Evaluation: Hillary Clinton’s Acceptance Speech

As I did last week for Donald Trump, I’m evaluating Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech solely on how well it communicated its positions to the audience. I’m not going to critique her political positions, so don’t be disappointed if my comments don’t line up with whatever your feelings are about Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

Let’s start with the challenge Donald Trump set up for Hillary Clinton this week. She had to counter the charges he and the GOP have leveled against her, remind the audience of their own fears about him, and show a common touch and the ability to connect with ordinary Americans. How well did she do?

Very well, actually.

In contrast to the dark and fearful images of America Trump presented last week, Hillary Clinton’s speech showed a more optimistic and determined view of the country.

But just look for a minute at the strengths we bring as Americans to meet these challenges. We have the most dynamic and diverse people in the world. We have the most tolerant and generous young people we’ve ever had. We have the most powerful military, the most innovative entrepreneurs, the most enduring values – freedom and equality, justice and opportunity. We should be so proud that those words are associated with us. I have to tell you, as your Secretary of State, I went to 112 countries. When people hear those words, they hear America.

So don’t let anyone tell you that our country is weak. We’re not. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes. We do.

She challenged Trump’s argument that he is the savior that can fix our nation’s problems.

And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says, “I alone can fix it.” 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?…Americans don’t say, “I alone fix can it.” We say, “We’ll fix it together.”

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.

She not only showed that Donald Trump was wrong, she showed he was outside of American history and values. She even attacked him using humor.

He spoke for 70-odd minutes – and I do mean odd.

Such humor seems uncharacteristic for a woman who is usually perceived as distant and cryptic. Hillary sought to address those perceptions in her speech.

[T]hrough all these years of public service, the service part has always come easier to me than the public part. I get it that some people just don’t know what to make of me.

She would later touch on her reputation as a policy wonk and turned what some consider an annoyance to a strength.

So it’s true. I sweat the details of policy, whether we’re talking about the exact level of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan the number of mental health facilities in Iowa, or the cost of your prescription drugs. Because it’s not just a detail if it’s your kid, if it’s your family. It’s a big deal. And it should be a big deal to your president, too.

She then used her focus on plans and details to attack Donald Trump adding, “And he offered zero solutions. But we already know he doesn’t believe these things. No wonder he doesn’t like talking about his plans. You might have noticed, I love talking about mine.”

Overall, Hillary Clinton effectively countered Donald Trump’s speech last week by letting us know more about herself and her plans as president. She depicted Donald Trump as a dangerous demagogue who is outside of American history and values and “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” She didn’t address the specific charges against her, but she used her background and experience to show that she is someone the public can trust.

She gave a great appeal to reason, but Donald Trump operates on our fears. Even she acknowledged this by saying, “He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise…He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.” But fear is a powerful motivator. If something terrible happens in our country between now and the election (and don’t think our enemies have something in mind), it could sway a frightened populace towards Trump. However, a strong leader can reassure people during difficult times. The challenge Hillary Clinton faces between now and November (and after January 20 if she is elected) is if she can keep our citizens calm, focused, and united when the worst happens.

The acceptance speeches Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave are just the start of what will undoubtedly be one of the hotly contested presidential elections we’ve seen. The speeches they’ll give in the next few months will determine who we can trust to be in the White House.