The Democratic National Convention, or DNC, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this week. It ended last night with the historic nomination of Hillary Rodham Clinton for President of the United States.
But it started in almost the same fashion as last week's Republican National Convention: with a lot of in-fighting and controversy. At the RNC, it was all about traditional Republicans uncomfortable with outspoken outsider Donald Trump leading their party. At the DNC, it was supporters of another outsider, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who were stirring things up and distracting attention from the main event.
The convention floor: emails, e-fails...
One of the truths of this computer-based world is this: be careful what you write in an email/post online. Chances are that it can come back to haunt you. Clinton has been finding this out first hand over the last few months (which we'll get into more in a bit). But last Saturday, right before the DNC was set to begin, emails were released showing that top officials in the Democratic Party, in particular, chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had favoured Clinton over Sanders.
To see how explosive this was, it helps to understand Senator Sanders a bit. He has been in politics for about 40 years, but only just joined the Democrats in 2015 to run for president. His campaign built a very large and passionate base of supporters who loved his policies. But many supporters suspected that he was never treated fairly by the party. They noticed that the media talked a lot less about Sanders than Clinton, or that debates were scheduled in a way that seemed to favour her.
The Wasserman Schultz email scandal seemed to confirm that the Democrats cheated him out of the nomination. There were a lot of angry protests by Sanders' supporters. In the end, though, even Sanders himself spoke about bringing the party together and stood behind Clinton. And as more people spoke during the event (including President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden), the crowd at the DNC became more unified behind her, too.
The candidate: A groundbreaking woman
Clinton is a revolutionary candidate. 100 years ago, women couldn't even vote in the United States. And all around the globe — from Germany to Australia, South Korea to Great Britain, Sri Lanka to Finland — women have been or currently are the leaders of their countries. But it has taken until 2016 for the USA to finally have a female presidential candidate. In President Obama's speech on Wednesday, he said, "There has never been a man or woman...more qualified to serve as President of United States of America." That's a pretty big statement. Not only is Obama talking about her being more qualified than he was, he's also speaking about Hillary's husband Bill Clinton, who served as president from 1993 to 2001.
The case for her
During those years, Hillary was the First Lady, or the wife of the president. Most First Ladies in history have stayed behind the scenes. But a few used their platform to push for their own causes. Hillary was the second type. She was involved in women's rights and trying to improve health care in the United States. And when Bill's presidency ended in 2001, Hillary's own political career was just getting started.
She ran immediately in New York State as a senator and won, holding that job until 2009. She also ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, losing a close race to Barack Obama. Obama, however, made her his first Secretary of State (who handles foreign policy, or relationships with other countries). So when Obama calls her the most qualified candidate ever, you can see what he means. In the last 25 years, she has been the proactive wife of a president, a top U.S. senator, and one of the most powerful people in the U.S. government. She has seen and done it all.
The case against her
Of course, the more that you do, the more opportunity you have to make mistakes. Most of Clinton's missteps are what you would expect in politics. But two issues have continued to haunt her today. First was a 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. A U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed by Islamic militants during a diplomatic mission there. Because Clinton was Secretary of State at the time, she took the blame.
And remember earlier when we talked about emails? In 2015, a scandal broke out that Clinton had received and sent thousands of emails containing classified information over an unprotected server (that's the device that stores and sends internet information). This is a security risk. Unprotected servers are easier for hackers (people who "break into" computers) to steal information from. Republican opponents have used both Benghazi and the email scandal as examples that Hillary is an untrustworthy politician. In addition, some people simply do not like her because she represents a lack of change in American government. After all, if you think that the country hasn't been doing very well, why would you elect a former Secretary of State?
The road ahead
In the end, this presidential election features two choices who could not be more different:
Republican Donald Trump is a man with zero political experience. His campaign stresses that America is a country in deep trouble, with a poor economy and facing threats both at home and around the world.
Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton is a woman with more high level political experience than anybody out there. Her campaign is built around continuing the policies that her ally, President Obama, has started.
The actual facts are that the American economy is in much better shape now than it was eight years ago before Obama. But with terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and issues of racism in the news regularly, it is true that many Americans are concerned about where their country is headed. For all of her experience in politics, Clinton's key to victory will likely be similar to what worked for Obama so well in 2008 and 2012: Proving that hope is stronger than fear.