Clinton speech wasn’t rhetorically brilliant. That made it work.

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

Hillary Clinton is a policy wonk who, whether as an elected official or not, has been in the arena for decades, Her speech wasn’t rhetorically strong like the ones given by the Obamas, Bill Clinton, Cory Booker and some others.

But it was a speech that was authentically Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday I mentioned three themes I expected to see in Hillary Clinton’s speech — the influence of her mother, the importance of love and kindness and being stronger together, and a critique of Trump’s temperament, particularly in national security matters.

Clinton incorporated all of those, along with a big dollop of policy talk.

It’s not a speech people will likely play over and over, but it had some memorable sound bites, including saying “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

But if Hillary Clinton had given a speech that was rhetorically dazzling, it wouldn’t have been authentically her. Thus a speech that was by turns wonky, at turns personal, attacking Trump for his lack of qualifications was authentically Hillary Clinton.

This was a speech that made the argument that paying attention to details matters “Because it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid, if it’s your family. It’s a big deal. And it should be a big deal to you president, too.”

Clinton’s speech was the culmination of a convention that developed themes over time. In that way, it reminded me of a musical or even symphony.

Put in context of the overall convention, Clinton’s speech didn’t have to carry all the themes. She just needed to develop some, but could go light on others. Clinton was warm and wonky, personal and policy-oriented.

Clinton’s speech fit with that of her running mate Tim Kaine, another wonky candidate who has spent decades serving others, both out of and in public office.

Clinton’s speech thus was a demonstration of her ability to be a leader who works with a team. The whole convention was so much better run and produced, highlighting Democrats’ competence.

Beyond Clinton’s speech, the convention brought in a huge array of speakers, showing the Democratic Party as a very broad coalition.

The coalition demonstrated at the convention ranges from progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders to independent former NY Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg to various Republicans, including former Reagan speechwriter Doug Elmets.

There were police officers, a four star general surrounded by other members of the military, women whose children were killed by police, a woman severely injured on September 11 with whom Clinton developed a relationship, and many other Americans who were not elected officials.

From my point of view, one moment of the Democratic convention ranks with the best of all political conventions I have ever seen. This was when the father of a Muslim Marine who died helping to save others challenged Trump, asking him if he had ever read the Constitution, pulling out his copy and telling Trump he would loan it to Trump so he could find language on liberty and equal protection of the laws, and saying Trump had never sacrificed anything.

In the early part of the twenty-first century and end of the twentieth century, strategist Karl Rove and President George W. Bush sought to broaden and modernize the Republican coalition. They brought in Latinos and did not disparage Muslims.

Now they must be shaking their heads with woe, since the Democratic Party put forward both the patriotism and family values they often promoted and has moved into their political strengths.

Now that the conventions are over, the campaigns move on to appeal to, assemble, and mobilize their coalitions.




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.