It’s over. Finally we can stop watching CSPAN (lest our ears be tainted by other commentators) and start to listen again to MSNBC, FOX, PBS.
We regret to report that, from our p.o.v., Hillary Clinton did not hit it out of the park.
In a way, she would have been well-advised to stay off the stage until the end of the evening, to walk onto it and wave, smile, point, and then get off the stage again as fast as possible.
We can remember no other nominee who was blessed with such devoted surrogates. They were so much better, so much more effective than Hillary herself was when the final moments came.
These are speakers we will remember. Yes, there were governors and salt-of-the-earth citizens galore, survivors of tragedies and wars, people working two or three jobs to make ends meet. There were single mothers and disabled but brave backers, people who remembered Hillary for her thoughtfulness and kindness and support, people who remembered her for her hard work throughout her life. There were mayors, and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, and a raft of retired US admirals and generals and majors.
There were phenomenal speakers. The mixture was amazing. From Jennifer Granholm of Michigan to Dolores Huerta. Barbara Mikulski and Nancy Pelosi. Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez.
The finest moments were breath-taking. The Reverend William Barber II from North Carolina blew our heads off. And most dignified, most moving of all, Khizr Khan, an American Muslim (by naturalization) whose son achieved citizenship by fighting (and dying) in Iraq as he saved his fellow warriors. Mr. Khan, with his silent wife at his side, had listeners in tears, and his challenges to Donald Trump hit home time after time. In our over-active imagination, we had scenes unrolling of Trump just turning his back, knowing he was beaten, and walking into the sunset somewhere on one of his elegant golf-course properties. In fact, more than once we pictured him shrugging and walking away, the weight of approbrium so heavy and so unrelenting that there was nothing further he could tweet except, of course, “You’ll be sorry!”
The evening began to sink with Katy Perry, screeching unintelligibly.
Chelsea did her best, a piece of work that would have drawn a B-plus at Wellesley in the old days.
At the hall’s first sight of Hillary, the night seemed to resuscitate itself. Women of all ages who never expected this moment to come in their lifetimes wept openly.
Then, then, Hillary began to speak. She accomplished the impossible: she did not shout. Good for her. But she gave the hall a standard stump speech filled with lines that once, twice, three times had worked in the past and were as familiar to her followers as her email delinquencies were to her opponents. She never rose to the heights of the first Democratic debate last fall where she was on top of everything, articulate, funny, serious, informed, the very picture of a modern major general. She gave the hall what it expected: shots at Mr. Trump, well-deserved but also too easy to predict. He deserved them all, but was more likely hurt by Jennifer Granholm than by Mrs. Clinton herself. Hillary made a now familiar case for herself as commander-in-chief, as able to work with Republicans in Congress, as having the welfare, the very lives of women in deep straights and roiling seas and basic second-class status. She did everything she could think of to keep her listeners optimistic and believing. And God knows, she has worked hard, with first responders after 9/11, for children’s healthcare, for going after bin Laden.
All of this might have done the trick had we not already seen her in action for three decades. The likelihood that she is an agent of real change is very small. We didn’t want her to have to apologize again for the email brouhaha. She did acknowledge the input and lessons learned from her experience of campaigning against Bernie Sanders. But not a word about how Mr. Sanders was undercut by the DNC itself, for which we believe she had some responsibility.
We don’t expect a candidate to focus on a warts-and-all approach, or to be so honest as to damage her own chances at winning. But we did want and hope for something we had not been granted earlier: fire, targets and details. What we got was the Hillary Clinton we have all come to know. Alas, that didn’t cut it this time, when newness and stainless steel could have combined in a vision of our country that is still youthful, still dedicated, still capable of appreciating Mr. Khan’s anger and regret. Equally important, a nation that still believes in its ultimate destiny.
Granted, this past year has been a long slog for Hillary. But in order for us to call the evening a triumph she had only to keep it together for a few more minutes, regardless how she felt inside, to provide a stem-winding oratorical conclusion, an irrefutable call to duty and service. Briefly, and we don’t really blame her, she was pooped.
We think, alas, that what we face in the coming one hundred days is a thousand more tweets and retweets from the Donald that make no sense, and a Democratic response of “We told you so.”
This does not lead to a stronger nation or a more determined electorate. And THAT’S what we need.