US Elections 2016

Sense of history unites Democratic Party

Mrs Clinton, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, is the first woman to become the flag-bearer of a major party.
Mrs Clinton, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday, is the first woman to become the flag-bearer of a major party.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Heckling ends as Clinton becomes first woman presidential nominee

At 6.43pm on Tuesday (6.43am, Wednesday, Singapore time), the Twitter account of former United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton posted an update with a single word: History.

Moments earlier, delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia had selected her as the party's presidential nominee, making Mrs Clinton the first woman in the 238-year history of the US to become the flag-bearer of a major party.

The sense of history appeared to sweep away much of the chaos that plagued the first day of the convention on Monday. Though some hardcore supporters of Mrs Clinton's main campaign rival Bernie Sanders staged a walkout, the heckling and booing had ceased.

Instead, one speaker after another pointed out the enormity of the moment. Said Congressman John Lewis, who delivered a speech to second the nomination of Mrs Clinton: "Eight years ago our party, the Democratic Party, nominated and elected the first person of colour to ever serve in the White House, not just for one term but two terms.

 

"Tonight, on this night, we will shatter that glass ceiling again."

Her nomination gave way to a more united front in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Instead of booing nearly every mention of Mrs Clinton's name, the most faithful of Mr Sanders' supporters decided to leave the convention rather than disrupt it.

For a second day running, Mr Sanders was deeply involved in the unity efforts, repeating his call for calm and making the symbolic gesture of asking his delegates to back his rival during the official roll call vote.

Just as Mrs Clinton had done for Mr Barack Obama in 2008, Mr Sanders called for a vote by acclamation to officially nominate Mrs Clinton.

"I move that all votes cast by delegates be reflected in the official record, and I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States," he said, even as some of his supporters wiped away tears.

From that point forward, the party convention appeared to get back on track as speaker after speaker praised the crowd for creating history.

Actress Meryl Streep noted how far the country had come since women first got the right to vote in 1920.

"Nearly 100 years after women got the vote, you people have made history and you're going to make history again in November because Hillary Clinton will be our first woman president, and she will be a great president," she said.

There was also a parade of speakers who focused on outlining Mrs Clinton's many achievements, from her time as a law student in the 1970s to her recent position as secretary of state.

The headliners of the night were former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Mrs Clinton's husband and former president Bill Clinton, who made his first appearance at a convention as a supporting spouse.

And though most of the night was pitched almost as a reintroduction of Mrs Clinton, Ms Albright did land some punches on Mr Donald Trump.

"Many have argued that Donald would harm our national security if he were elected president. The fact is, he has already done damage just by running for president," she said.

At the end of the night, the carefully scripted programme returned to the glass ceiling theme.

Few in the arena knew what to expect when the lights went down and the jumbotron started flashing the images of all 44 male US presidents in order. Then the collage of their faces smashed to the sound of glass breaking to reveal Mrs Clinton beaming in live from New York to address the audience.

"I can't believe we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet," she said.

"And if there are any little girls out there who stayed up late to watch, let me just say I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2016, with the headline 'Sense of history unites Democratic Party'. Print Edition | Subscribe