Philadelphia: If Ronald Reagan came back to earth for the last two weeks, The Gipper would surely have ended up shaking his head in amazement.
The party that was channeling his slogan “Morning in America” and showing a vision of a confident and free America, marching boldly into the next century was not his beloved Republicans but rather the Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, the party that reveres him was painting a desperate picture of a world gone mad, terrorists everywhere, race war and violence and the need for a heavy hand, including torture, to stop the carnage.
Hillary Clinton said it best in her polished acceptance speech (see full speech below). “America is great because America is good” and she referred to Donald Trump’s “midnight in America” vision.
She also reached back to the inaugural speech of Franklin D. Roosevelt who said “the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself.” Roosevelt was speaking in 1933 at a time of far greater crisis in America with the Depression and ominous war drums beating in Europe. That fear was nameless and unjustified Roosevelt went on to say. It is just as true now as it was back then.
Donald Trump’s vision in his address in Cleveland was indeed remarkably different in tone:
“Americans watch this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities. Many have witnessed this violence personally; some have even been its victims.
“I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.”
Trump is saying this as the Clinton campaign points out that violent crime is down dramatically and murder rates have slumped. Sure, there are terrible shootings, but this is nowhere near the 1960s level of violence. The so called Islamic State is being tackled and its strongholds in Iraq and Syria are under constant bombardment. Get a grip people, stop panicking, the Clinton experts say.
Hillary Clinton had one task in mind when she began her speech.
I was seated high above the speaker’s platform and the buzz and excitement was crackling as the historic moment moved closer, the first woman nominated for the presidency by a major party about to accept that nomination.
Most of those I spoke with thought Clinton would stress her mother's more likable side, and certainly the soft focus introduction by daughter Chelsea helped that.
But Clinton’s speech was not an attempt to explain herself and her likability problem, much of it a cartoon-like image as you get with 'the wicked witch' etc. Misogyny lurks in much of that type of attack.
Clinton, instead, seems to have pivoted to the argument that no matter what failings she has the idea of a Trump presidency is truly frightful. She even questioned his psychological well-being to do the job. It's obvious that national security and the economy will be the focus of the Democrat's attacks.
She set out to confront Donald Trump on his lack of specific policies and his unpreparedness for the presidency.
Does a man who often erupts in red-faced anger when questioned sharply, when interrupted by a heckler, or tweeted against negatively have the right temper and insight to understand the deadly forces unleashed if he presses a button to launch a nuclear missile?
No one has worse judgement than Hillary Clinton - corruption and devastation follows her wherever she goes.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2016
The answer from the crowd was a resounding “no,” and so it went on.
Clinton tore into Trump over his comments that the US Military was a disaster, suggesting he was once again deluding himself.
"Now Donald Trump says, and this is a quote, 'I know more about ISIS than the generals do.' No, Donald, you don't," Clinton said. "He thinks that he knows more than our military because he claimed our armed forces are 'a disaster.'"
"Well, I've had the privilege to work closely with our troops and our veterans for many years, including as a senator on the Armed Services Committee and I know how wrong he is," she continued.
"Our military is a national treasure."
Again one can imagine Reagan shaking his head at such absurd slurs coming from a Republican candidate.
The moving speech by the father of a dead Muslim marine, who gave his life for his fellow soldiers, was a brilliant rebuttal to Trump’s war on American Muslims. To huge applause, Pakistan-born Khizr Khan fiercely attacked Trump, saying that if it were up to Trump, his son never would never have been American or served in the military.
Khan said that Hillary Clinton, by contrast, “called my son the best of America.”
As soon as Khizr Khan finished his speech, "register to vote" spiked as a Google search. pic.twitter.com/0HZbBuCWwR— Nate Goldman (@NateGoldman) July 29, 2016
Clinton went on to dismantle Trump’s alleged business expertise, referring to the six bankruptcies and the small firms left holding the debt while Trump escaped scot-free.
By the end of the speech Clinton had taken a sledgehammer to the Trump campaign and the candidate’s personality.
Will it work? The pundits all agree that the Democrats had the better convention, but in this strangest of years there appear to be millions of voters who are reacting with their gut and their own fearful instincts to hard times rather than logic.
Can it get any worse under Trump, they say? Indeed, it can. Look what happened to the United Kingdom when Tory leader David Cameron called a vote on Brexit, certain it would pass. The decision to leave the European Union has very likely dismantled the UK as an entity with Scotland set to leave.
The same Brexit voters, older and white, are the base of the Trump coalition too. How far can similar resentment and a dark outlook go in America when it comes to election day?
We are about to find out.