Hillary Electrifies: "Nothing Less Than the Fate of Our Nation ... Hangs in the Balance"
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Hillary Clinton urged her supporters to rally behind Barack Obama in a passionate and forceful address at the Democratic convention on Tuesday night that underscored her historic candidacy as the first woman to come within reach of a major political party's presidential nomination.
"I am so honored to be here tonight. I am here tonight as a proud mother, as a proud Democrat, as a proud senator from New York, a proud American and a proud supporter of Barack Obama," Clinton began, eliciting a rousing ovation. "My friends, it is time to take back the country we love, and whether you voted for me or you voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose."
"We are on the same team, and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines," Clinton continued. "This is a fight for the future, and it is a fight we must win together. I haven't spent the past 35 years in the trenches, advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women's rights here at home and around the world to see another Republican in the White House squander our promise. No way, no how, no McCain."
Clinton cemented her place as one of the Democratic Party's great modern leaders and used that authority to urge her supporters to join forces behind Obama. She described how her 18-month quest to the White House not only transformed herself, but also was a historic milestone in the ongoing struggle for woman's rights in America and the world.
"Tonight I ask you to remember what a presidential election is really about," she said. "When the polls are closed, and when the ads are off the air, it comes down to your lives and your children's future."
Clinton recounted people she met on the campaign trail -- a young mother without health care who was diagnosed with cancer; an injured veteran who asked her to take care of fellow soldiers still at war before helping him; and others -- and said, "You taught me so much, and you made me laugh, and yes, you even made me cry. You allowed me to become part of your lives, and you became part of mine."
"Most of all I ran to stand up for all those who have been invisible to their government for eight years," she said. "Those are the reasons I ran for president, and those are the reasons I support Barack Obama for president."
These statements brought tears to the eyes of some delegates at the convention. Clinton then shifted from recounting her experience as a candidate to the imperative of electing a Democrat to the White House. While other speakers earlier in the evening, notably a succession of successful Democratic governors from traditionally Republican states, spoke of Obama's candidacy as a choice between the past and the future, Clinton described the stakes in more personal terms. She then challenged her supporters, including many delegates who were still struggling with Obama's victory, to look beyond their feelings to work for the good of the country.
"I want you to ask yourselves, were you in this campaign just for me," she asked, "or were you in it for that young Marine? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?"
Clinton then recounted key points from her campaign, from health care for all to energy independence based on green-collar jobs, saying these were part of the Democrats' agenda and adding that she was looking forward to Obama signing bills on those issues into law as president. She then contrasted that agenda with Republican proposals led by the GOP presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Citing issues of equal pay for equal work for women, reviving the economy, ending the war in Iraq and restoring America's reputation in international affairs, Clinton said McCain was not offering Americans new solutions to today's pressing problems. Instead, she said the Republican nominee's agenda was so similar to that of the Bush White House that "it makes perfect sense that John McCain and George W. Bush will be together in the Twin Cities (in Minnesota for the Republican convention), because these days they are awful hard to tell apart."
Clinton ended her speech by citing the decades-long struggle for women's rights in America. She recalled the first suffragists who sought voting rights for women and fought for years against the longest of odds. She spoke of Harriet Tubman, the runaway slave, who told people never to stop fighting for freedom and dignity. She told the Democrats that her mother was born before women had the right to vote and her daughter was able to vote for her mother for president, as a testament to progress in America. And she urged all Democrats to work in that spirit to elect Obama.
"We don't have a moment to lose or a vote to spare," Clinton said. "Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hangs in the balance."
Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at Alternet.org. He is the author of Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting (AlterNet Books, 2008) and co-author of What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election , with Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman (New Press, 2006).