Hillary Clinton wants to be the Mom of America.
As she took the stage Thursday night, becoming the first woman in U.S. history to secure a major party’s nomination as president, Clinton threaded matrilineal themes throughout her speech. She spoke of how her mother’s neglected upbringing inspired her to care for poor children, pivoting to the America she wanted to create for her grandchildren.
Chelsea Clinton, in her speech introducing her mother, also played heavily on this theme. “Every single memory I have of my mom is that regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always, always there for me,” Chelsea said. The underlying message: She’ll do the same for you and your families.
In her acceptance speech, Hillary Clinton emphasized unity, contrasting her “it takes a village” perspective to Donald Trump’s solo act. Perhaps her best line of the night: “Don’t believe anyone who says I alone can fix it.”
By way of contrast, Clinton outlined a platform that can be generally summarized as “government alone can fix it,” from income inequality to climate change to gun violence and myriad other liberal priorities.
But this week Clinton has shown that as matriarch she would preside over one dysfunctional family.
As she gave a shout-out to Bernie Sanders, he looked angry and uncomfortable, sitting in his chair with fingers knitted.
He wore an expression as taciturn as his supporters’ mood this week, even as his leftward influence pervaded Clinton’s speech, from her references to college affordability to income inequality to campaign-finance reform.
Also uncomfortable was what Clinton’s mother- and-family-centric narrative left out, despite infamous decades in the public eye.
Chelsea Clinton spoke of the pain of watching her mother’s “bruising” and “exhausting” fight over health-care policy in 1994 when she was 14. No mention, though, of what transpired just a few years later during the maelstrom of scandal.
Similarly, Hillary Clinton railed against the corrupt influence of campaign cash —but made no mention of the controversies swirling around her family Foundation.
She emphasized how America would be safer under her watch than under an impulsive Trump – ignoring the harsh reprimand she received from the FBI director over her “careless” handling of America’s secrets.
The friendly crowd in the convention hall however certainly seemed to find it a rousing speech – with the possible exception of Bill Clinton who at one point appeared to doze off.
Hillary Clinton attacked Trump directly, emphasizing her meticulous attention to detail on policies as compared to his learn it (and Tweet it) as you go approach to governance. She hammered her opponent’s “bigotry and bombast” on gender, race and religion.
At one point, Clinton rattled off all of the foreign countries where Trump merchandise originates. “Trump says he wants to make America great again,” she said. “He could start by making things in America again.”
One lofty phrase in her speech immediately became the object of (gleeful) plagiarism accusations.
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) July 29, 2016
Turns out the phrase may not even be Alexis de Tocqueville at all. But it’s certainly not original, having been used by Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan.
Early in her speech, Clinton referenced America’s founding story. “We usually focus on how it turned out and not enough on how close that story came to never being written at all. … Some wanted to stick with the king, and some wanted to stick it to the king. The revolution hung in the balance,” she said.
That dilemma feels oddly familiar in the era of Queen Mother Clinton.