The Democratic Party has made history by nominating Hillary Clinton to run for US president as the first woman to head a major party’s presidential ticket.
Speaking via video link from New York after her nomination on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton told the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that she was honoured to have been chosen as the party’s nominee.
“I am so happy. It’s been a great day and night. What an incredible honour that you have given me. And I can’t believe that we’ve just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet. Thanks to you and everyone who has fought so hard to make this possible,” she said.
“And if there are any little girls out there, who have stayed up late to watch, let me just say: I may become the first woman president, but one of you is next.”
Delegates erupted in cheers throughout the roll call of states on the floor of the convention earlier in the evening.
“She’s got it. She has the numbers that are needed,” Al Jazeera’s James Bays said from the convention when Clinton passed the 2,383 votes needed to secure the nomination.
“We knew this was going to happen because obviously we knew she was the presumptive nominee and that she had all the votes that she needed from the primaries. But what happened here was a roll call, state by state announcing their votes. How many for Bernie Sanders. How many for Hillary Clinton. And a great deal of drama in the room.”
‘The best darn change maker’
In nominating Clinton, delegate after delegate at the convention made the point that the selection of a woman was a milestone in America’s 240-year-old history. US women got the right to vote in 1920.
Clinton promises to tackle income inequality and rein in Wall Street if she becomes president, and is eager to portray Republican Party presidential nominee Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman and former reality TV show host, as too unstable to sit in the Oval Office.
Trump, who has never held elective office, got a boost in opinion polls from his nomination at the Republican convention last week and had a 2-point lead over Clinton in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.
After the roll call of states formalising Clinton’s nomination, Bill Clinton, the former US president, took the stage for a history-making appearance of his own convention.
Former presidents often vouch for their potential successors, but never before has that candidate also been a spouse.
Telling the story of their life together, Bill Clinton summed up his wife: “She’s the best darn change maker I’ve ever met.”
He also gave a spirited defence of his wife’s tenure as secretary of state, telling the convention that Hillary Clinton was instrumental in protecting American interests, combating terrorism and advancing human rights.
She put “climate change at the centre of our foreign policy” and “backed President Barack Obama’s decision to go after Osama bin Laden,” the former president said.
Bill Schneider, a US political analyst, told Al Jazeera: “There was a clear message [in Bill Clinton’s speech] – one word: Change. A very important word because voters don’t believe she is the candidate of change. They think she is the candidate of the status quo.”
Healing deep divisions
Clinton’s campaign now hopes to move past the dissent that marked the convention’s opening day on Monday when supporters of Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s primary rival, repeatedly interrupted proceedings with boos and chants of “Bernie”.
Sanders took the DNC podium on Monday to urge his supporters to come together and vote for Clinton.
Delegates erupted in cheers as Sanders helped to make Clinton’s Tuesday night victory official when the roll call got to his home state of Vermont – an important show of unity for a party trying to heal deep divisions.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders declared, asking that it be by acclamation.
Sanders’ endorsement was a striking parallel to the role Clinton played eight years ago when she stepped to the microphone on the convention floor in support of her former rival, Barack Obama.
Not all Sanders supporters were as conciliatory.
A large group signalled their displeasure with Clinton’s nomination by walking off the convention floor and holding a demonstration at the nearby media work space, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said.
Holding a sit-in inside the media tent, several Sanders supporters had their mouths taped shut to symbolise their lack of voice at the convention.
“Essentially what they are trying to say is that the media is responsible for squashing their voice throughout this nominating contest,” she said.
“In some way influencing the results and as a result what they are calling this protest is ‘no voice, no unity’. They feel this process, this nominating contest, was not democratic.”
Rashane Handy, 25, a single mother from Kansas who took part in the protest, said she felt that the party had pressured Sanders supporters to support Clinton by holding up the spectre of a victory for Donald Trump if they don’t get behind Hillary.
“I’m tired of being misrepresented. We need progressives on the ballot. Our healthcare is suffering and our education is suffering. Sanders didn’t just bring out political people; he brought out people like me, single [mothers], black people, Latinos. If we vote for Hillary, we’d be voting for the lesser of two evils,” Handy told Al Jazeera.
Earlier in the night, it looked like the dispute between the Sanders and Clinton supporters had turned a corner.
“In many ways, the person who managed to unite the party was the one who started his movement and then had to actually calm down the people that he ignited, and that was Bernie Sanders,” Al Jazeera’s James Bays said.
“I think Bernie Sanders and the speech of Michelle Obama, the first lady, brought a degree of unity that certainly wasn’t here at the beginning of day one. Yes, there are still people who feel hurt by what’s happened. There are still people who are going to continue not supporting Hillary Clinton but I think they look like they’ve won over the majority.”
Speaking at the convention’s opening on Monday, the first lady announced her support for Clinton. She also offered a thinly veiled jab at Trump while discussing how her family has had to adapt to the shrill tone of today’s politics.
“We insist that the hateful language they hear from public figures on TV does not represent the true spirit of this country,” Obama said.
|Actress Meryl Street was one of several celebrities to offer support to Clinton [EPA]|