The big story of the Democratic convention is that those two things were not in contradiction. This is the case due to a confluence of factors unique to this election, not least that the GOP has nominated a person who is dangerously insane.
Yesterday, this tale of two conventions was neatly captured by a juxtaposition of images. Speaking to supporters in Iowa, Trump railed that he was going to “hit” one of the Democratic convention speakers “so hard” that his “head” would “spin,” describing him as a “very little guy.” (This is probably Michael Bloomberg, who was driven to speak out against Trump after witnessing his rage-and-hate convention.) Not long after that, the father of a Muslim American U.S. Army captain who was killed in combat tore into Trump from the stage of the Democratic convention, pointing out that if Trump had his way, the young man “would never have been in America,” while Clinton has described him as “the best of America.”
The fact that the Dem convention offered a bold stand in defense of Muslim Americans is remarkable in an election that Trump hopes will be largely about Clinton’s (and Obama’s) alleged weakness in confronting terrorism.
But, because of Trump’s uniquely troubling temperament and his explicitly xenophobic campaign, there is space here for Clinton to both reaffirm the party’s commitment to American values of pluralism and tolerance while simultaneously becoming the candidate of unity and stability. This Clinton attempted at great length, ripping into Trump’s vow to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country, his promise of a Great Trumpian Wall on the southern border, and his authoritarianism, all of which were cast as a threat to the American experiment. She also tore into his ignorance of world affairs and temperamental volatility: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
However, Clinton also laid out a surprisingly progressive economic agenda. She declared her opposition to trade deals that shaft American workers, and declared her support for expanding Social Security, for raising the minimum wage, for more spending on job creation, job training and infrastructure repair, for expanded child care and paid family leave, and for higher taxes on the rich and corporations.
Such offerings, of course, were designed to shore up her support among Bernie Sanders voters, whom Clinton thanked for their civic engagement and contribution to forcing a robust economic debate in the primaries, which was both appropriate and important. But it also represented an effort to show that a progressive economic agenda can be sold to voters who have been drifting to the GOP. She explicitly allowed that Democrats “haven’t done a good enough job” at showing what working people are “going through,” and what the party would do to help them. That’s an effort to get the blue collar whites who are seduced by Trumpism to give the Democrats’ economic agenda another look.
Now, there’s no telling whether that will actually work. Trump may still win blue collar whites by lopsided margins with his message that trade deals propped up by a rigged system have shafted American workers, and he’d blow all that up and make everyone rich again. But the point is that Trump’s singularly unsuitable temperament, long trail of questionable business practices, and fraudulent policy agenda (all of which she aired out last night) perhaps provide a real opening to win at least some of those voters — or at least limit Trump’s margin among them — with a progressive economic agenda.
As John Cassidy reports, some Dem strategists think that the way to win back working class voters is by talking about rewriting the rules of the economy in a fundamental way, as opposed to merely promising to build on Obama’s successes. This Clinton did, at least in part, by promising to eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and by explicitly linking the economy’s distribution of wealth to the need for political reform — an effort to reach voters who feel that Trump is speaking to their sense that the system is rigged against them.
In sum, Clinton positioned herself as the unifier by reaffirming our commitment to diversifying America in a way that might appeal to GOP-leaning voters such as suburban women and college educated whites; tried to repackage a progressive economic agenda in ways that might appeal to GOP-leaning working class voters; and seized on Trump’s tripwire temperament to cast herself as the only qualified commander in chief in the eyes of all those same GOP-leaning groups.
Time will tell whether Clinton convincingly showed she is tough enough to handle terror in the face of Trump’s strongman appeals and demonstrated that she understands people’s economic struggles and has real solutions to them. But the point is that, if she is in the process of succeeding at those things — and if she succeeds in both moving to the left while simultaneously expanding the Democratic Party’s appeal among GOP-leaning voter groups — Trump’s unique unsuitability for the job may be why.
* HOW CLINTON DISPELLED ‘TRUST’ ISSUE: With large majorities still saying Clinton is not honest or trustworthy, Michael Barbaro makes a smart point: Clinton asked Americans to trust her in a different kind of way:
Besieged by lingering doubts about her honesty, Mrs. Clinton made the case for a different kind of trust onstage in Philadelphia: not the textbook definition, but a more pragmatic faith in her judgment, experience, temperament and priorities. She asked voters to trust her instincts, reciting an old saying she learned in the Methodist Church. She asked them to trust in her compassion.
She argued her judgment and temperament are dependable, a case that is perhaps made more compelling by the nature of the alternative.
* TRUMP AND CLINTON SET TO GET INTEL BRIEFINGS: Now that the conventions are over, both Trump and Clinton are set to receive their classified briefings sooner rather than later:
The two candidates will get their first intelligence briefings as early as next week. American intelligence officials will soon contact the two campaigns to schedule a wide-ranging briefing for each on global conflicts, the status of America’s military campaigns overseas and the latest maneuverings by foreign governments, both friend and foe.
Meanwhile, some Republicans are actually arguing with a straight face that Trump can be trusted to receive these briefings, while Clinton can’t.
* WHY DEMS AREN’T TOO WORRIED ABOUT ‘WRONG TRACK’ NUMBERS: Trump’s team is already scoffing at Clinton’s speech by noting she’s running for a third term amid high wrong-track numbers. But Dan Balz explains the Dem thinking on this:
Clinton and her team say the election will not turn on those indicators alone….They note that there are other statistics that suggest the public is of mixed minds about the conditions. The most important of those is President Obama’s approval ratings, which are now averaging just above 50 percent. If history is a guide, that bodes well for the Democrats in November.
The Trump team is badly overestimating the significance of those wrong-track numbers, just as Republicans overread the significance of Romney’s advantage on the economy in 2012.
* HOW CLINTON IS MAKING A PLAY FOR (SOME) REPUBLICANS: Politico notes that some of the convention pageantry (the appearance by retired general John Allen) shows one way Clinton hopes to win over at least a few Republicans:
The Clinton campaign believes it has an opportunity with suburban, national security-minded voters who backed Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush. The message, in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, is that Trump is too dangerous and unsteady to be trusted in serious times—while, implicitly, Clinton is an experienced, and, as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it, “sane” leader.
Of course, there is no way Clinton could possibly be seen as better on national security by any voters, because Trump is manly and strong and vows to crush the enemy effortlessly without any foreign entanglements.
* A CLOSE RACE…IN MISSOURI? A new St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll finds a dead heat in Missouri, with Clinton at 41 percent and Trump at 40 percent.
The polling averages show Trump leading in the state by eight points, so grain of salt and all that. But keep an eye on polls coming from states outside the traditional battlegrounds to see if Dems are, indeed, expanding the map.
* AND GOP IS QUIET ABOUT TRUMP-PUTIN BROMANCE: Paul Krugman observes this about Trump’s willingness to upend NATO and his flirtation with Putin:
What strikes me most is the silence of so many leading Republicans in the face of behavior they would have denounced as treason coming from a Democrat — not to mention the active support for Mr. Trump’s stance among many in the base.
Indeed, as I’ve reported, some GOP-aligned national security professionals are also dismayed by the refusal of GOP officials to step up and call out Trump on this.