Clinton calls Trump a 'threat' to democracy

With the historical site of Abraham Lincoln's "House Divided" speech as a backdrop, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Wednesday criticized Republican rival Donald Trump for divisively exploiting fear in labeling him a "threat" to democracy.

Clinton delivered a largely somber speech on respecting racial and ethnic differences amid escalating gun violence in accusing the GOP candidate of turning the Party of Lincoln into the "Party of Trump."

While she sought to strike a presidential tone, Clinton also did something of a political pivot. The former secretary of state noted her own involvement as a divisive political character, vowing to "do better." Moments later, in attacking her opponent as "so dangerous," Clinton said the country needs a president who can bring people together, contending Trump is focused on "stoking mistrust and pitting American against American."

Clinton also acknowledged the real-world concern of Trump supporters fueled by an economy that has "stripped too many people of their sense of security and dignity."

"It's about something deeper … a sense of dislocation, even a pessimism about whether America still holds anything for them or cares about them at all," Clinton said.

During previous speeches, Clinton tried to associate Republicans with the controversial Trump. But in Springfield, she attempted to navigate a finer point in making an appeal for unity regardless of political support.

"Let's put ourselves in the shoes of Donald Trump's supporters. We may disagree on the causes and the solutions to the challenges we face, but I believe like anyone else, they're trying to figure out their place in a fast-changing America," Clinton said.

"They want to know how to make a good living and how to give their kids better futures and opportunities. That's why we've got to reclaim the promise of America for all our people — no matter who they vote for," she said.

Clinton spoke to 150 invited guests at the Old State Capitol, the historic landmark where Lincoln gave his "House Divided" speech in 1858. It's also where President Barack Obama launched his bid for the White House, outside on a frigid day in February 2007.

Clinton quoted from Lincoln's famous speech and said the turmoil surrounding police and their interaction with minority communities has made it clear that "America's long struggle with race is far from finished."

"The challenges we face today do not approach those of Lincoln's time, not even close, and we should be clear about that," Clinton said. "But recent events across America have left people asking if we are still a house divided."

"I believe that our future peace and prosperity depends on whether we meet this moment with honesty and courage," Clinton said.

She said that requires "a better job of listening to others," saying the opinions of those affected by police violence are just as important as those from law enforcement officials who put their lives on the line each day. She then called for changes in policing policies, tighter restrictions on access to guns and assault weapons.

"Now I understand that just saying these things together may upset some people," Clinton said. "But all these things can be true at the same time."

Clinton also called for tough but necessary conversations to heal deep divisions across the nation following last week's fatal shootings of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana, and the subsequent attack on police by a black Army veteran in Dallas that left five officers dead.

The former U.S. senator also mentioned the shooting of black teen Laquan McDonald by white Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder in the October 2014 shooting just before the release of video last November. And Clinton mentioned Sandra Bland, a former Naperville woman who died a year ago Wednesday in a Texas jail cell after she was pulled over in a controversial arrest by a state trooper.

Clinton said the conversations about race and policing are happening against a bigger economic backdrop that's created a gulf between the wealthy and working class, which has only been exacerbated by partisan divisions that have blocked possible changes.

She noted her involvement in that process, before launching into an offensive against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

"His campaign is as divisive as any we have seen in our lifetimes," Clinton said. "It's there in everything he says and everything he promises to do as president."

Clinton cited Trump's comments against Muslims, Mexicans and women, before recounting an interview he gave to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday in which the real estate mogul born into wealth said he can relate to the struggles of black Americans because "even against me, the system is rigged."

Responded Clinton: "Even this, the killing of people, is somehow all about him."

"We need a president who can pull us together, not split us apart," Clinton said to cheers. "This man is the nominee of the Party of Lincoln. We are watching it become the Party of Trump. And that's not just a huge loss for our democracy, it is a threat to it."

Clinton also raised campaign cash Wednesday in a private Wilmette event hosted by Laura Ricketts, who is part of the family that owns the Cubs.

A day earlier, Trump was in Chicago raising more than $1 million at a campaign event inside his namesake tower along the Chicago River, attracting a smattering of protesters who held a news conference promoted by the Democratic National Committee.

On Wednesday, Trump was in neighboring Indiana where he and his family met separately with Gov. Mike Pence and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with a potential pick for running mate to occur as early as Friday. Trump also spoke by phone to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential running mate, who also heads the Republican's transition team.

mcgarcia@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @moniquegarcia

Copyright © 2018, CT Now
48°