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Hillary Hit A Triple: Her Acceptance Speech Was Patriotic, Feminist, Progressive

Donald Trump was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple. On Thursday night, Hillary Clinton hit a triple.

Triples are harder to hit than home runs. They require power AND base-running ability. When you hit a homer, you can jog around the bases. To hit a triple, you have to run full-speed from home plate to third base. You have to know your own strengths and those of your opponent — do I have the speed to make it to third, does the outfielder have the arm strength to throw me out? Triples take grit and determination. They don’t always excite the crowd like home runs. But they help your team win the game.

Presidential acceptance speeches should be judged both on substance and on performance. I’d give Hillary an A on substance and a B+ on performance. So, combined, it was an A-. In other words, a triple.

It contained some mildly soaring rhetoric but mostly it was: Here’s who I am, here’s what I’ll do, and here’s why Trump is dangerous.

It was wonderful how both self-assured AND self-deprecating Hillary was. She made fun of her policy-wonk instincts but then said that a good president has to know the details. She talked about coming back from adversity — both the defeat of health care reform (explicitly) and her occasionally troubled marriage (implicitly) — and turned it into a lifetime of grit, determination, and accomplishment.

Her references to our Founding Fathers, and her reference to the Broadway show “Hamilton,” reminded us that all progressive change involves compromise and negotiation, which is not the same thing as capitulating or selling out. She sounded patriotic, where Trump last week sounded xenophobic.

Some pundits have said that Clinton’s strongest appeal is to women over 50 who remember when the idea of a woman president was considered unthinkable. In 1969, only 53 percent of Americans said they would vote for a woman for president “if she were qualified in every other respect,” according to the Gallup Poll. By last year, that figure had increased to 92 percent. Many younger women, who have benefited from the activism of their older counterparts, take the accomplishments of the women’s movement for granted. Perhaps so. But watching Clinton’s speech Thursday night, my 19-year-old twin daughters — both fervent Sanders supporters — were moved to tears.

Clinton basked in her status as the first women to be nominated by a major political party. But she said it wasn’t about her. It was about the progress of women. And although she didn’t refer to the old labor song, “Bread and Roses,” she articulated the same sentiment of that song: “The rising of the women is the rising of us all.”

Oh, and she wore a white pantsuit — the same color clothing that the early 20th century suffragettes wore. Was that a coincidence?

In terms of the policy agenda, she managed to explain it without being too wonky. Plus, it was the most progressive acceptance speech in my lifetime. She was generous in her praise of Bernie Sanders. She clearly was pitching it to win over Sanders’s supporters.

She took on the gun lobby. She took on Wall Street. She took on the super-rich and big business by calling for higher taxes. She came out for free higher education, and reducing student debt, echoing Bernie’s plan. She called for making the minimum wage a living wage, but didn’t say how big. She called for a major investment in infrastructure as both a jobs program and an energy-efficiency program. She came out for paid family leave and defended a woman’s right to choose. She came out for comprehensive immigration reform. She talked about inequality and poverty — something you’ve never heard from Trump. She mentioned the Flint water crisis. Echoing Black Lives Matter, she indicted the criminal justice system as racist. But she also praised police for their courage and risk-taking. All she had to say was one line — “I believe in science” — and people got the point: Trump doesn’t. He’s a climate change denier.

I wish she had used the word “union” at least once. A stronger labor movement is central to a more progressive America. Plus, she can’t win without organized labor mobilizing its members and their families, and investing in her campaign.

It isn’t fair to criticize her for not being more specific. That’s not what acceptance speeches are for. But the contrast with Trump’s acceptance speech — all bombast, no issues, all fear, no hope — was obvious.

It was great that she reminded the crowd of FDR with her reference to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” using it to undermine Trump as a fear-monger. Trump vs. FDR: no contest! And, she had some funny lines. She showed a sense of humor — something many people don’t associate with HRC.

She compared her own view of the world, reflected in her book, “It Takes a Village,” with Trump’s line last week: “I alone can fix it.”

She bashed Trump’s record as a con artist who failed to pay his bills to small businesses and workers. She questioned his principles and his psychological stability. She was tough on Trump, but she didn’t come across (as he did last week) as angry and unhinged. She was calm, steady, cool under pressure.

The speech took full advantage of her strengths and avoided her weaknesses. She’s not good at belting, at modulating, or at barn-burning rhetoric, and she didn’t try to do it. She came off as more of a human being, less as a policy junkie.

Watching it on TV, it look liked she had the crowd on her side. Unlike Monday night, the handful of hecklers didn’t get in the way. You couldn’t hear them clearly on TV, and Hillary ignored them and didn’t get flustered. I was worried that 100-200 Bernie-or-busters would walk out as soon as she started talking and that the TV cameras would pan to the walk-outers. But either there was no walk-out or, if there was, the TV cameras didn’t show it — a sign of restraint and good journalism.

So, from the comfort of my living room, I was very impressed. To me, triples are more exciting than home runs.

Peter Dreier

  • laslanian

    I was moved and for the first time, I found her inspirational. I did not think she had it in her. She seemed connected to what she was saying and genuine and warm. And I believe that if we push her she will move to the left in practice and not just rhetorically. I give her an A because I am grading her on her progress. She always made me nervous b/c I could see how others found her cold. And at the tender age of 50, I can say it is about damned time we had a woman. Additionally, I was proud of my party. We killed it!

    • Terry Kern

      Hillary does kill it …remember Benghazi

      • laslanian

        It is meaningless to say that she killed people in Benghazi. She did not. If you want to talk about her foreign policy, ok. But all the bad information and conspiracy theories are getting depressing.

  • Terry Kern

    Are you kidding me…..KIllery is a Communist,anti America, She is a criminal. BTW home runs make you a winner…Killery is a looser.

  • Anonymous

    “She was generous in her praise of Bernie Sanders. She clearly was pitching it to win over Sanders’s supporters.”

    > It was as if she was mocking him and it was painful to watch, especially in light of how the primaries were conducted, the recent DNC leaks, Clinton’s funders, the choice of Tim Kaine for VP, and her hiring of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz within an hour of her resignation. Perhaps you should take another look at his facial expressions.

    Too bad the same praises couldn’t be said of the Democratic candidate!

    Hillary ‘praising’ Bernie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCr-dAA_81w

    “It was great that she reminded the crowd of FDR with her reference to “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” using it to undermine Trump as a fear-monger. Trump vs. FDR: no contest”

    > The comparison of Clinton to FDR is utterly absurd. The Clintons brought the Democrats to the Right (or ‘center’) with the New Democrats. Also, let me remind readers of *this* quote from FDR, referenced by Sanders: “We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.”

    Too bad FDR became a nuisance this time around

    Larry Sanders: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYYTssOZmi4

    “I was worried that 100-200 Bernie-or-busters would walk out as soon as she started talking and that the TV cameras would pan to the walk-outers. But either there was no walk-out or, if there was, the TV
    cameras didn’t show it — a sign of restraint and good journalism.”

    > Good journalism: manufacturing consent behind a militarist-corporatist candidate by blacking out scenes of protest and voices of opposition. Watch from the comfort of your living room, it takes minimal effort:

    http://www.democracynow.org/2016/7/29/the_dnc_protests_you_didnt_see
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFrCld4Q_aU

    Clinton might now our most rational choice but let us please not delude ourselves and others. This primary election was a travesty.

    • laslanian

      what is more telling is his face. He is having none of it. He won’t be patted on the head. But I think what she was doing was recognizing what needed to be recognized. If she does not act on it in office, she will not get a second term. If she does not get elected, we won’t have a politics. We will have a humanitarian disaster.

      Hilary did well for Hillary. She is not warm and she is calculated.
      I don’t see her as condescending to him. And she did a good job for her and honestly, you don’t have to be warm to be a good politician. And you don’t have to like her but I do think she wants to go down well in history so she will have to address the issues Sanders raised for that to happen. If she does not she is a fool. I am betting that she is not a fool. That’s it.

      • Anonymous

        I think you present a fair interpretation of this.

        However, I believe that staving off Trump this time around is necessary but not sufficient. ‘The Left’ needs to think long term if it wants to survive in this country, organize, and make a concerted effort to reach out to the disaffected white working class who’ve fallen for Trump while simultaneously tackling race, gender, and other social issues among the working classes. Trump caused permanent damage by mobilizing racists, neo-fascists and the extreme right wing (who, by the way, have legitimate economic concerns). They are here to stay, and I’m afraid that another four years of the status quo under Clinton may deepen this crisis.

        As someone who thought Sanders was the most rational choice, I was going to vote for Jill Stein, but I’ve come to terms that Clinton is indeed the most tactful choice. You can win over former Sanders supporters by convincing them that they are buying time with Clinton and the future of ‘the Left’ or progressive movement will depend on them and their actions. Salvation will not come from above, and we are not organized enough to save ourselves at the moment. You will not win them over by telling them that they have to eat their brussels sprouts AND that they have to like it, or how great they really taste when they are clearly bitter. Is having the first woman president an advancement? Yes, it is, but with all things considered, I really wish it didn’t have happen like this.

        Lastly, when your only viable choice is a vote for either the status quo or destruction, it is not a choice but a threat – and voters rightly perceive it as such. What does this say about the state of our ‘democracy’ when the two least liked or trusted people out of a population of 300 million people are our only choice? Or when influence on policy is weighted by wealth? When we need B-rate artists, actors, and comedians telling us who to vote for? What credentials do they have that they get a privileged platform? Both conventions were spectacles. Both major political parties of this country have been basing their support on campaigns of fear of the other and are manipulating our emotions. It is when we stop fearing and inventing false hopes that we begin to act rationally.

        Fawning praise of any politician (as I perceived this piece of propaganda to be) is not helping anyone whatsoever. Sweeping and misleading statements like “She took on Wall Street. She took on the super-rich and big business…” are absolutely absurd and unbecoming of educated adults. It takes less than five minutes to look up who funds her, how she acquired it, and the nefarious activities of the Clinton Foundation.

        “If she does not act on it in office, she will not get a second term.”
        > Here I disagree. It all depends on whether we organize within four years and Clinton does not smash any chances of a third party or independent becoming strong enough to challenge the Democratic establishment (as she did this time). She will be the incumbent and it is not unfathomable that there will be a Trump the Second.

        I encourage a cold, calculating analysis and approach on behalf of the voter. I think we need to stop describing or viewing ourselves as ‘supporters’ of any one person, vote strategically, work on the outside to influence the system in our favor and be candid about it. I’m tired of idiocy and I’m tired of seeing ‘Bernie or Bust people’, who are victims of this political system, being denounced as infantile and are commanded to under the banner of The Party. Let’s just be open and honest here.

        • laslanian

          I agree, BTW, on the long term left. But if you want a shot or a start, you vote HRC. I am not betting on her idealistically. I am betting on her to read the moment (with help from advisors, etc) and to work to implement some real change. But she cannot do it alone. As for organization, I am looking for it everywhere and it should be easier given the internet.

  • Joe Detroit

    “Presidential acceptance speeches should be judged both on substance and on performance.” This statement forgets the rather obvious that clinton’s acceptance speech was strategically constructed as another step in her campaign to win the presidency. Substance? Sure, but it would be naive not to recognize the political motives underlying those pronouncements. And indeed, we would probably respect Clinton less if she didn’t keep her eyes on the prize. So that leads to the question: Why DID she make this fairly liberal appeal? Was it an attempt to capture the Bernie vote? Were there parts that sought to battle Trump for the white male worker? Was she attempting to consolidate her hold over suburban moms? Before we applaud Clinton and believe there’s a secret progressive inside that perhaps Bill’s been repressing, we should also ponder deeply the strategic aspects of her speech.

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