From the last Morning Jolt of the Democratic convention week…
What Would Hillary’s Speech Have Been Without Trump as a Foe?
Hillary Clinton didn’t give that bad a speech last night, but it sure as heck wasn’t that good, either.
Picture it: Had Cruz gotten the Republican nomination, Hillary’s acceptance speech would have been about how Cruz was a dangerous ideologue, the vanguard of a new intolerant theocracy, and how Cruz would allow corporate America and Wall Street to ransack America’s savings. (You know she’s shameless enough to pose as a foe of Wall Street after all those lucrative speaking gigs.) If the GOP had nominated Rubio, it would be about how a smooth-talking, baby-faced warmonger was about to drag America into an apocalyptic war in the Middle East. (You know she’s shameless enough to expect people to forget her Iraq War vote and her management of the Middle East and Libya as Secretary of State.) If Jeb Bush – kindly, even-tempered, bland, “please clap” Jeb Bush – was the Republican nominee, Hillary’s speech would have been about how he’s his dynastic politics are undermining our democracy, and how entitled elites who have spent decades swimming among the wealthiest and most well-connected arrogantly believe that the presidency should be theirs just because they have a famous last name.
Instead, Clinton faces Trump, and the GOP nominee’s uncontrollable mouth keeps giving her one easy stick to hit him with after another.
With Trump, she has a target that’s given her one easy target after another: from ties made in Mexico to mocking a handicapped reporter to boasting he “know[s] more about ISIS than the generals do” or that “I alone can fix it.” She’s shooting fish in a barrel on those. The question is, did tonight bring these aspects of Trump to a new audience? Or is this already priced in with Trump? Is there any statement Trump could say that would shake his current level of support?
Even more, she gets to flatter Americans by telling them that voting for her is an act of national virtue: “America is great – because America is good.” The speech tried to mix a sales pitch to Trump-skeptic Republicans with a laundry list of liberal initiatives. We’ll see if that works; l suspect they’ll cancel each other out.
Her speech was a Jell-O mold of a sort my Aunt Millie used to make — blandly gelatinous in flavor and texture with little pieces of boilerplate left-liberal policy suspended in it like peach chunks from a three-week-old can. I can’t think of another one of these events when the presidential candidate’s acceptance address ended up solidly in the running for the more-than-dubious honor of being the worst speech of the convention.
The editors point out that she’s trying to sell herself as the candidate of change without giving any sense of what she would do differently than President Obama:
Barack Obama, with his pen and his telephone — and his solid Democratic majorities during the first years of his presidency — did not actually do very much to revive American economic dynamism. He poured billions of dollars into pet projects for politically connected firms such as Solyndra and daffy green-energy projects that have not paid off while the ever-more-aggressive regulators under his control have applied something between a foot on the brake and a foot on the neck of the economy. If Mrs. Clinton objected to any of that, she was strangely quiet about it. If she has better ideas, she did not voice any of them. Where has she been since 1992 if not near the levers of power?
It isn’t that we expected Hillary Rodham Clinton to trash President Obama as he passed the Democrats’ baton to her. But if her platform is to be more of the same, then she should say as much. If her aim is to be a “change maker,” as her husband called her, then she owes the voters an explanation of exactly how and why the Obama administration failed to do what she believes it should have done. Blaming congressional Republicans for having different views and nonconforming policy preferences will not do.
She’s basically promising the same approach and policies will deliver much better results than we have now.
I’m afraid David Harsanyi is right:
The Democrats put on a pretty solid convention, with memorable moments from both big names and average citizens. There were cops, moms, soldiers, and business people praising traditional American institutions like they’re rock-ribbed Republicans. But think about this: At a convention where an old-school socialist was celebrated in nearly every speech, the hard-left ideas of the Progressive Movement were wrapped in Reaganesque rhetorical flourishes and sold as American idealism. Don’t get me wrong, these people can still fearmonger with the best of them on guns, global warming, etc. — but Trump’s austere worldview and pessimism gave Democrats ownership of ideas about exceptionalism, meritocracy, and national optimism.
This is because Democrats understand incrementalism and the long game in a way conservatives don’t seem to. They pass Obamacare. They wait out the storm. They contend that fixing Obamacare’s variety of problems can only be accomplished with more liberal policy. Move forward; push for more whenever the nation’s climate allows it. If not, they’ll be happy to appropriate whatever political vernacular allows them to retain their gains. Conservatives act like every stalemate is a bitter defeat and every small victory is useless. And here they are.
Here’s a surprise: After two nights of higher ratings than the Republicans in Cleveland, the ratings dropped for Democrats on night three: “Even with all the big names onstage last night, convention-to-convention, the combined rating of the DNC stumbled against Donald Trump and the RNC. Day 3 in Philadelphia was down 18% in the fast affiliates key demo from the drama of Day 3 in Cleveland when Ted Cruz refused to endorse the candidate and running mate Mike Pence spoke.”