November 07, 2016
This was supposed to be the backdrop for the first day of Hillary Clinton’s post-DNC presidential-campaign push.
Instead – reacting to inclement-weather reports that never came to be – Hillary Clinton, running mate Tim Kaine and their spouses traded in the patriotic backdrop of American democracy’s birthplace for Temple University’s McGonigle Hall on July 29.
Maybe that’s for the best.
More than three tumultuous months later, Clinton finally staked a claim to that backdrop the night before the election. And this time, she had a supporting cast that included the current president and first lady, along with supporter/musician’s Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
Had the event taken place in July, it’d have been essentially forgotten by now.
Instead, Independence Mall will stand as the final backdrop of a political campaign that, by this time Tuesday, could result in America electing the first female president in its 240-year history.
Center City was a gridlock of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. As the program started – with speeches from local officials like Mayor Jim Kenney, U.S. Reps. Bob Brady and Kevin Boyle, U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty – the VIP lines still stretched more than a block.
“He’s a bully. He’s a whiner. He’s a crybaby,” bellowed Brady of Republican candidate Donald Trump to a crowd that roared in agreement. “I’m happy to get the blame for sending him packing, sending him out of here.
“He claims we’re going to steal the election. We don’t steal anything," Brady added. "We win it. We’re going to make Hillary Clinton the next president of the United States.”
To the 4 men who wouldnt let the 2 little girls stand in front so they could see the 1st female president, you are why it's taken 200 yrs— Lauren Hitt (@LaurenHitt) November 8, 2016
Around 6:50 p.m., the Let Freedom Sing! National Girls Choir – which made a push to be able to sing at the DNC – sang the anthem before a crowd that filled the lawn across Market Street before Independence Hall.
Then, Katy Perry’s “Roar” blasted through the speakers just two days after Clinton joined her on stage at the Mann Center.
At about 7:40 p.m. Jon Bon Jovi took the stage to perform “Who Said You Can’t Go Home.” It was stripped down and acoustic, a soothing retort to a frantic campaign season.
Same can be said for the version of “Living on a Prayer,” which was introduced with less rhetoric and more an observation that the eyes of the world will be on Philadelphia and the nation as a whole on Tuesday.
“All throughout my recording career, you’ve been here for me. I know you’re going to be here for Mrs. Clinton tomorrow. Think of Mrs. C when you hear this one,” he said before closing his set with a cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.”
Then, it was time for Bruce Springsteen’s three-song acoustic set (“Thunder Road,” “Long Walk Home” and “Dancing in the Dark.”) He spoke about a candidate who recognizes income inequality compared to an opponent who’s in it for himself.
Turning and bowing to the throngs in the crowd behind him, he said, “Make sure you go vote tomorrow” before ceding the stage immediately to Chelsea and Bill Clinton.
Bruce Springsteen: Tomorrow, Trump's campaign is going down, he says after Thunder Road and before Long Walk Home. pic.twitter.com/Ei38D3tmHX— Brian P. Hickey (@BrianPHickey) November 8, 2016
Up soon was First Lady Michelle Obama, who said their mother and wife, respectively, is so qualified to win on Tuesday.
“Hillary is the person we want on our side because she never gives up,” Michelle Obama said “on the eve of this historic moment.”
“I am here tonight because I believe with all my heart and soul that Hillary Clinton is that leader” who strives to unity, not pit people against one another, she continued. “If we get out and vote tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will win. But if we stay home or play around with a protest vote, Hillary’s opponent will win, period, end of story. … With one country, you can sat that this country has always been great.”
She then introduced “her husband … who never, ever compromised who he is.”
Hearkening back to 2008, Barack Obama asked the crowd if they “were fired up and ready to go.”
Listing the candidate’s bona fides and her foe’s weaknesses, he returned to the common theme of the past few months: Driving turnout on Election Day.
“I’ve had to bite my tongue with a lot of the vicious, crazy nonsense I’ve heard said about Hillary. I can’t imagine what Bill and Chelsea have gone though,” he said, “betting that most Americans (will see through the angry rhetoric and vote to move America forward). … If you want a president who shares our faith in America, I am asking you to work as hard as you can to elect, my fellow Americans, our next president of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton.”
At 9:10 p.m., Clinton took to the stage in front of the Independence Visitor's Center to raucous “Hillary” chants from the crowd.
“Thank you for coming out for one last rally before Election Day tomorrow,” she said, noting that she was happy to be closing out the campaign with her family and the Obamas “in Philadelphia, with you.”
"It’s not just my name or Donald Trump’s name on the ballot tomorrow,” she said. “Every issue you care about is at stake.
"I want you to know I will be a president for all Americans because I believe we all have a role to play in building a better, stronger America. I'm not going to let anybody turn the clock back and sending us back in time when people are free to question the foundation of our country, what the founders did here. There were lots of contentious arguments but they saw a higher purpose and came together. Pennsylvania, it all happens tomorrow.”
When Hillary wrapped up her speech as the clock struck 9:28 p.m., she left the stage to "Fight Song."
Her campaign was ostensibly over. Her fate in the hands of the millions of Americans who will go to the polls to elect the 45th president in its history.
Will it be the Republican businessman who sees the world through a much different lens than the thousands upon thousands of people who flocked to Independence Mall for Tuesday night’s rally?
Or will it be the woman they came to support on a quest to shatter a glass ceiling?
In a couple dozen hours, those questions will answer themselves, but one way or the other, Philadelphia – the city where Clinton accepted her party’s nomination and decided to close out her campaign – stood up and made itself heard in the annals of American history.