Hillary Clinton became the first woman to accept a major party’s presidential nomination Thursday with a nod toward her history-making moment and a muscular, populist-tinged argument for her candidacy.
Clinton pledged to focus on job creation and wage growth as her presidency’s primary mission. And borrowing some liberal heat from Bernie Sanders, her vanquished primary rival, she said she’ll pay for ambitious investments in infrastructure and expanding social welfare programs by hiking taxes on “Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich.”
Such tax increases wouldn’t be punitive, she said, “because when more than 90 percent of the gains go to the top 1 percent, that’s where the money is.” But earlier, she acknowledged that her approach to business would be shaped by an interest in restoring a sense of fairness.
“I believe American corporations that have gotten so much from our country should be just as patriotic in return,” Clinton said. “Many of them are. But too many aren’t. It’s wrong to take tax breaks with one hand and give out pink slips with the other.” And she suggested companies need to do more to share profits with workers rather than “pad executive bonuses.”
Despite the barbs for business, Clinton’s message in full was hopeful, channeling the ethos of her husband’s declaration in his first inaugural address that there’s nothing wrong with American that can’t be cured by what’s right with it. “Now we are clear-eyed about what our country is up against,” the Democratic nominee said Thursday. “But we are not afraid. We will rise to the challenge, just as we always have.”
Clinton made clear she will be bringing a lengthy to-do list into the Oval Office — with plans to tackle reforms of immigration and criminal justice laws, a minimum wage hike, and clean energy initiatives, among others. And she pledged to get through it by minding the hard work of mastering policy arcana and forging alliances across the aisle. Her strength in those unflashy categories of leadership, she seemed to suggest, account for her weakness as a salesperson — a failing that’s let her unfavorable marks climb throughout the campaign. “The truth is, through all these years of public service, the ‘service’ part has always come easier to me than the ‘public’ part,” Clinton said. “I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.”
On the biggest stage she’s ever commanded, Clinton aimed to address that deficit by offering some autobiography. She told the story of how her mother survived a hardscrabble childhood thanks to the kindnesses of others — and then instilled in her the Methodist credo: “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as ever you can.”
The candidate contrasted that commitment to service with Donald Trump’s record, launching a blistering attack on the Republican nominee and calling him temperamentally unfit for the presidency. For those thinking Trump’s business background qualifies him as an economic steward, Clinton pointed to his failures in Atlantic City and his practice of manufacturing Trump brand products abroad. And she said he’s far too erratic to serve as commander-in-chief. “Donald Trump can’t even handle the rough-and-tumble of a presidential campaign,” she said. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
More, she said, Trump’s fear-stoking campaign miscasts the country he seeks to lead. “It comes down to what Donald Trump doesn’t get: that America is great — because America is good.”