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Last night eliminated any shred of doubt remaining after the First Lady’s speech on Monday that the Democrats will be playing the woman card this fall. The main speaker was a man who talked about his wife from when she was a “girl” to the current moment, when she is the “change agent” par excellence and, oh by the way, the first woman nominated by a major party for president. With a couple of exceptions, the standout speakers and performers were women, augmented by men whose lives had been improved through the actions of women.
Back for a moment to the mother of all mother speeches (and with belated credit to speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz!): It is worth noting that Donald Trump did not troll Michelle Obama on Twitter. She’s the exception; apparently, attacking his wife's muse will not fly from the Tower. Meanwhile, in the 24 hours after Obama’s speech, her Twitter followers climbed at five times its normal rate, leaving her just short of 4.9 million. Clinton has 7.8 million; Trump 10.3 million; visit our PEORIA Project page for analysis of follower growth rates as a metric of campaign success.
As the Republicans featured mothers of Benghazi and victims of criminal acts by persons in the US illegally, so Democrats featured “Mothers of the Movement,” women who have lost sons in confrontations with police. Three spoke and five stood by, the ensemble attesting to the attentive, empathetic, and potentially protective powers of the Democratic nominee.
A 9/11 segment struck the same chord, with a first responder, burn victim, and Congressman Joe Crowley, who savaged Trump for taking federal funds that Hillary Clinton helped win for small businesses while a New York Senator.
As more and more speakers talked about cultural and domestic issues, and their impacts on women and children in particular, the burden mounted on Madeline Albright to attest to Hillary Clinton’s capacity to be commander-in-chief and diplomatic head of state. Albright pointed out that being president was a complex round-the-clock job, not like hosting a reality TV show. She said Trump had already harmed US national security. Her remarks were well written but delivered in a monotone.
Bill Clinton got his own bio film, featuring Americans whose lives improved from having corresponded with him. His romantic, molasses-soaked account of his 45 years with Hillary elided his adulterous activities and their impact on the nation. He did say “She never quit on me.”
The former president remains without peer in his capacity to talk mellifluously --seductively-- about nuanced policy matters in cornball prose. “It’s a pretty good thing to follow her advice,” for instance, became a segue from her reviving his spirits and career after losing the Arkansas governorship to her work as chair of an education commission in Arkansas upon his return to the post.
Clinton ambled through anecdotes for a long time and then picked up the pace and raised his voice for the peroration, an itemizing of her special powers.
Hillary Clinton, able to make government work:
CLINTON: “In 1997, she also teamed with the House Minority Leader Tom DeLay, who maybe disliked me more than any of Newt Gingrich’s crowd. They worked on a bill together to increase adoptions of children under foster care. She wanted to do it because she knew that Tom DeLay, for all of our differences, was an adoptive parent and she honored him for doing that.
“Now, the bill they worked on, which passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority, led to a big increase in the adoption of children out of foster care, including non-infant kids and special-needs kids. It made life better because she’s a change-maker, that’s what she does.”
Hillary Clinton, well-versed in military affairs:
CLINTON: “She also served on a special Pentagon commission to propose changes necessary to meet our new security challenges. Newt Gingrich was on that commission, he told me what a good job she had done.”
Job creator for small town and rural New York State:
CLINTON: “She became the de facto economic development officer for the area of New York outside the ambit of New York City.
“She worked for farmers, for winemakers, for small businesses and manufacturers, for upstate cities in rural areas who needed more ideas and more new investment to create good jobs, something we have to do again in small-town and rural America, in neighborhoods that have been left behind in our cities and Indian country and, yes, in coal country.”
And on through her tenure as Secretary of State.
For the close, Bill Clinton went into a sprint:
CLINTON: “Now, how does this square? How did this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention? What’s the difference in what I told you and what they said? How do you square it? You can’t. One is real, the other is made up.
“You just have to decide. You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.”
There followed a flurry of names, real people who would do anything and will do anything for Hillary because of what she has done for them in the real world. The kicker, a guaranteed applause line because it flattered those in the hall: “Good for you, because earlier today you nominated the real one.”
It would be beneficial for the Democratic nominee indeed were swing and reluctant voters to see her, the continuity candidate, as a superb change agent. “You could drop her into any trouble spot, pick one, come back in a month and somehow, some way she will have made it better. That is just who she is.”
To my mild surprise, Bill Clinton did not introduce the nominee. Meryl Streep, one of perhaps five people on earth undaunted by following him on a political stage, placed Hillary Clinton in the context of great American women. Up went the “History” placards. On flashed a history video.
Alicia Keys sang “Superwoman” and “In Common,” pausing in her Super Bowl halftime like segment to praise both Sanders and Clinton supporters. The big screen flashed through a photo cavalcade of all the previous US presidents, a special-effects glass ceiling shattered, and there She/Her was, surrounded by women of all ages.
There was a lot of Hollywood glitz last night, including a “Brady Bunch” style music video where celebrities sang “Fight Song.” That the show-biz stuff was interspersed with the poignant personal stories lent an odd quality to the proceedings. But inside Wells Fargo Arena, at least, order prevailed, and a positive message track was laid down for the fall.