Eight years ago, Hillary Clinton famously said her first White House bid had put “about 18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling, one for each voter who’d cast a ballot for her in the 2008 primary.
On Tuesday, that glass ceiling finally came down.
Clinton was formally named the Democratic nominee for president at her party’s convention in Philadelphia, making her the first woman ever to top a major party’s ticket for the White House.
More than 200 other women have sought the presidency since 1872, but none have come this far. The female Democratic leaders gathered in Philadelphia this week have waited their entire lives to see one of their own reach this point, just a step away from the Oval Office. To them, Clinton’s nomination represents the culmination of decades of work devoted to tearing down the barriers women have faced seeking high office in America.
“Yes, we do break barriers,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who was the first woman to win a Senate seat not previously held by her husband, said in her nomination speech. “On behalf of all the women who’ve broken down barriers for others, and with an eye toward the barriers still ahead, I proudly place Hillary Clinton’s name in nomination to be the next president.”
The former senator and secretary of state locked up the necessary delegates to become the nominee in early June, and she has already picked Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) as her running mate. But it wasn’t until Tuesday’s roll call vote by the party’s state delegations that her nomination against Republican Donald Trump became official and history was made.
Breaking from alphabetical order, the Vermont delegation was last to speak in the roll call, providing an opportunity to hand the microphone to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Clinton’s primary foe. To raucous applause, a smiling Sanders asked that convention rules be suspended, declaring his support for Clinton.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders said.
“We tend to want to emulate what we can see,” said Wendy Davis, the Texas Democrat. “We need to see ourselves in office so we can aspire to those things. Having [Clinton] there, I think, is going to open up for little girls ― and not-so-young girls ― the aspirations that they may not have had for themselves previously.”
The famed singer-songwriter Carole King said that the nomination had not just moved her emotionally, it had transformed her thinking about what is politically possible.
“It is amazing. After this, it won’t be a big deal. Of course a woman can be nominated. Of course a woman can be president,” King said. “I always thought of men as presidents and presidents as men. I was raised in a generation that thought that. And now that’s changed.”
Clinton will not speak at the convention until Thursday, when she delivers perhaps the most anticipated speech of her political career. So far, all the speaking has been done by Democratic stars making the case for a Clinton presidency, including Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and first lady Michelle Obama. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, was slated to speak Tuesday after his wife’s nomination.
Democrats had hoped to roll into Philadelphia as a unified party prepared to draw a sharp distinction in tone and substance to Trump, who, at his party’s own convention in Cleveland last week, offered a bleak and frightening view of modern American life. But Democrats were knocked off message before their convention even began, with the hack and leak of embarrassing emails by staffers of the Democratic National Committee showing a bias against Sanders.
The stunning breach, which may have involved Russian intelligence agencies, quickly led to the resignation of the DNC’s chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
Democratic leaders have tried to put the turmoil behind them, aiming for full party unity behind Clinton by week’s end. Solidarity against Trump was one of the main themes of the primetime speech delivered by Sanders, who ran against the front-runner Clinton from the left in a surprisingly close primary. (Many Sanders backers literally booed the concept of unity at the start of the convention on Monday.)
The discord in Philadelphia, however, has so far failed to match the intra-party chaos in Cleveland, where one of the biggest Republican speakers refused to endorse Trump and a faction of anti-Trump delegates launched a last-minute unsuccessful coup to rob him of the nomination.
Many conservatives still cannot accept the brash real estate mogul ― who has fomented racism, misogyny and xenophobia throughout his yearlong campaign ― as the GOP’s standard-bearer. Others have quietly endorsed him but can barely manage to utter his name, except to say that he would be a better choice than the alternative.
Democrats’ goal this week is to convey a much more hopeful and forward-looking vision of the country than Clinton’s opponent. In his own acceptance speech, Trump misleadingly portrayed the U.S. as rife with criminals ― the violent crime rate has in fact continued to fall, in keeping with long-term trends ― and overrun by dangerous undocumented immigrants. Describing a nation in chaos, Trump declared himself the “law and order candidate” solely capable of restoring public safety.
At the convention so far, the best case against Trump has been made by the first lady, who delivered what’s already being called one of the best political speeches in recent years. In her remarks Monday night, Obama outlined a choice between divisiveness or unity, without even referring to Trump by name. America does not need to be made great again, she said in a swipe at Trump, because it is already “the greatest country on Earth.”
Historically speaking, Trump has had the highest unfavorability ratings of any modern presidential candidate. Unfortunately for Clinton, her polling does not fare much better, despite a long and accomplished career in public service. Her candidacy has been dogged by voters’ questions about her trustworthiness, made worse by recent findings by the FBI that her team mishandled classified information on a private server while she was secretary of state.
A formidable campaigner, Clinton has vastly out-raised the mostly self-funded Trump campaign so far in 2016. According to a recent analysis by Bloomberg, Clinton and her allied super PACs now have $86 million on hand, while the Trump campaign has $23 million. Overall, the Clinton camp has raised $386 million total versus Trump’s $94 million.
As HuffPost’s Paul Blumenthal previously reported, Clinton’s superior fundraising machine has given her a major advantage. Her campaign has established teams of hundreds of organizers in prime swing states and already made huge advertising purchases. Trump, meanwhile, only recently began establishing a ground game in key states.
Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.