Closing an incredible convention, Clinton can tap profound moments of her life and campaign

Hillary Clinton at a forum in Denmark, South Carolina on Feb. 12. Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Hillary Clinton at a forum in Denmark, South Carolina on Feb. 12. Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

What a Democratic convention it’s been, full of optimism and remarkable rhetoric.

Sure, there are still some Sanders delegates who haven’t moved toward Clinton and maybe never will, but they are a small portion overall. Unity was promoted by the very process of being in the hall together and hearing popular figures like the Obamas, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and going through the roll call to record Sanders’ support.

Bill Clinton, a popular ex-president added so much to people’s knowledge of Hillary Clinton as someone who has worked since she was a teenager to make people’s lives better. As someone who has followed her career closely, there was a good deal that I learned about her.

Ending the convention, Clinton can weave together critical strands of her campaign and give her momentum going forward.

First, Clinton can fill out her biography from her own perspective, especially pointing to her mother’s experiences.

Early in the nomination campaign, Hillary Clinton used to talk a fair amount about her mother, Dorothy Rodham.

Clinton’s mother had a very rough life. As a June 2015 New York Times article noted:

Dorothy Howell was 8 years old when her parents sent her away. It was 1927. Her mother and father, who fought violently in the Chicago boardinghouse where the family lived, divorced. Neither was willing to take care of Dorothy or her little sister.

So they put the girls on a train to California to live with their grandparents. It did not go well. Her grandmother favored black Victorian dresses and punished the girls for inexplicable infractions, like playing in the yard. (Dorothy was not allowed to leave her room for a year, other than for school, after she went trick-or-treating one Halloween.)

Unable to bear it, Dorothy left her grandparents’ home at 14, and became a housekeeper for $3 a week, always hoping to return to Chicago and reconnect with her mother. But when she finally did, a few years later, her mother spurned her again.

Clinton not only talked about her mother on the campaign trail, but one of her early ads talked about her mother’s story and what it taught her.

Dorothy Rodham, with all that pain in her life, transcended it. She was a loving and supportive mother who raised a brilliant, hardworking, caring and confident daughter who made a life in large part focused on trying to help people find the opportunity to thrive and grow.

Talking about her mother, Hillary Clinton has conveyed what mattered to her, what makes her tick. In Philadelphia, she can tell the biggest audience of her life about how Dorothy lived, loved and influenced her.

Second, Clinton can reiterate the importance of mutual love and kindness as embedded in our communities and common political life.

The Clinton campaign theme is Stronger Together, but this is not a strength based on anger or authoritarianism, as we see from Donald Trump.

In her victory speech following the South Carolina primary, Clinton said:

You know, on one of my first trips to South Carolina during this campaign, I stopped by a bakery here in Columbia. I was saying hello everybody; I went over to say hello to a man reading a book in the corner. Turned out he was a minister. And the book was a Bible. He was studying I Corinthians 13, which happens to be one of my favorite passages. “Love never fails,” it tells us. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

These are words to live by not only for ourselves but also for our country. I know it sometimes seems a little odd for someone running for president, these days, in this time, to say we need more loving kindness in America. But I’m telling you, from the bottom up my heart, we do. We do.

These are, indeed, as Hillary Clinton said, not the usual words from a presidential candidate. In fact, there’s some risk taken in a female candidate using what could be seen as feminine rhetoric, although perhaps not so much for an individual as tough as she.

Moreover, this love and kindness Clinton spoke of, which she got from her mother and father, are not just personal qualities. As she said in that same South Carolina speech:

[T]his campaign and our victory is for the reverend—a presiding elder of the AME Church—who looked at all the violence and division in our country and asked me the other night, ‘How? How are we ever going to strengthen the bonds of family and community again?’

Well, we’re going to start by working together with more love and kindness in our hearts and more respect for each other, even when we disagree.

Despite what you hear, we don’t need to make America great again: America has never stopped being great. But we do need to make America whole again. Instead of building walls, we need to be tearing down barriers. We need to show by everything we do that we really are in this together.

Love and kindness. Making America whole. Tearing down barriers. Stronger together.

These are all themes heard before we may hear tonight from Clinton.

Third, Clinton can reprise her devastating critique of Trump’s foreign policy failings.

Several days before the California primary, Clinton gave a focused, workmanlike dissection of what Trump has said about foreign policy and national security issues that was direct, sometimes funny, and brilliantly effective.

This has never been done as sharply and surely by anyone else.

And, while Clinton likely will talk about other policies that are important, Trump’s inadequacies as a future chief diplomat and commander-in-chief, along with a prickly and vindictive temperament, go directly to his weaknesses and lack of qualifications to be president of the United States.

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Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.