Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination on the fourth and final night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016..
PHILADELPHIA – The first woman with a good chance of winning the presidency accepted the Democratic nomination on Thursday night, setting off a general election contest between two larger-than-life forces in American politics.
“It is with humility, determination and boundless confidence in America’s promise that I accept your nomination for president of the United States,” Clinton said, acknowledging her success as the first female nominee of a major party in US history as a “milestone” in the country’s long march toward fulfilling its founding principles.
“When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit,” she said in her landmark speech in Philadelphia.
The city that hosted the signing of the Declaration of Independence 240 years ago became a symbol in her speech, as Clinton accused her opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, of demonstrating illiberal tendencies rarely seen in American political life.
Clinton’s speech offered a hopeful vision of America’s future, meant to contrast with Trump’s nomination speech the previous week in which he depicted a country and world in chaos.
Trump has campaigned on a promise to “Make America great again,” and on Wednesday night doubled down on his message that the country has much work to do to get there: “Our country does not feel ‘great already’ to the millions of wonderful people living in poverty, violence and despair,” he wrote on Twitter.
Responding to the charge, Clinton repeatedly channeled a darling of the Republican Party: Former president Ronald Reagan.
“America is great because America is good,” she said, charging that Trump had taken the GOP from its promise of “morning in America to midnight in America.”
“Out of many, one,” she said, translating the country’s Latin motto of e pluribus unum. She noted that in 1776, America’s founders debated the wisdom of declaring independence from the United Kingdom – whether to stick with its king, or to form a government of, by and for the people. The US now faces a similar “moment of reckoning,” she warned.
Because of his lack of experience and his explosive temperament, Clinton said Trump could not reasonably be trusted to handle America’s nuclear arsenal.
“Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign,” she argued.
In a speech heavy on large domestic policy themes, few foreign policy specifics were given mention. But Clinton did re-up her support for the nuclear deal reached with Iran last year and underscore her support for Israel’s security.
“I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot,” she said. “Now, we have to enforce it, and keep supporting Israel’s security.”
After thousands of balloons dropped in the Wells Fargo Center here, Clinton and Trump – two New Yorkers – officially entered a race cast by Democrats as far more consequential than your typical election.
The Republicans, too, have warned that a Clinton presidency will make permanent the liberalization of American life – and of its Supreme Court – which they staunchly oppose.
They suspect Clinton is corrupt, motivated, not dissimilar to Trump, by self-interest, and seek to break a system in Washington they no longer recognize as their own.
But on a more fundamental level, it is the fate of American democracy in question in 2016, Clinton argued, faced with the prospect of a strongman “demagogue” who seeks to “restore order” through unspecified executive powers.
The two candidates have historically high name recognition– upwards of 95 percent of the American people knew of both Clinton and Trump at the start of the race – as well as exceptionally high unfavorable ratings, both hovering at roughly 50 percent.
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