2016 Archives

2016 Democratic National Convention

Day Two of convention skirts the Clintons’ marital woes while extolling Hillary’s strengths

July 27, 2016

DALLAS (SMU)SMU experts weigh in on the second day of the Democratic National Convention and the current state of the presidential race. The complete roundup of experts’ insight is offered here, and more convention experts are available here.

BILL CLINTON WINS HISTORIC "AUDITION FOR FIRST SPOUSE" WHILE UNDERSCORING HILLARY'S ABILITY AND DRIVE TO GET THINGS DONE

Jeffrey A. EngelJEFFREY ENGEL:
jaengel@smu.edu, @CPHatSMU

“Bill Clinton won his audition for first spouse.The speech he gave last night was far closer to a traditional prospective ‘first lady’ speech than the gangbuster political case he made four years ago for Obama – and so often throughout his own career.He talked about Hillary, not only in the intimate ways of a spouse, but also with a point: That she found problems to solve, from her earliest life, and solved them.His contrast of her with Trump was subtle but clear – one is a doer, the other a talker. Overall Mr. Clinton was subdued and warm, just as one would expect from a first lady, or in this case, gentleman.In a night of historical firsts, his part will be equally recalled for years to come.

“The theme of the night, in effect, was that Hillary had a long history of actual governance and accomplishment.The juxtaposition of Republican and Democratic narratives of 9/11 was striking.Last week was ‘they knocked down our towers’ –with the emphasis on the evil-doing ‘they.’ This week was ‘we’ –and ‘she worked hard to build them back up,’ with repeated references and personal narratives to specifically show how Hillary worked – and yes, worked within the system – to make things better in the aftermath of tragedy.It was not a sexy night of politics, but a repeated drumbeat of competence.Expect more of the same tonight.”

Engel is director of the SMU Center for Presidential History. He can discuss:

  • comparisons to past presidential races
  • foreign policy
  • presidential rhetoric

 

BILL CLINTON PAST INFIDELITIES MADE FOR "ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM" AS HE ADDRESSED "DEMOCRATIC PARTY THAT HAS CHANGED" OVER 20 YEARS

Matthew WilsonMATTHEW WILSON:
jmwilson@smu.edu

“Bill Clinton was well received in the hall, but it’s remarkable how much the Democratic Party has changed since he was president. He signed welfare reform, enthusiastically promoted free trade, toughened criminal penalties, signed the Defense of Marriage Act, and – along with the Republican Congress – balanced the budget. Democrats today would never accept that sort of pragmatic centrism. (Just as the Republican Party has moved more to the right over the last 20 years, the Democrats have moved decidedly to the left.)

Mr. Clinton gave a good speech, but it was remarkable that, in talking about his marriage to Hillary, he barely even alluded to his serial infidelities. Ironically, the period when she was most liked by the American public was when she was cast in the role long-suffering wife in the face of Bill’s embarrassing adultery and impeachment. He could have done her a lot of good (and humanized her) by at least briefly referencing the pain that he put her through, but he apparently couldn’t bring himself to do that. It was really the elephant in the room.”

Wilson is an SMU associate professor of political science. He can discuss:

  • religion and politics
  • political psychology
  • public opinion and politics

 

"REVERENTIAL AWE FOR A WOMAN WHO CONSISTENTLY SOUGHT SOCIAL AND POLITICAL CHANGE AHEAD OF HER TIME"

Ben VothBEN VOTH:
bvoth@smu.edu, @BenjaminVoth

“Bill Clinton’s speech was a striking personal narrative that heaped praise on his wife Hillary and displayed an uncharacteristic deference. His extended biography humanized both him and her and resurrected the family character of the Clinton family that was shattered by his sensational infidelity. Those problems had no reference but there was a reverential awe for a woman who consistently sought positive social and political change ahead of her time.His speech did little to directly attack the Republicans and he offered fresh new justifications for Hillary’s candidacy.

“The DNC appeared to overcome its initial rocky start that was challenged so vocally and vigorously by Sanders supporters. The affirmation of Hillary’s nomination seemed to bring a chapter of rebellion to a close for the convention. (Though the acts of rebellion seem to have moved beyond the convention hall and onto the streets of Philadelphia.) And the historic significance of the first woman to be nominated for the office of the American presidency provided the primary energy for the evening and many speakers extolled this point.”

Voth is SMU’s director of debate and an associate professor of corporate communications and public affairs. He can discuss:

  • debate prep, strategy and effectiveness
  • comparisons between this debate season and the 2012 election’s debate season

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