On Thursday, Hillary Clinton will accept the nomination to be the 45th President of the United States. As I write this, Bernie Sanders has finally bowed to the greater good and, despite the foot-stamping of the small remaining caucus of the left’s reality refuseniks, nominated her in a carefully choreographed handover that lesser political organisations than the Democratic Party could well have mismanaged. The unity is palpable, not least because the stakes are so high. As in 2008, the Democrats understand that political parties exist to win political power in political elections. We might wonder if on another continent another irascible, egotistical protestor of a previous generation and electorally failed outlook might do the same, putting personal ambition and piety of postured principle aside to allow a united progressive party to face the electorate with government rather than annihilation as its prospect at the polls. After all, no party in history has won an election by speaking to its grassroots: it takes the building of a consensus to win a majority. You may draw your own parallels, but I shouldn’t digress.
Hillary will take the stage in prime time, a little over 48 hours from now. It will be the speech of her life. Sure it will be well crafted. They have some of the finest wordsmiths around. But damn, Hillary will have a tough oratorical act to follow. I don’t mean The Bern, of course, whose slogan might better be “Feel the luke-warmly reheated rehash.”
I mean the superb Michelle Obama. Whether this came from FLOTUS or the brilliantly gifted Sarah Hurwitz, her long serving lead speechwriter – I suspect the latter – it’s up there with the great phrases of American oratory. It is warm, personal yet universal. It mixes plain language with Presbyterian cadences, contrast hammering home every point. She captures the American Dream, that intangible and universal sense that the next generation will inherit a better life and fulfil their potential. And damn, if it doesn’t sound presidential while thumping – or Trumping – the nasty, divisive “Make America Great Again” rhetorical of that bouffant bigot.
I have a huge respect for Michelle Obama. And with speeches like this, she fulfils one of the key criteria for a political leader: the power to persuade, to reach out and draw in. It’s brilliant:
Leaders like Hillary Clinton, who has the guts and the grace to keep coming back and putting those cracks in that highest and hardest glass ceiling until she finally breaks through, lifting all of us along with her. (Applause.)
That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves — (applause) — and I watch my daughters –- two beautiful, intelligent, black young women –- playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. (Applause.) And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters –- and all our sons and daughters -– now take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States. (Applause.)
So don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this, right now, is the greatest country on earth. (Applause.) And as my daughters prepare to set out into the world, I want a leader who is worthy of that truth, a leader who is worthy of my girls’ promise and all our kids’ promise, a leader who will be guided every day by the love and hope and impossibly big dreams that we all have for our children.
The strongest stuff.
And of the speaker? She is a sharp mind, a capable woman resolutely unshadowed by her husband, a black mother able to articulate both hope and fear for what faces her kids, and an example of the American Dream in action.
In 2024, if she runs, by God, I’m in.