Hilary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention: Seven Takeaways

Hilary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention: Seven Takeaways

Thursday, August 4, 2016 9:22 am


Hilary Clinton

Hilary Clinton


By Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

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 watched the RNC ‘roll call’ which is when all the States formally pledge the votes of their delegates, and I watched Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. I cannot vote in the US, but I have always had a keen interest in their electoral process (the same applies to the UK where I can vote) because with their flaws and all, it is still a comfort to observe political systems that are not bedeviled by dysfunction.

Trump

Trump

If I were a US voter I would of course be a Democrat and in the UK, my support has always been for the Labour Party. I have always admired Hilary Rodham Clinton. The first time I saw her was on television in 1992 during Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign when she resolutely stood by her brilliant but undisciplined husband when he was accused of adultery. Through her years as a First Lady and all the trials, humiliation and triumphs it entailed, from when I sat in the plenary session at the NGO Forum in Huairou at the Beijing conference for women in 1995 to listen to her, her time as a two-term Senator, her unsuccessful Presidential bid, her stint as Secretary of State and now nominee of the Democratic Party, I have been with her.


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.

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.

1. 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 injustice and 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’. He also has a rather disturbing view of who should be recognized as an American and who should be kept out as ’others’. Even traditional Republicans right up to the party leadership have found this message deeply problematic. 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?

2. 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.

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

3. There is no weapon like the truth

At political gatherings, politicians do their thing – they make great speeches and play to the gallery. 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.

Mr Khizr Khan challenged Mr Trump to visit Arlington Cemetery in Virginia and take note of all the bodies interred there – the men and women of all ethnicities and faiths who all gave their lives for their country. Donald Trump once said Africans should be recolonized, and we are only good at ‘eating, drinking and lovemaking’. That was last year when the very idea of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate was a joke. It is no longer funny, he is the Republican nominee.

Even though the Republican party elite do not like him, he has a massive support base because he appeals to base instincts that have been repressed for many years, but are now finding an outlet through someone who is presenting himself as a political outsider and best placed to correct all America’s problems. Even though it would have been nice to hear the voice of one of the many Africans who toil to make 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.

4. 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, just like Ivanka Trump successfully did for her father at the RNC, introduced her mother.


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.

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.

5. 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.

For full story, click here http://abovewhispers.com/2016/08/03/loud-whispers-hilary-clinton-democratic-national-convention-seven-takeaways/

Bisi Adeleye-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

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