PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA-At the end of her speech on Independence Mall Monday night, which was not the last speech she would give on the last full day of the campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the lie to anyone who ever called her emotionless or calculating.
(The fact that 33,000 people crammed themselves into the mall itself gave the lie to anyone who ever said she couldn’t draw a crowd.)
At the end of her speech, at the end of a night that saw performances by Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, her husband, and both Obamas-a bill that the late Bill Graham would have thrown together had he ever opened a Fillmore for politics-she talked about the campaign that was staggering toward its drunken demise like Edgar Allan Poe on his last trip around the track at Absinthe Downs.
“I regret deeply how angry the tone of the campaign became.”
At which point, a voice in the crowd replied, “Not your fault,” to the delight of all. The candidate herself smiled and simply couldn’t resist.
“And by the way, did any of you see those debates? Well, I stood next to Donald Trump for four and a half hours proving conclusively, I have the stamina to be president and commander in chief!”
It was hard to blame her. In the minds of so many people, as predicted in certain quarters, it was her fault simply because she ran for president, just as the entire quarter-century of ratfcking aimed in her direction has been her fault simply for existing in the political sphere in the first place. This is how people can argue, seriously, that the whole e-mail frenzy would have subsided if she’d only handed everything going back to her high-school diary over to the tender ministrations of the likes of Trey Gowdy and Jason Chaffetz. She has been the target of so much weaponized bad faith that a tiny jab after a sincere expression of regret is the mildest reply to which she is more than entitled.
Down at the other end of the mall, a long time ago, a bunch of powdered wigs and knee-breeches got together twice. The first time, they spit in an empire’s eye the way very few people in the history of the world had. The second time, they realized how badly they’d screwed up in building a nation and, in secret, they threw that one out and created a new country-or, if you will, “a more perfect union.” During the first of these gatherings, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband, John, explaining to him that she understood full well what he and the rest of the distinguished Penis-Americans were up to:
“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”
During the second of these gatherings, the one where they torched one plan of government and wrote themselves another, the assembled elites confounded themselves on the issue of human slavery. This, of course, was camouflaged as a debate between the “small” and “large” states, and it was solved by the odious three-fifths compromise, whereby black residents of the new United States of America would be counted as three-fifths of a human being, an arrangement that guaranteed the states in which they were considered property a strong enough position in the new government to prevent any change in that peculiar arrangement.
At the time, James Madison, himself a slaveholder, saw clearly that they’d all placed a land mine in the infrastructure of the new nation they’d created.
“It seems now to be pretty well understood that the real difference of interests lies not between the large and small but between the northern and southern states. The institution of slavery and its consequences form the line of discrimination.”
So all that happened in the brick building with the white cupola that had 33,000 people of different races and genders between it and the podium where the first African-American President of the United States explained why he wanted to hand the job to the first woman President of the United States. If it’s possible to be rueful and powerful at the same time, the president managed to do it.
“I’m betting that America will reject a politics of resentment, a politics of blame, and choose a politics that says we are stronger together. I’m betting you will reject fear and choose hope. I’m betting that the wisdom, the decency and generosity of the American people will once again win the day. And that’s a bet that I’ve never, ever lost.”
And, at that moment, I swear to on high, over the tumult of the crowd, the bells in the tower of Independence Hall began to ring. That was quite a thing.
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