Hillary vs. you

James Taranto analyzed Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention speech to prove a point about Hillary’s belief that “It takes a village to (do something that requires a new or expanded government program in her view)”:

Hillary Clinton reminded us of what is least appealing about Donald Trump. She then proceeded to remind us of what is least appealing about her. (To be more precise, what is least appealing about her apart from the corruption and nepotism.)

“Don’t believe anyone who says, ‘I alone can fix it,’ ” she exhorted the audience at home and here, in the Wells Fargo Center:

Yes, those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland. And they should set off alarm bells for all of us. Really? I alone can fix it? Isn’t he forgetting troops on the front lines, police officers and firefighters who run toward danger, doctors and nurses who care for us, teachers who change lives, entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem, mothers who lost children to violence and are building a movement to keep other kids safe? He’s forgetting every last one of us.

And remember, remember, our Founders fought a Revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power.

Two hundred forty years later, we still put our faith in each other. Look at what happened in Dallas after the assassinations of five brave police officers. Police Chief David Brown asked the community to support his force, maybe even join them. And you know how the community responded? Nearly 500 people applied in just 12 days.

That’s how Americans answer when the call for help goes out.

This was excellent work by Mrs. Clinton’s speechwriters, at once inspiring to the listener and merciless to her opponent.

In fairness to Trump, it was based on a misinterpretation of his comment—and surely a deliberate one, as there is no question of the literacy of Mrs. Clinton’s speechwriters. Here is what he said … in Cleveland, with some context:

I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves.

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it. I have seen firsthand how the system is rigged against our citizens, just like it was rigged against Bernie Sanders—he never had a chance.

(As an aside, that last bit turned out to be truer than anybody outside the Democratic National Committee and WikiLeaks knew, didn’t it?

Trump didn’t say, “I can fix it alone,” which is the claim Mrs. Clinton rebutted so effectively. His meaning was Only I can fix it—a more highly energetic formulation of a vanquished rival’s slogan, “Jeb can fix it.” Whether it is true that Trump can fix it, or that nobody else can fix it, is an open question.

But understood properly, the claim is no more than a bit of promotional hyperbole, similar to the assertion, often repeated in Philadelphia (though not by Mrs. Clinton herself) that she is the “most qualified” man, woman, other type of adult, or child ever to seek the presidency. It’s laughable when taken literally, but then so are most sales pitches.

Further, “I alone can fix it” had rubbed us the wrong way, and the subtle difference between it and “I can fix it alone” didn’t occur to us until after Mrs. Clinton had finished speaking and we were thinking about what to write about her speech. That means it likely occurred to very few of her listeners. And by the standards of political rhetoric, her twisting of his meaning was quite mild.

In sum, Mrs. Clinton effectively exploited her opponent’s poorly chosen phrase, and did so in a way that was almost fair. Good show. But then she went on:

Twenty years ago I wrote a book called It Takes a Village. And a lot of people looked at the title and asked, what the heck do you mean by that? This is what I mean. None of us can raise a family, build a business, heal a community or lift a country totally alone.

America needs every one of us to lend our energy, our talents, our ambition to making our nation better and stronger. I believe that with all my heart. That’s why “stronger together” is not just a lesson from our history, it’s not just a slogan for our campaign, it’s a guiding principle for the country we’ve always been and the future we’re going to build, a country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top.

In the first part of her passage, she spoke of archetypal individuals—the soldier, the policeman, the teacher. That was an invitation to listeners to think of particular individuals they know and admire.

But then she got to “the village,” where everyone is subsumed in a drab collective to “heal a community or lift a country”—whatever that might mean. In the lengthy programmatic portion of her speech, Mrs. Clinton made clear that it means an ever-expanding army of administrators paid by taxpayers to meddle in their lives.

“He doesn’t like talking about his plans,” Mrs. Clinton said of Trump. “You might have noticed I love talking about mine.” Someone inclined toward individualism might reasonably conclude that Trump alone might possibly leave you alone.

One other disjunction struck us about Mrs. Clinton’s speech and the convention. Especially during the closing night, the Democrats made a great show of patriotism.American flags were everywhere during Mrs. Clinton’s speech. One wondered if the Democrats had given up on identity-politics balkanization, in favor of the American identity.

Sorry, no. Toward the end of her speech, Mrs. Clinton said this:

And we will defend all our rights, civil rights, human rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights and the rights of people with disabilities.

Without disputing the merits of any of the “rights” Mrs. Clinton enumerated, we will observe that each of them (with the possible exception of “human rights”) is an appeal to a particular voting bloc.

And what about constitutional rights? Well, Mrs. Clinton pledged that she would curtail the right of free speech: “If necessary, we will pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!” She didn’t mention that Citizens United vindicated the right to distribute a movie critical of Hillary Clinton.

She also said: “I’m not here to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not here to take away your guns.” Uh-huh, and there was no classified information, and Nixon was not a crook.

Mrs. Clinton was easier to listen to than we’d expected; having attended both nominees’ acceptance speeches, we are surprised to report that Trump’s was considerably shoutier. Although it runs counter to conventional expectations, we are less surprised to report the Democratic Convention was much more fractious than the Republican one. Mrs. Clinton was interrupted at least a dozen times by hecklers, who were quickly drowned out by chants of HIL-LA-RY!

All in all, the Democrats put on a good show and made a strong effort to disqualify Trump as a crazy, risky candidate. They even made explicit appeals to Republicans and conservatives. But Mrs. Clinton made clear last night that she is anything but conservative. And the Real Clear Politics polling average finds 68.9% of Americans saying the country is on the “wrong track.” … We’ll find out if the Dems’ appeal to risk-aversion is enough to overcome all that.



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