The Republican Party’s comedy of errors in Cleveland appears to have set a low bar for Democrats at their own nominating convention in Philadelphia this week. But they shouldn’t count on that to pave Hillary Clinton’s way to victory in November.
Simply avoiding charges of plagiarism in a speech by a prominent convention speaker would allow Democrats to boast of a better convention than the circus in Cleveland. That and ensuring an endorsement from rival Bernie Sanders instead of the middle finger that Sen. Ted Cruz extended to Donald Trump.
But Democrats shouldn’t fool themselves. Americans are shaken by acts of violence and terrorism in this country and around the world, the shooting rampage in Munich being the latest. The issue is tailor-made for a demagogue like Donald Trump, who came out at the convention as the law-and-order candidate America needs in a moment of crisis.
Enough Americans are buying his strongman pitch to make this an even more competitive election than it already was. So instead of the setting the bar lower for Ms. Clinton, circumstances have conspired to set it higher.
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She needs to persuade a nervous public that America doesn’t want or need an authoritarian figure running the country. It needs someone who can deal effectively with terrorism and racially inspired violence without abandoning our commitment to equal justice under the law — and that she’s the only candidate in the race who will do that.
Voters may not be sold on Mr. Trump because of the many questions swirling around him regarding his untruthfulness, lack of experience and questionable business practices — Trump University, for instance. But many still haven’t made up their minds. Ms. Clinton won’t beat Mr. Trump by pretending the doubts don’t exist.
Once and for all, she needs to make an effective admission of error over the email controversy to all those not committed to her candidacy. She needs to convince skeptics that she’s not a foe of business but neither is she the captive of Wall Street — and that she understands the frustrations of the progressive forces who backed Bernie Sanders and will adopt at least part of their agenda. She needs to put an end to the months-long refusal to hold a news conference. She needs to make a strong case for trade and engagement to counter Mr. Trump’s view of America’s shrinking role in the world.
Ms. Clinton can also remind voters that she possesses a stronger record on virtually all counts than Mr. Trump’s — and that includes transparency. She’s released her tax returns going back decades. Where are Mr. Trump’s? What is he hiding?
It’s easy to forget, in the wake of the Hillary-hating fest in Cleveland, that she’s the only candidate in the race with a record of public service. Her record of actual accomplishments far outweighs that of Mr. Trump. Fighting for more than 20 years to win medical care for Americans who can’t afford it is more significant than building a skating rink in New York. It’s imperative that she refocus the conversation, from fear to the economy, making it stronger, putting people to work and making sure they are earning a living wage.
The ultimate challenge is to reach out beyond the party arena to unite a fractured nation. Mr. Trump resorted to fear-mongering and neo-isolationism. That’s the wrong message.
Ms. Clinton needs to remind Americans that this nation became great by engaging with the world and remaining a beacon of freedom and justice despite the obstacles it has faced. That’s the way to ensure that America remains the great nation that it is.