Clinton is part of a despised establishment. Her nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate signifies extraordinary cultural progress in American political life.
Trustworthy? Listening to her husband, Bill, her daughter, Chelsea, and President Obama paint a portrait of her as a socially engaged, empathetic woman, it’s difficult to believe that a great majority of Americans find her fundamentally dishonest and are viscerally suspicious of her, American columnist Frank Bruni wrote this week. Indeed. The Philadelphia convention made a Herculean effort to project a certain image of the woman who, though she is a wife, is certainly not just that, far from it; the image of a woman who, though born to a middle class Chicago family and who today is part of the Washington elite, is not necessarily a careerist because of it, as many seem to think; and with all-American conservative tendency, the image of a woman who is a loving and devoted mother and grandmother. Is charm at play here?
Republican Donald Trump does not inspire any more confidence among Americans for entirely different reasons, which goes without saying. From Cleveland, where the Republican National Convention took place last week, to Philadelphia, two opposing approaches to exercising power were expressed. Clinton was not especially at ease speech-wise. The fact remains that in her acceptance speech on Thursday night, she successfully countered Trump’s absolutist and egocentric “I” against a Democratic “we.” A “we” designed, notwithstanding, to satisfy the desires of a big part of the electorate to see her political class destroy itself a bit less.
If Clinton is elected president on Nov. 8, which we expect, we’ll see to what extent, outside of making speeches, she’ll continue to actually cultivate this “we,” this idea of democracy that is vaguely more citizen-driven than it is elitist, particularly in her relationship with the impressive camp that formed a coalition around Bernie Sanders, because it was also a progressive wave that brought Barack Obama to power in 2008, when the great recession was starting.
President Obama lyrically drew us in with promises of renewal on domestic and international platforms, which, in the end, had fairly mixed results. “I want you to know that I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause,” Clinton declared on Thursday to Sanders supporters, but without giving the impression that there was any conviction when she was reading the teleprompter. Her choice of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate leads us to think that she is, most of all, placing her election agenda at the center—as a moderate—of the political spectrum, while the “Sanderists” are rightfully waiting for her to lead a more audacious and demanding campaign in the context of where the American right has gone off track.
Trump is not so much the new general of a right that is trying to reconfigure itself around his ego, rather, he is the representation of the Republican party running adrift.
Only a fifth of those elected to Congress are women and only six women are state governors. We should not make the mistake, eight years after the election of a first black president, of trivializing the importance of the leap forward that would (finally!) see a political landscape in which a woman is likely to become president. Clinton is, in a way, the electoral representation of the social progress that makes up, in all its progress and setbacks, the United States. During her first run for the presidency in 2008, she generally let the historic nature of her candidacy fly under the radar, a New York Times editorial pointed out on Friday; the notable fact is that she completely owned it this time.
These dynamics push leaders of the Democratic establishment to believe that since Obama was elected, the party has entered into an era of electoral dominance. It’s possible, and even culturally plausible. Since, after all, the American political system is still made up of electoral machines that are mostly controlled on a local scale by Republicans, it remains to be seen.