July 29, 2016
If not for a misguided weather forecast, the first day of Hillary Clinton’s post-convention campaign life would’ve started on Independence Mall, with the birthplace of American democracy providing a patriotic backdrop.
It wouldn’t have been as endearing an image as, say, former President Bill Clinton giddily playing with balloons on stage as he did Thursday night. But really, what could? Nothing, that's what.
But when you have 101 days to convince more people to vote for you than your opponent – and you’re coming off an event where your party seized much of the opposition’s erstwhile moral standing – manufactured stagecraft can pay off big-time.
What better way to say the Founding Fathers would’ve been on your side than in front of the building where they made America great 240 years ago? It’d have been nice, but the partisans in attendance didn’t seem to mind.
Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine took the stage with their spouses at Temple University’s McGonigle Hall, which played host on Friday to a packed event that felt like a group brunch the morning after a wedding.
Shake the hangover from your head and say goodbyes to those who made a lovely event possible. It afforded several thousand on hand one last chance to salute the history made hours earlier and repeatedly interrupt Clinton’s speech to profess their love for her, like Lloyd Dobler and a beatbox in “Say Anything.”
There, the candidates paid respects to their host city and its residents (to the point of aw-shucks, you-made-this-happen, Philadelphia-RULES! pandering) and reiterated their desire to paint this race as one pitting their world view (America's the best, but there’s still work left to do) against that of Donald Trump (dark, dystopian and fear mongering).
Then, they took off on a bus trip across Pennsylvania and Ohio billed as a journey to emphasize Clinton's vision of an American economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top – and highlighting her agenda to make the largest investment in jobs since World War II in her first 100 days in office.
Never mind the fact that Gandhi probably couldn’t broker enough peace in Washington, D.C. to bust through paralyzing gridlock and accomplish anything within 15 weeks.
They said the “Stronger Together Jobs Tour” was about “directly contrast(ing) their approach with Donald Trump's, who has outsourced whatever products and manufacturing he could to help his own personal bottom line and stiffed any contractor or small business if he could make money off it.”
They didn’t say that the first thing they’ll do after the DNC is try to chip away at Trump’s lead with white men angry that economic footing eroded beneath their feet in two states that could ultimately take them over the electoral-college victory threshold.
And that’s fine (even if it's probably too soon for cynicism to creep back in).
If this past week taught us anything, it’s that Democrats like to dream so big that they’re willing to open the fold to Republicans dismayed that their party nominated an outsider who doesn’t hold true to the very values that made their party strong.
Well, nothing much new came up at the event, from messaging and soundtrack to supporter passion and call-and-response endearment. History was made, but it can still be unmade.
And nothing much came up to change my theory that this unorthodox campaign will be less about policy and – y’know – facts, and more about the way we look at the world, whether that be optimistic or – y’know – the end is nigh unless we place our trust in a human being who filed for bankruptcy protection four times and doesn’t think before he tweets.
“I can’t think of an election that’s been more important in my lifetime,” said Clinton, who was born when Harry S Truman lived in the White House, “not so much because I’m on the ticket, but because of the stark choice [the nation faces].”
By 1:45 p.m., she made a nod to her historical accomplishment and called the kick-off event to a close.
So, yeah, las fiestas han terminado, and an alley fight for the very future of a nation is about to begin.
We'll probably have three months of Trump trying to goad Clinton into a fight so disgusting it'll surpass anything I've seen in my 43 years.
Maybe Kaine will effectively step in and be the attack dog so Clinton can rise above it. Maybe not.
Either way, anytime I feel myself reverting to nothing-will-ever-change skepticism, I'll try to remember that a 69-year-old man was reduced to a giddy six-year-old boy thanks to red, white and blue balloons falling from the sky.
Our nation's future may not depend on your feelings, but it'll sure be a smiling reminder that there's still whimsical wonder in the world no matter how nasty our could-be leaders become.