Hillary Clinton may not be known as a great orator, but her solid performance in delivering an eloquent and powerful acceptance speech at her party’s national convention earned her high marks with the national audience, some of whom are still skeptical about her trustworthiness and command ability.
Turning a leaf in America’s male-dominated politics, Clinton’s nomination by the Democratic Party to be the next US president is, of course, a historic landmark that is bound to boost the position of women in today’s American society, where gender inequality and discrimination against women is a major issue.
A relative latecomer to women’s rights among the western societies, the United States of America might soon join Germany, England, Argentina, and several other countries led by women, assuming that Clinton will succeed over her republican nemesis, Donald Trump, whose male-chauvinistic behavior has already alienated many female Americans. Without doubt, Clinton’s victory would be a huge leap forward for the cause of women in America, who are severely underrepresented in the high echelons of private and public sectors.
To clinch her party’s nomination, Clinton fought a long and hard battle with the progressive Bernie Sanders, who was clearly prejudiced against by the party leadership, in light of the e-mail disclosures on the eve of the party’s convention — that immediately sowed division in a party intent on strong unity. It was therefore somewhat unsurprising to see Clinton in her much-anticipated speech not only acknowledge Sanders, she also vowed to work with him on reducing college tuition and lifting the education debt burden on millions of young Americans. Clinton also somewhat echoed Sanders by pledging to hit the Wall Street and wealthy with more taxes, in sharp contrast to Trump who favors tax breaks for the rich and financial de-regulation.
Indeed, the contrasts between the two major party nominees could not be any greater, they have opposing policies on immigration, wage increase, and a host of other domestic and foreign policy issues, such as the Iran nuclear deal, favored by Clinton and strongly opposed by Trump, and it will be interesting how her party’s convention can improve Clinton’s standing at the polls, which suggest Trump ahead by a few percentages.
If this turns out to be a tight race, then it is perfectly possible that the two “third parties,” namely, the Green Party and the Libertarian Party, might make a difference, perhaps to the detriment of the Democratic nominee, who is a party centerist pressured from both the left and right wings of her party, which explains Clinton’s mixture of national security and pro-labor themes in her narrative.
For the moment, however, Clinton and her supporters are basking in the rewards of a well-organized, albeit initially fractious, convention that featured a rainbow of white and minority speakers, compared to the white-dominated Republican convention. Conveying a positive message of hope through a rational discourse, Clinton projected a presidential demeanor and in no uncertain term rebuked her rival’s Islamophobic stance that has stigamtized America’s Muslims. She was preceded by the basketball great Karim Abdul Jabbar, as well as the parents of a Muslim soldier killed on the line of duty, thus sending a clear message that this party does not advocate Islam-bashing.
Simultaneously, Clinton in her speech managed to present a more personable account of her background and roots, recalling her orphan mother’s tough upbringing and her long commitment to children causes. She portrayed Obama’s presidency as highly successful and vowed to continue his legacy, given the importance of replicating the Obama coalition that led to his gaining 51 percent of popular votes in the two presidential races he won. With a strong economy, blessed by low energy prices, the US is not in a state of crisis as depicted by Trump, who gave a mostly negative nomination speech that was, in fact, quite pathetic by the sheer absence of any concrete ideas for the economy.. Clinton did a masterful job of debunking Trump’s vacuous “I can fix the problems” by reminding the audience that collective efforts by the whole nation is required in order to tackle its various problems.
Confronted by the darkly, even fascistic, political tendency reflected in Trump’s presidency, Clinton and her party should be careful not to miss the real sources of Trump’s strength that appeal to the uneducated white Americans and their sociability.
Clinton’s rationalist discourse may have many advantages but it also harbors the weakness of sounding like an incremental conventional politician who has been around the block too long to strive for deep structural change. Trump’s populistic anti-politics clearly resonates with a segment of American voters, who might act as catalysts for Trump’s victory, which would be disastrous by the standards of American democracy, given Trump’s neo-fascistic tendency and his authoritarian style. Whereas Trump preaches a politics of exclusion and discrimination, Clinton’s message at the convention was that she will strive for listening to and understanding of the other, i.e., a compassionate democratic cause.