Hilary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention: 7 Takeaways
Last week I stayed up four nights in a row, literally. From 8pm our local time till 5am, I watched the proceedings of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) which took place in Philadelphia. I did not miss one single minute of the broadcasts on CNN. Since a love of political analysis is something my husband and I have in common, he too came home early from work all week and passed on any evening meetings. The previous week I stayed up to watch the Republican National Convention (RNC) that took place in Cleveland too, but not every night of it.
I have a lot to say about Hilary Clinton, but my observations for the purposes of this article will be mostly about the just concluded Democratic National Convention and lessons we can all learn from this event.
- The importance of a clear and uplifting leadership vision
The Democrats shared a vision of America that is diverse, inclusive, just and full of promise. There was an acknowledgement of serious problems and imbalances, especially in the areas of dealing with income inequality, racial injusticeand security. However their solution is one of collective action, and Hillary Clinton’s rallying call in accepting the nomination was ‘Stronger Together’. This was in stark contrast to the RNC candidate Donald Trump who is running as the ‘Law and Order’ candidate, saying ‘I alone can fix it’. This is a challenge for our own political leaders across Africa. What is their compelling vision for our countries? How can we all own this vision?
- Everyone should have a voice
The RNC was fairly well organized, but the DNC was on another level. Perhaps coming a week after gave the Democrats an advantage so they could plug whatever loopholes the RNC left unaddressed. There were however clear indications that the DNC out-planned, out-classed and out-thought the RNC. There was an array of ‘Category A’ political heavyweights ranging from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama to Bill Clinton, Tom Kaine and Barack Obama. There were ‘A’ list celebrities performing and speaking – Meryl Streep, Eva Longoria, Alicia Keys and Katy Perry as well as a parade of speakers drawn from all kinds of constituencies – African-American, immigrants, LGBT, service chiefs, veterans, Black Lives Matter, young people, Muslim, Christian, people living with disabilities, the elderly, you name it – they had a voice. They even had ‘Republicans in Exile’! The key message here – if you claim to be a party that represents diverse interests you ought to be able to give everyone a voice.
- There is no weapon like the truth
At political gatherings, politicians do their thing – they make great speeches and play to thegallery. It is all part of the game. As inspirational as the DNC political speakers were, they were doing their job as politicians. There was however one particular speaker who brought the house down and left many in tears. He was not a politician. He was not a heavy weight of any kind. He was the grieving father of a fallen soldier, Captain Humayun Khan. A Muslim soldier who gave his life in service to his country, America. A country that Donald Trump wants to lead and ban Muslims from entering if he wins.MrKhizrKhan challenged Mr Trump to visit Arlington Cemetery inVirginia and takenote of all the bodies interred there – the men and women of all ethnicities and faiths who all gave their lives for their country. America great as Doctors, Nurses, College Professors, Scientists, Artistes and so on, Mr Khan was able to voice a bitter truth. America is not great because of who it has excluded. America has been made great by people from all over the world who call it home.
- Your family is a referendum on you
At the RNC, the children of Donald Trump took center stage. His wife Melania also spoke although her speech was mired in controversy because it turned out that huge chunks of it had been plagiarized from a 2008 speech given by Michelle Obama. One of the biggest mysteries around Donald Trump is how a man who can be so mean and distasteful managed to produce well balanced, successful children. They continue to be one of his few redeeming factors. At the DNC, Michelle Obama gave such an enthralling performance that commentators kept speculating over whether any other speech at the convention could top that. She gave her proud husband President Obama a good run for his money. Chelsea Clinton, justlike Ivanka Trump successfully did for her father at the RNC, introduced her mother. Through the eyes of Chelsea, a mother of two herself, people got to know a bit more about Hillary – the loving mother, the professional who managed to balance her family’s needs with her other obligations, the role model and the doting grandmother. It is of course not fair to judge people by how their children turn out, or how well or not their spouses perform, but that is the reality of politics. Everything gets put on the table. This is a lesson for our politicians – if you leave your family behind on your way up the political ladder, it might catch up with you one day.
- Live to fight another day
In 2008, in spite of her intimidating stature in the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama. It was a bitter and painful loss, and she and her supporters would have been devastated. She had the choice of sulking and storming away, inciting her numerous supporters against the party’s choice. Hillary chose the path of wisdom and patience. People might argue that she did not have a choice. Maybe. Yet, we cannot forget images of her being the one leading the New York delegates in 2008 ( I stayed up all night to watch that too!) giving their votes to Barack Obama. Those images were played over and over again this year when Bernie Sanders did the same thing for her. Survival in politics requires the capacity to think and plan long term and to be prepared to lose some battles while you strategise to win the war. The ‘here today gone tomorrow’ politicians around here should take note.
- It is alright to celebrate history
The nomination of Hillary Clinton as the flag bearer of the Democratic Party is of profound historical significance. This is the first time that a woman has been nominated as the Presidential Candidate of a major party in the US. Sadly, there are quite a number of young people who do not care about the significance of this, and in the words of Michelle Obama, ‘they take it for granted that a woman can become President of the United States’. The DNC celebrated this unique moment in history, they did not play it down. There was Jerry Emmett, the 102 year old delegate from Arizona. She was born at a time when women in the US did not have the right to vote. And there she was, as one of the leaders of the Arizona delegation, nominating one for President! There have been several female Heads of State around the world, but every time it happens, we should celebrate. Sexism and misogyny still thrives, and it is always gratifying to see the glass ceiling being shattered every now and then. Hillary’s emergence at the DNC through a screen of shattered glass on Tuesday night was amazing.
- The only story you can truly tell is your own
One of the many disadvantages of being in the public eye is that everyone has an opinion of you. Sometimes it is positive and many times, it is negative. Having an opinion is one thing, but people then go out of their way to weave their opinions of you into facts. Peopleare entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts. For Hillary Clinton who has been in the public eye for over forty years, she has received brutal treatment. She is not without flaws, no one is. She has made mistakes like everyone else. I have admitted to my bias and my admiration, it does not mean I am unaware that she is hated by a lot of people for so many reasons. What strikes me as strange in all this is that many of the people who do not like Hillary take that position simply because ‘She has been around for so long’. Since when did that become a crime in politics? Some say she is riding on the coat tails of her husband. Really?
Do not let others define you. Tell your own story. Engage in actions that tell people who you are. Surround yourself with people who will give testimony for you and not those who will abandon you once they think your political light has been extinguished.
(BisiAdeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com)