By Joan Walsh
Claims to making history collided in 2008, when Hillary Clinton lost the Democratic presidential nomination to Barack Obama. The potential first woman came up short against the first African American–who ultimately became our first black president. There was an enervating tension at that Denver convention eight years ago, a hangover from a long and often bitter campaign–until the Democratic women’s advocacy group Emily’s List brought Clinton and Michelle Obama together for a celebration.
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They celebrated each other. “Over her career she has offered me, my daughters, and all of our daughters a different vision for what they could become and for that we are forever grateful for her work,” Obama said of Clinton, though she had at times been furious at the campaign’s racially tinged maneuvers. Clinton confided: “I know a little bit about how the White House works. If the president is not exactly on our side, call the first lady. And with Michelle Obama, we’re going to have someone to answer that phone.”
Eight years later here in Philadelphia, Democrats needed healing again, and Michelle Obama brought it. Quieting angry Bernie Sanders supporters (who had even booed Representative Elijah Cummings when he talked about his late father), Obama delivered an eyes-wide-open tribute to this country’s still unfinished evolution toward equality. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves and I watch my daughters—two beautiful, intelligent, black young women—playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Obama also gave unhappy Sanders supporters gracious advice about how to carry on in defeat.