Friday, July 29, 2016


After first-day jitters, I thought Democrats had a very good convention. Hillary Clinton's speech may not have been one for the ages, and may have seemed laundry-listy at the end, in the manner of State of the Union addresses by both her husband and Barack Obama, but it was a solid, often inspiring speech.

I was working late and missed most of the rest of the night, but I just caught up with Khizr Khan's speech and I understand why everyone's talking about it. The Muslim father of a dead Iraq veteran asked whether Trump has even read the Constitution (I'm sure he'd say he has, and I'm sure he'd be lying) and whether he's ever visited Arlington National Cemetery (it's with dread that I envision a Trump visit to Arlington -- he'd make it all about himself, in that tacky way of his).

But with regard to Hillary's speech, I had two thoughts. First, I've worried that she's never directly taken on the question of why so many voters don't trust her. That wasn't addressed in the speech or the rest of the convention. I haven't been thinking that she should apologize or beat herself up rhetorically -- I've just been thinking that a good speechwriter (and the Democrats seem to have some very good ones) ought to be able to put that subject front and center and construct a response that addresses voters' doubts while helping her transcend the question by putting in a larger context. Think of something like Barack Obama's 2008 race speech.

But there was nothing like that in this speech -- and maybe that's fair. She tried to transcend the question not by addressing it but by mounting a convention in which four days were spent just telling us that she'd be a terrific president. And that's exactly what Donald Trump did. People don't trust him, yet he never explains, never apologizes, never even acknowledges his divisiveness. If never apologizing is a strength for him, why can't it be a strength for Hillary Clinton?

My second thought was that the convention, and the speech, tried to present Clinton as a lot of things to a lot of people -- a conventional Obama-style Democrat, a candidate who's taken on the platform positions of the Sanders movement, a Democrat who wants the votes of Republicans and will lavish praise on cops as well as Black Lives Matter. Is it calculated? Of course -- but it's also what every centrist pundit has sought for years, a new politics that rejects polarization. It's what voters regularly tell pollsters they're hoping for -- politicians who want to end gridlock. Will members of the press acknowledge that Clinton is trying to be the candidate they say they want?

Obama made this sort of appeal, too, but as a candidate he invoked unity in poetry, whereas Clinton's speech did it by laying out policy positions that are, in some cases, associated with the poles, while targeting a range of voters from Sandersites on the left to suburban GOP voters on the right.

Does it make any sense? I don't know. Is it what a lot of people in the middle say they want? Absolutely. So pundits, if you criticize this aspect of her candidacy, remember: You built it.

As for me, I hope it works in November -- and then I hope progressives fight for what she's promising to the left. That's how it has to work -- vote for her now, because the alternative is unthinkable, and hold her feet to the fire once she's in office. Because you absolutely won't be able to do that ith the unholy coalition of Trump, Ryan, and McConnell.


AllieG said...

Steve you are right. Clinton is a pol, and pols respond to pressure from supporters before pressure from outside. Those to her left should work for her election and then resume pressing on Nov.9, when she will owe them if President-elect. It politics 101, a course many on the left seem to have slept through.
Clinton would've had to be insane to try and explain the issues on which she's been criticized as untrustworthy. No explanation would suffice for her enemies, and it would have been the one and only section of her speech discussed by the media. The pundits who urged her to do so are like the Democrats who kept hoping if they compromised on abortion, they could put the issue "behind them." Terminal naivete.

Unknown said...

Ah, yes... "hold her feet to the fire". By voting for her no matter what, because the Republican is worse. That will keep her in line.

Victor said...

"If never apologizing is a strength for him, why can't it be a strength for Hillary Clinton?"


Victor said...

I have an idea for a new moniker for you:

Steve M. said...

Ah, yes... "hold her feet to the fire". By voting for her no matter what, because the Republican is worse. That will keep her in line.

You're making my point for me. You think politics happens only on Election Day, and after we've voted, nothing can be changed. Yes, you vote against the candidate who's worse -- obviously. And if the better candidate wins but opposes you on issues you feel passionately about, then you fight like hell, because the worse candidate opposes you on far more issues.

This isn't rocket science, although it apparently has to be explained to Puritopians once every generation.

joel hanes said...

The main reason that so many people mistrust Sec. Clinton is that they have completely internalized the gist of thirty years of right-wing propaganda that was purposely designed to produce that result.

Mart said...

"the unholy coalition of Trump, Ryan, and McConnell." Don't leave Pence out of it. In many ways he frightens me more than dear leader.

Tom Hilton said...

Clinton would've had to be insane to try and explain the issues on which she's been criticized as untrustworthy. No explanation would suffice for her enemies, and it would have been the one and only section of her speech discussed by the media.

Yup. If people don't trust you, you can't say "people really ought to trust me". You have to have someone else make that case--and she did. Bill took it on directly with his question of "which one do you think is the real Hillary?"

Feud Turgidson said...

The first Unknown on this thread elides presumption of innocence with free ride and blames Hillary's for each and every one of the problems with that elision not working.

The first "Unknown" on this thread comes across as a bitter clinger, wanting desperately to hold onto the illogic that assigns HRC responsibility for the Congressional GOP strategem of creating a pre-formed worse-case narrative around anything and everything remotely associated with HRC, committing serious public resources to notionally investigating towards proving that narrative while acting as if the very act of notional investigation legitimizes the distrust they're trying to engender, never relenting on continuing the notional investigation but just repeating and repeating and repeating it in order to creating an impression that since by the rules of this universe Thing A said at Point 1 is objectively different from Thing A said at Point 2, Thing B said at Point 2, and Thing B said at Point 1. HRC should be held repeatedly and continually responsible for ill-motivated, lazy, ill-educated gullibles and willing rubes being either or both unwilling and unable to understand things like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, the Pauli Exclusion Principle, spacetime and this universe's speed limits, and legal concepts such as the requirement of a particular mental element in the commission of thought crimes and the whole vast expanse occupied by absence of evidence, objective impossibility, practical doubt, reasonable doubt and the gulf between the standards of strict liability and crime.

How amazing it is that HRC has been putting up with this nonsense CONSTANTLY and CONTINUALLY for at least a quarter century, yet still gets up each day, still shows up for work, still faces up to every challenge of every day, and still gets things done, like its all a weird toxic HazMat suit that it makes no sense for her to wear but she's compelled to or else she won't be allowed to work at all. Who else do we know of in this country, what other human on this planet, who's required to run this absurd gauntlet? How does she not crack? Why does she keep on keeping on, and HOW?

And on top of all that, she has to continually amaze and amuse everyone across all preferences and the entire political palate. It's like docking points from the performance of a World's Strongest Man contestant because he failed to maintain the illusion of a seamlessly optimal rhythmic coordination between the orchestra and his part in the tango he was dancing with an orangutan, while pulling that dump truck by his teeth only.

Stellours said...

I have to say, Hillary keeps growing on me. Sure, at times watching her last night reminded me of being a little kid and hearing the president talk - pretty bland - but then I realized I'd just pictured her being president and that made me glad.
I think we've been so 'spoiled' on President Obama and how well he speaks, that it's hard to look at a regular person again. Plus he's had 8 years of practice.
I'm glad she kept bringing up Donald, even though I cringed every time. But it needs to be talked about front and center - and what better stage for the whole world to see than her DNC speech.
I also encourage anyone I can - whenever Hillary comes up and they seem reluctant - to watch her speeches, they're hard to find on youtube, but just compare her to a speech by Donald. He's benefitted from the 'soundbites' being spread by the press. If you hear him just talking off the cuff for any amount of time, it's crazy. He rambles, and can't even stick to his own thought process. Like night and day, Hillary is articulate, personal, optimistic, and smart.

swkellogg said...

My guess is that the strategy is to address issues of trustworthiness in the debates.

Green Eagle said...

Hilary may not be capable of soaring rhetoric like her husband or Obama, but so what? As guys like Hitler and Mussolini showed, being able to give a great speech doesn't have much to do with running a country well. What her speech did accomplish was this: showing herself to be a person who will make decisions based on a careful analysis of the facts, not as the result of a megalomaniac tantrum. This is, obviously, the primary character issue of the election, and I think she addressed it in a very convincing way.

Danp said...

I expect the press to start reporting how many times Hillary (but not Trump) used the word "I" in 3,2,1...

jsrtheta said...

If you acknowledge slander, you republish slander.

Fuck the liars. She has nothing to apologize for, and shouldn't even stoop to the level of her enemies. Drive them even crazier instead.

I can't even imagine why she would bring that up. It's like saying, "Now some people say I'm a rapist..."

Fuck them. After 30 years of this crap, really, fuck them.

aimai said...

I loved the speech and I think she addressed the years of attacks verywell--and quite subtly. "People don't get me, and I get that...I'm a detail person and that can seem boring and too involved but if its your medical issues or your child's issues you will be glad I am so detail oriented." (paraphrasing).

People just don't think about what they think about in the way you think they do. They "retcon" their believes and retroactively justify them. As soon as they see a Clinton they like, they are perfectly capable of retconning that and discovering, more or less, that they always liked her, or they would have always liked her, if they'd just known X, Y, and Z. She can't argue them out of 30 years worth of smears, but she can offer them the choice and the chance of a soft landing by holding out her arms and promising to catch them when they jump. That's just what she did. She gave everyone a new narrative about her entire life that enabled them to link what had previously been disparate islands, poking out over a sea of insults, into a single archipelago. She then gave them testimony--four days of testimony--from different kinds of witnesses. Don't like this one? Here's another! Don't trust this guy? Look at this adorable lady!
Then she makes her case--like a lawyer, and leaves it up to the jury.

You can't badger or persuade anyone of anything. They have to decide to change their mind on their own. I think she and the DNC did a terrific job of doing what they could with a poisoned populace and I think the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We will have to wait to see what happens. But our candidate has given us very goo dmaterial to work with.

Unknown said...

Hillary is a policy wonk and doesn't engage in soaring rhetoric. She does come across as sane and competent and that's OK.

rclz said...

you know what would be really helpful to make things more progressive down the road?

Don't just haul your a** to the voting booth on Nov 8th, haul it out again on Nov 6th 2018. The more progressives we elect the more it will sway the top.