SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln has been transformed into “the party of Trump,” declaring her GOP presidential opponent a polarizing figure who is deepening the divisions in America.
Clinton embraced the symbolism of Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, using the Illinois Old State House chamber as the backdrop to argue that the nation needs to repair its divisions after a series of high-profile police shootings. A week before the Republican convention, Clinton said presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump would do little to heal the country.
“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 said, speaking from the black walnut wooden dais in the Old State Capitol. “Because Donald Trump’s campaign adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America.”
Clinton, a polarizing figure for nearly three decades in national political life, acknowledged that she, too, must contribute to the healing.
“As someone in the middle of a hotly fought political campaign, I cannot stand here and claim that my words and actions haven’t sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of our progress,” Clinton said a week after she faced criticism from the FBI director over her handling of classified materials at the State Department. “So I recognize I have to do better, too.”
The Democratic presidential candidate picked the symbolic location where Lincoln delivered his famous address about the perils of slavery in June 1858 to the state Republican convention. Elected the first Republican president two years later, Lincoln declared that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Clinton is not the first to reach for Lincoln’s legacy. President Barack Obama launched his first presidential campaign in 2007 in a chilly outdoor rally on the steps of the Old State Capitol, echoing Lincoln’s calls for unity before the Civil War.
She said the recent shootings had left many Americans asking “whether we are still a house divided.”
Clinton said the nation, including herself, needs to listen more rather than fueling political and other divisions after the high-profile shootings in Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota. She reiterated her calls to address gun violence, criminal justice reform and ways of supporting police departments.
But she sought to present herself as a unifying force against Trump, pointing to the businessman’s inflammatory statements about Muslims, Hispanics and others.
Trump, in an interview with The Associated Press on Monday, predicted that protests against police violence that followed last week’s slaying of the five police officers in Dallas “might be just the beginning for this summer.”
Clinton cited Trump’s toying with “creating a database to track Muslims in America,” his provocative statements about women and work during Obama’s presidency to promote the “birther movement” which sought evidence that the one-time Illinois senator was not born in the United States.
“His campaign is as divisive as any we’ve seen in our lifetimes. It’s built on stoking mistrust and pitting American against American,” Clinton said. “It’s there in everything he says and everything he promises to do as president.”
In her speech, Clinton rattled off a series of attacks against her GOP rival, calling Trump “dangerous,” ”divisive,” ”fear-mongering” and “pitting American against American.” Even stalwart Republicans, she said, should be alarmed by Trump’s policies and racist rhetoric.
Clinton said she had recently received a letter from a mother who said her adopted son had asked if Trump would send him back to Ethiopia. “When kids are scared by political candidates and policy debates, it’s a sign something has gone badly wrong,” Clinton said.
She also sought to send a warning of what a Trump presidency might bring, telling supporters, “Imagine if he had not just Twitter and cable news to go after his critics and opponents, but also the IRS — or for that matter, our entire military.”