New York Senator Helps Party, Herself in Convention Address


She did her bit. Like Nixon, Humphrey, Reagan, Ford, Ted Kennedy, Brown (sort of), and McCain before her, Hillary Clinton manned up after a loss and took one for the team. And she did it more believably than most of them. She didn’t linger too much over past glories, and there was no perceptible change in tone between the valedictory portion of her speech and the cheerleading.

If she rushed, it may have been because TV and short attention spans demand it, or it may have been because it was the best way for her to get through. But she put it over with great energy, and a luminescent orange pantsuit, in her speech to a highly receptive crowd at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last night.

She revisited the talking points of her campaign — “I ran for president to renew the promise of America… To promote a clean energy economy… To create a health care system that is universal… To create a world-class education system,” etc. She recalled the sympathy objects that stood her well on the trail — the cancer-ridden mother, the concerned Iraq veteran, and so forth.

Then she anaphorically asked the crowd, “Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for [sympathy object, repeat 3x]?” She talked about the good things that would come when “Barack Obama is in the White House.” And she turned a blast of fire on her “friend” John McCain, who “thinks the economy is fundamentally sound… wants to privatize Social Security… still thinks it’s okay when women don’t earn equal pay for equal work…” and tied him to the unpopular President with a gag about the Twin Cities.

Her essential message, about the march of progress represented by her Party that she portrayed as inexorable but also as something that must be fought for, was also her message during the campaign, and not entirely in sync with Obama’s, particularly in this Gomer-soothing Convention phase that was signaled by Michelle Obama’s syrupy speech last night. But every defeated candidate who steps to a Convention podium is obliged, by duty but also by by continuing ambition, to weave his or her themes into those of the Party as it stands. It buys Clinton the gratitude of the current standing army, and of armies yet to come.