Hillary's Everests

Hillary Clinton has made history by becoming the United States' first woman Presidential nominee. This was never in doubt, despite junior Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' late challenge and sustained opposition from his loyalists at the Democratic Party's National Convention in Philadelphia. Now, the bigger question is: Will she make history as the first woman President of the United States? Till recently, the unabashed obnoxiousness of her Republican opponent Donald Trump's campaign made that outcome a done deal as well. The prognosis was that most Americans, outraged at Mr Trump's crassness, would overlook her well-publicised weaknesses - a polarising persona, perceived closeness to big business, and controversies around her actions as Secretary of State - to vote her in. Certainly, Ms Clinton solidly led her opponent in the opinion polls for months. In recent weeks, this certainty has weakened. Ahead of the Republican Party's National Convention in Cleveland last week, Ms Clinton and Mr Trump were neck and neck in the polls. Unexpectedly, and despite the fiasco at Cleveland, Mr Trump has inched ahead.

This holds disturbing implications about the nature of American public discourse, though the numbers may be linked to Ms Clinton's credibility following the admittedly strange decision of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to exonerate her for a breach of email security as Secretary of State. Still, Mr Trump's wild xenophobia against Mexicans and Muslims, his cowboy approach to foreign policy, overt sexism and record of questionable business dealings encouraged Republican Party stalwarts to avoid the convention, and Ted Cruz to avoid endorsing him. Yet, Mr Trump's outrageously divisive acceptance speech seems to have resonated with the American public.

The latest polls showed that 24 per cent of voters were undecided, however. Ms Clinton's bid to convince them may be helped by the fact that the Democratic convention has been everything the Republican show wasn't. Mr Sanders swallowed his chagrin to generously endorse Ms Clinton (though he has since left the party and reverted to his Independent status). Michelle Obama demonstrated her innate grace in one of her best speeches, a dignified contrast to the mannequin-style and part plagiarism of Mrs Trump's speech.

But it is President Barack Obama's 40-minute masterclass in public oratory that could well swing the national mood in Ms Clinton's favour. Mr Obama used the many manifest achievements of his presidency - from the economic turnaround to multiple foreign policy successes - to tether Ms Clinton, a rival-turned-colleague, to this impressive legacy. Her choice of Tim Kaine, once a vice-presidential candidate of Mr Obama, has undoubtedly helped. By decisively demonstrating Mr Trump's dystopian vision as a fallacy and highlighting Ms Clinton's long record of public-service achievements, Mr Obama projected her as a candidate, who would continue the best traditions of American society. He also sensibly addressed the questions surrounding her email indiscretions, suggesting that occasional mistakes were inevitable when people are deeply committed as she is. In short, Mr Obama made Ms Clinton a Presidential candidate in her own right rather than an alternative to Mr Trump. The election for the 45th President of the United States is hers to lose.

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