is surely correct about Trump being made into a cartoon, as well, but his is a recent one. People who like to call themselves “conservative,” though they’re generally nothing of the sort, have been trying to make a cartoon character of Hillary Clinton for decades. Even a few minutes’ viewing of the RNC illustrated the degree of falsehood with which delegates and speakers alike approach her as both person and candidate. Falsehoods aren’t necessary for Trump, and sadly, he’s not a cartoon. What occurs to me is a line from “Zootopia” (I have grandchildren who loved that movie, and I liked it, too.), used more than once in the film, where a pocket recorder (in the shape of a carrot) provides the prop for something like this:

    “It’s my word against yours,” says one character. At that point, the carrot recorder is pulled out, the statements played back, and the other character replies, “Actually, it’s YOUR word against yours.”

    Mr. Trump has provided ample evidence, and continues to do so, that he’s a lying, racist, sexist, know-nothing, totally and completely unfit to hold elective office at any level, much less the presidency. If he’s a cartoon, as Mr. Lord suggests, it’s largely a self-portrait.

    • Submitted by C.S. Senne on 07/27/2016 - 03:10 pm.

      Thanks!

      Thanks, Ray, for the Arnovitz article, and for your own terrific posting. The Trump “cartoon” becomes more dangerous today as he pleads for Putin to hack into more DNC e-mails to search for Clinton e-mails that he, Trump, can use against her. Seems like something one might call “treason” to encourage another country to get involved in order to influence our election. Trump’s comic book keeps getting read and promoted without any cost to him.

  3. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 07/27/2016 - 12:20 pm.

    Calling Trump a cartoon

    is an insult to cartoons.

  4. Submitted by joe smith on 07/27/2016 - 12:36 pm.

    Bill started the “Change Agent” call

    to arms. When the polls show nearly 70% of Americans feel the country is on the wrong track, Bill, (being the politician he is) understands 4 more years of Obama administration won’t get Hillary elected. With the nomination wrapped up, watch for the Clinton campaign to pivot from Bernie’s vision of the future, Obama’s current agenda, towards a platform that the Clinton’s feel can win in the fall. Bill was on top of that last night.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/27/2016 - 02:51 pm.

    If democrats don’t get this, and get it quickly…

    “reason” isn’t going to decide this election, it rarely decides presidential elections and it’s not going to decide this one. Trump is juggernaut of disruption and that’s selling because the majority of Americans have gotten screwed by the elite status quo, they see massive disruption as their best bet.

    Attacking Trump as a racists, whatever whatever isn’t going to dent his momentum so I wish democrats and their supporters would change their emphasis. What Clinton needs if she’s to win is a strong message of provocative change to counter Trump. Unfortunately that’s not who Clinton is but somebody better get her campaign on track or Trump is just going to roll over her.

    I don’t think very many Americans don’t know who or what Trump is, so pointing that out actually helps him oddly enough. People either like who he is, or don’t care, or have faith that his persona will give way to shrewd instincts once he’s in office. The convention showed us that the more people get to know him the more they like him, so hammering away on who and what he is doesn’t seem to hurt him.

    What you need is an alternative that people will vote for, and mediocre elitism isn’t what Americans are looking for.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 07/27/2016 - 05:28 pm.

      Maybe . . .

      Do a search on “Trump Russian connection” and see what you think (the talkingpointsmemo “Trump & Putin” piece is a good concise summary of things so far). I don’t know if it will make it into “mainstream focus,” but if it does and it goes where it could, Hillary probably won’t need to change a thing. (And, relatedly, Don didn’t do himself any favors today when he called on the KGB to find Hillary’s missing emails.)

      As far as Trump’s general appeal goes, I always like to take a look at what Matt Taibbi thinks about things. He may be from the Hunter Thompson side of the “elite spectrum,” but then again, he may have a point (and speaking of cartoons, the article’s header graphic is well worth a look) . . .

      “Trump’s Appetite for Destruction: How Disastrous Convention Doomed GOP”

      http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/trumps-appetite-for-destruction-how-disastrous-convention-doomed-gop-w430546

      (Warning: Contains very adult language)

  6. Submitted by Bill Willy on 07/27/2016 - 03:31 pm.

    Right track/wrong track

    The thing that’s always missing from those polls is WHY people see things the way they do. If 70% say we’re on the wrong track does that mean they think that’s the president’s fault or might they think it’s, say, the Senate and/or the House’s fault? Or something else . . .

    Who knows? No one doing those polls (I’m aware of) ever seems to ask that related question.

    But, that aside, thought you might find this article (I just came across the other day) interesting:

    “We’ve Been on the Wrong Track Since 1972”

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/07/we-ve-been-on-the-wrong-track-since-1972.html

  7. Submitted by Terry Beyl on 07/27/2016 - 05:02 pm.

    Red-Baiting

    The use of the term “Sandernistas” is reminiscent of McCarthyism and a low form of journalism I did not expect to see on MinnPost. Clearly the use of the term is a reference to Nicaraguan “Sandinistas”, a left-wing, socialist group which overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in 1979. President Reagan and U.S. media referred to the Sandinistas as communists who based their government on the Cuban socialist model. That may or may not be true.

    Whatever the case, every issue highlighted by Bernie Sanders in his campaign; such as, income inequality, a minimum wage of $15/hour, universal health care, reform for large banks and corporations, fall squarely within the political traditions of U.S. liberalism and progressive populism.

    The author should retract the use of this red-baiting term, plus he owes the supporters of Bernie Sanders and readers an apology.

  8. Submitted by John Edwards on 07/27/2016 - 05:15 pm.

    Is she really an historic figure?

    I don’t think Hillary Clinton is the best role model or historic figure for today’s young women to emulate. She gained the nomination by attaching herself to the coattails of the male in her life, then rode them to the nomination, which she only achieved by cheating through the DNC. Ouch.

    Moreover, that male humiliated her for decades with admitted affairs and alleged assaults on numerous women, but she refused to denounce his behavior.

    Eric, and other Democrats, should reassess their standards.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/27/2016 - 07:48 pm.

      She may not be a role model

      But she will still be the first female president. That makes history.
      That will get us past the gender issue and open the door for women who are less dependent upon elected spouses.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/28/2016 - 09:25 am.

      Yes

      Gail Collins mentioned this in her column this morning. She noted that most of the “first women” in elective positions in the US got there after their husbands left office (or were indicted). It in no way diminishes them as historical figures.

      “Moreover, that male humiliated her for decades with admitted affairs and alleged assaults on numerous women, but she refused to denounce his behavior.” Yes, I’m sure the Trump campaign will not hesitate to take the moral high ground here. Read that as ironic or not–it works either way.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 07/28/2016 - 12:15 pm.

      Souses

      I find it interesting that people get worked up of Hillary for “sticking by her man” as he goes around philandering, as if it’s a moral failure on her part that disqualifies her from being president.

      And yet, on the other side of the isle, we have a man who has cheated on three wives and it barely raises an eyebrow. Can you imagine the uproar if Hillary had been married three times, cheated on all the men, and had kids with each of those men? That would be headlines across all the media outlets.

      It just demonstrates the double standards that exist even today, as if this is 1959 America. Men can do things that would automatically deny women the opportunity to run. This is why we need more feminism: just to get women to the same standards men have.

  9. Submitted by charles thompson on 07/27/2016 - 06:27 pm.

    sorry john

    Hillary is the man. Bills’ problems are totally his own. This is a power couple who I can only compare to the Roosevelts, in historical context. If the country can’t fathom the scale of nano technology and the hubble telescope then they can elect Trump and discover they are roadkill for lack of perspective.

  10. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/28/2016 - 10:02 am.

    It’s always funny…

    When “incrementalists” try to brag about the big “change” they’ve ushered in. I’m not sure a nation in a populist mood is going to buy it this time. At a time when police killings of black people and racial disparity are at historic highs and the most openly bigoted republican candidate in decades just got the party nomination; I’m not sure the “agent of change” story is going to fly. At a time when women’s access to reproductive health care and abortions is more restricted than at any time since Roe v. Wade I’m not sure everyone’s convinced that we’ve come a long way baby.

    If anything what we’ve seen is that celebrity accomplishments don’t trickle down anymore than GDP’s. You can run this up the flagpole, and it will play well at the convention, but 70% of the electorate doesn’t belong to the republican party. Meanwhile the democrats are already distancing themselves as fast as they can from the policy initiatives that Sanders promoted, and that may be a fatal mistake.

    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 07/28/2016 - 10:47 am.

      “Police Killings of black people and racial disparity”

      “Police Killings of black people and racial disparity are at historic highs”

      It sounds like you are heavily invested in what was described in Friday’s Eric Black Ink column, “Trump’s dark, dystopian — and false — version of America”.

      Media frenzy regarding anything that can be viewed from a racial perspective is at an historic high.

      The Washington Post reported the findings of a policing study by a Harvard professor for the National Bureau of Economic Research:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2016/07/11/on-r

      “But when it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.
      “It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Roland G. Fryer Jr., the author of the study and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study examined more than a thousand shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida and California.”

  11. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/28/2016 - 10:30 am.

    John’s right

    And democrats better wake up and realize that Hillary could be the first woman in history to lose a presidential race.

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