PHILADELPHIA — Democrats made Hillary Clinton the first female presidential nominee of a major party in the nation’s history on Tuesday, shattering one of the last remaining glass ceilings in American politics.
The former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state was formally installed as the party nominee to take on Donald Trump on an emotional night at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
Clinton will formally accept the nomination on Thursday night, before embarking on an intense fall campaign with polls showing her clash with Republican nominee Trump is, for now, too close to call.
Hours after she became the nominee, Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, built an extended case for his wife as an agent of change. He told the convention audience that Hillary Clinton has spent her life fighting to improve people’s lives.
“This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She has always wanted to move the ball forward — that is who she is,” Bill Clinton said. “She’s a change-maker. That’s what she does.”
He also spoke in deeply personal terms of the early days of their relationship.
“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” he said.
Clinton said he and Hillary have been together in “good times and bad, through joy and heartbreak.”
“We’ve built up a lifetime of memories,” he said.
Hillary Clinton’s nomination comes on the second day of the Democratic National Convention, where leaders sought to move past the drama of divisions between Clinton and Sanders supporters. As part of the ongoing push to bring Democrats together following repeated shows of dissent from disenchanted Sanders supporters, Sanders addressed the convention and moved for Clinton to be acclaimed the party nominee.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States,” he said.
Nancy Pelosi, a history maker in her own right after becoming the highest ranking woman in the history of the US government when she was elected House speaker in 2007, was overcome with emotion as she contemplated Clinton’s achievement.
“It’s beyond thrilling. It’s very exciting and to see at the end she’s the nominee. It’s going to be spectacular,” Pelosi told CNN’s Dana Bash.
“It’s pretty exciting … she’s the best.”
‘Barriers still ahead’
Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland emphasized the historic nature of the moment in nominating Clinton Tuesday afternoon.
“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 of the United States of America,” Mikulski said.
Sanders’ move at the end recalled Clinton’s similar gesture at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, after her own divisive primary duel against then-Sen. Barack Obama.
The self-proclaimed democratic socialist won nearly 2,000 delegates during his insurgent campaign, but told his supporters on Monday night in that they had no choice but to unite around Clinton to ensure the defeat of GOP nominee Donald Trump.
As soon as the Clinton nomination was made official, a group of Sanders supporters staged a walk out from the convention hall “chanting “this is what democracy looks like” before heading for the press tent.
Elsewhere in the hall, a Sanders delegate from Nevada was escorted out of the hall, yelling “Nevada was rigged.”
The nominating formalities on Tuesday night mark a moment of vindication for Clinton, who emerged from the wreckage of her unsuccessful 2008 bid to serve as secretary of state in Obama’s “Team of Rivals” cabinet.
But she faces a grueling campaign against Trump, who is enjoying a polling bounce after his own convention in Cleveland last week and is now locked in a close race with the soon to be Democratic nominee.
Clinton can, however, draw on political lessons learned after her long career in the glare of the public spotlight.
This year, the Clinton campaign and the candidate herself appeared determined to apply the lessons from her defeat eight years ago to her second White House bid, running a notably different campaign.
Clinton has one big advantage over Trump heading into November: hindsight.
And Clinton has also undertaken a personal journey since her losing effort eight years ago. Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, got married and gave birth to two children. The experience of becoming a grandmother, in particular, seems to have softened Clinton as a candidate, helping her become more comfortable grounding her candidacy on her personal background and family story.
After she crossed the threshold to clinch her party’s nomination in June, Clinton’s victory speech drew inspiration from her late mother.
“I wish she could see her daughter become the Democratic nominee,” Clinton said of Dorothy Rodham, in a striking departure from 2008 when she was reticent to discuss her mother.
Emotion from delegates in the hall
The political drama with Sanders and controversy over Democratic National Committee emails that show staffers seemingly working against him has done little to dampen the excitement among Clinton allies.
Michigan Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee told CNN on the floor of the convention that this is a moment in American history that “we should not take lightly or take for granted.”
“As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of a granddaughter, knowing that my daughter and my granddaughter will grow up in a country where that barrier has been broken is something that’s not just history for our nation but it’s personal,” Kildee said. “And I’ll remember it that way.”
New Hampshire state Sen. Donna Soucy, a Clinton delegate, is holding a handmade sign tonight that refers to Clinton as first lady, senator, secretary of state and president.
“It means a lot for me personally,” Soucy told CNN. “Tonight is the night when Hillary Clinton will break the glass ceiling for every woman and girl in this country.”
Sheryl Abschire, a 65-year-old Clinton delegate from Louisiana, said she was a Clinton delegate in 2008 and was not sure she would live to see a woman nominated or elected president.
Abschire was crying after she and other Louisiana delegates cast their votes Tuesday.
“This is a very emotional day for me,” she said. “It’s a generational thing for me. My grandmother told me about how her grandmother could not vote. So for me to be here to support the first woman nominee and what I believe will be the first woman president means everything to me.”
Sanders’ brother casts vote
It was an emotional night all around. Mothers whose children have been killed by law enforcement or due to gun violence spoke of their pain. A survivor of the September 11, 2001, attacks spoke of her recovery.
While it was a moment of triumph for Clinton, it was also a time for pride in defeat for Sanders.
The senator’s brother Larry, who lives in England, cast the delegate votes for Democrats Abroad and remembered their parents, seeming to bring tears to Bernie Sanders’ eyes.
“They did not have easy lives and they died young,” said Larry Sanders, who was also choking back tears as the crowd gave him a rousing ovation. “They would be immensely proud of their son’s accomplishments.”