Democrats Make Hillary Clinton a Historic Nominee

PATRICK HEALY and JONATHAN MARTIN

PHILADELPHIA — The Democratic convention formally nominated Hillary Clinton for president Tuesday, making history by choosing a woman to be the first standard-bearer of a major political party, a breakthrough underscored by a deeply personal speech by Bill Clinton calling her “the best darn change-maker I have ever known.”

At 6:39 p.m. Eastern time, the hall erupted in cheers and joyful tears as South Dakota cast the decisive 15 votes to put Hillary Clinton over the threshold of 2,382 delegates required to clinch the nomination.

A sea of delegates waved multicolored signs with Clinton’s “H” campaign logo, while others fell into hugs and several women jumped up and down with elation.

Vince Insalaco, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, where the Clintons built their public profile over two decades, said the choice of the first female presidential nominee was a historic moment.

“I’m so proud to be a Democrat tonight,” Insalaco said, “and so proud that we can call this woman one of our own.”

Clinton’s primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, played a symbolic role in hopes of unifying the party behind her. After Vermont arranged to go last in the roll call, Sanders joined its delegation to roars of “Bernie, Bernie” and called on the party to rally behind Clinton.

But it was the appearance of Bill Clinton, shortly after 10 p.m., that stirred the crowd most, as he set out to share a more personal side of the sometimes-reserved former secretary of state.

Unspooling memories of their 45 years together, Clinton used warm and detailed anecdotes to argue that the couple’s political enemies had spent decades creating a “cartoon” of his wife that he was now determined to puncture. Hillary Clinton is among the most unpopular presidential nominees in modern history, and the former president appealed to the audience to see through the political attacks on her.

“One is real,” Bill Clinton said of the divergent portrayals of his wife, “the other is made up.” He recalled the affection of Hillary Clinton’s old friends, her empathy for those in need, and the praise she had won from Republicans as a senator and as secretary of state.

“You nominated the real one,” Bill Clinton said to a long burst of applause. Seeming to realize that he had been speaking for 38 minutes, he added in classically loquacious Bill Clinton fashion, “We have to get back on schedule.”

Bill Clinton’s testimony was so personal that he even appeared to obliquely invoke problems in the couple’s marriage.

“She’ll never quit on you,” he said. “She never quit on me.”

Earlier in the evening, several dozen Sanders delegates paraded off in a coordinated demonstration against Hillary Clinton’s nomination. Some of them said beforehand that they were attending their first Democratic convention and felt no party loyalty or compulsion to fall in line behind Clinton, whom they described as insufficiently progressive on new banking regulations, a $15 minimum wage, a ban on fracking and other issues.

“I’m just not there yet in terms of supporting Hillary, because her words are only her words, and I don’t fully trust that she’ll act on our agenda,” said Ingrid Olson, 38, a delegate from Iowa.

The final delegate count was 2,842 for Clinton, 1,865 for Sanders and 56 “no votes.”

The scenes in the hall, and the huge street protests that continued through Tuesday night, were more fractious than those at the party’s gathering in Denver in 2008. Back then, Clinton, defeated for the nomination, moved to stop the roll call and nominate Barack Obama. Her gesture, aimed at soothing the bitterness of the primary fight, helped her supporters make peace with Obama and embrace his barrier-breaking candidacy.

Sanders and Clinton had their own brutal competition this year, and their policy differences were greater than those between Clinton and Obama — part of why many of Sanders’ supporters are reluctant to get behind her.

© 2016 New York Times News Service

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