“Stronger together” is Hillary Clinton’s campaign motto, and she aims to put it to the test as a Democratic nominee seeking one of the widest political coalitions in recent memory.
“I will be a president for Democrats, Republicans, and independents,” she said as she accepted her party’s nomination for the presidency, the first woman to do so in US history.
Her convention managed to simultaneously, if not always comfortably, gather everyone from left-wing, anti-war activists and four-star Marine generals to union leaders and US Chamber of Commerce lobbyists in the same arena. It featured appeals to progressives and calls for economic justice, as well as the world’s eighth-richest man endorsing Clinton as the “sane and competent” choice for independent voters.
“I’ve heard you,” Clinton said in her nomination acceptance speech, directly addressing the boisterous progressive supporters of her rival in the primaries, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. “Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy and passion.”
In a striking white suit, Clinton quoted the musical Hamilton about joining the fight for a legacy, and referenced Ronald Reagan as she criticized Republican rival Donald Trump for taking his party “a long way from ‘Morning in America,’ to ‘Midnight in America.’”
The night before, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, US president Barack Obama, and Clinton’s running mate, Virginia senator Tim Kaine, made outright appeals to disaffected Republicans to join Democrats in backing Clinton.
The speeches had pundits musing about the potential of an electoral realignment, a true schism in the Republican party prompted by Trump’s injection of populism into a conservative party.
“A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons,” Clinton said to huge applause.
In the 2012 presidential election, the two parties split the college-educated vote roughly down the middle. With notable figures from business, politics, and the military saying that Trump vs. Clinton isn’t a test of political ideas but of basic American values—a typical election message but one that is rarely delivered in bipartisan chorus—it may be possible for Clinton to secure a much bigger chunk of this group, which made up about a third of voters in 2012.
Post-convention polling, and the November election results, will be needed to prove such a major change correct. A poll taken before the two conventions found that Clinton had a small lead among more educated voters. So far, however, most public opinion surveys suggest that voters are breaking around party lines, with each party’s voters solidifying around their nominee.
Clinton’s convention began with a focus on the main drivers of the Obama coalition—women, young people, minorities, and progressives—in an effort to bring together the party after Sanders pulled it to the left with his spirited primary challenge. But by the third day, it had pivoted to themes of patriotism and competency, an effort to brand the party as the sensible, steady big tent for people who like America and, darn it, just want to get a few things done.
“I’ve worked across the aisle to pass laws and treaties and to launch new programs that help millions of people,” Clinton said tonight, prompting scattered jeers from Sanders delegates before widespread chants of her name drowned them out.
These delegates are reluctant to embrace an influx of more moderate backers after a primary they saw as a referendum on the Democratic party’s shift to the lift. But Clinton’s call for a “bold agenda to improve the lives of people across the country” has no shortage of hints at an activist government, a reminder that a shift in college-educated voters is likely just a temporary option until a more conventional Republican emerges in Trump’s place.
Clinton still runs the risk that too many liberals look to third-party candidates or simply don’t vote. But the opportunity to put together what could be a historic election run proved irresistible to Clinton’s campaign.
“America’s destiny is ours to choose,” Clinton concluded. “So let’s be stronger together, my fellow Americans!”