“When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit,” Hillary Clinton told the roaring crowd at Wells Fargo Arena late Thursday night in Philadelphia as she accepted the Democratic nomination for president.
Indeed, it was a truly successful convention for the Democrats.
The theme of the night, which can be best summed up as focusing on faith, family and the flag, tried to push back on criticism that the Democrats haven’t focused enough on national security and continue to humanize Hillary Clinton.
And it was largely successful in these endeavors.
We heard a rousing speech from General John Allen, a retired United States Marine Corps four-star general, who declared "I have no doubt that she is the leader we need at this time to keep our country safe, and I trust her with that most sacred responsibility of commander in chief.” He continued, "We believe in her vision of an America as a just and strong leader against the forces of hatred, the forces of chaos and darkness. We know that she, as no other, knows how to use all instruments of American power, not just the military, to keep us all safe and free."
As he walked off the stage flanked by other members of the military to cheers of U-S-A, it became clear that the Democrats had put on the most patriotic show of either convention.
For her part, Chelsea showed early promise as a politician. She spoke lovingly of her mother, the role Hillary plays in her grandchildren’s lives and all the former secretary of state has done for working families and, especially, women and children in her long career.
Chelsea painted a picture of a family that we can all relate to – something that not many have been able to accomplish when it comes to the Clintons.
Indeed, this was a compelling event and a raucous enthusiastic crowd.
But that doesn’t mean that it will be smooth sailing for Clinton and the Democrats going forward.
It remains an open question as to whether chants of U-S-A, General Allen’s words and the moving advocacy of Mr. Khan, the father of a Muslim Army officer who was killed in Iraq, will fundamentally alter perceptions of the Democrats and Secretary Clinton as weak on national security and undermine Donald Trump’s assertive and sometimes jingoistic calls for eliminating ISIS.
Today, over 80 percent of Americans aren’t confident that we would be able to stop a terrorist attack on American soil.
It’s also not clear that Clinton can win by running on Barack Obama's record, notwithstanding the compelling personal advocacy by Bill Clinton and Joe Biden earlier this week.
Close to 60 percent of Americans feel that we’re still in a recession and 70 percent think the country is on the wrong track. Without proposing radically different policies – especially in a year where voters want radical change – it’s a steep task for Clinton to win this November.
Furthermore, Clinton is a polarizing politician although she has tried to make the issue of unity a central theme of her campaign with calls for the Americans to be stronger together, to work together and to thrive together.
To do this, she doubled down Thursday night on attacks on Donald Trump. She accused the Republican nominee of inciting fear and failing at every aspect of his life and career in the private sector. And while many of her claims are true, there’s no doubt that her rhetoric can be polarizing.
Will it work? Possibly.
But with the polls turning against the former secretary of state before the convention, it remains an open question as to whether the convention and particularly her speech on Thursday night will fundamentally alter the dynamic of the presidential campaign.
Clinton’s betting a lot on being able to persuade people that America remains strong and powerful with an optimistic electorate.
We’ll know soon if it’s a smart bet.