PHILADELPHIA -- Hillary Clinton is trying to start over — at a lower temperature but with grander historical sweep.
On Night Two of the Democratic National Convention, the now official nominee sought a fresh slate. Her campaign did it by tapping into powerful historical forces, with the kind of direct appeals based on her gender that she famously avoided in her first run for the presidency.
Clinton sought it by putting her primary feud behind her, finally if not fully, by brokering enough peace with Bernie Sanders to get him to unite the convention.
And she accepted a big hand from Bill Clinton, in a dual role as former president and candidate’s spouse. He delivered a homespun, soft-spoken speech that leaned heavily on less-familiar parts of her biography — and yes, it stayed focused on her.
“She’s been around a long time. She sure has,” Bill Clinton said. “And she’s sure been worth every single year she’s put into making people’s lives better.”
“She’s the best darn change maker I ever met in my entire life,” he added.
It was an intimate address, less soaring rhetoric than easy-chair storytelling. He added new biographical details to a story that is more than a little familiar, after a quarter-century the couple has spent in the national eye.
Less than a week after Donald Trump painted a portrait of a dystopian America, where “I alone can fix it,” Bill Clinton declared, “Hillary is uniquely qualified.”
He made no mention of scandals past and present. Instead, he sought to push against the way his wife was portrayed at Trump’s convention.
“How do you square it? You can’t. One is real, the other is made up. You just have to decide. You just have to decide which is which,” he said. “Good for you, because earlier today, you nominated the real one.”
That nomination happened relatively cleanly, thanks to some delicate political choreography. It combined with uncommon trust and a touch of lucky timing to hush chants of stolen elections and silenced voices.
Sanders appeared at the convention’s second night only briefly, though long enough to provide a dose of healing to a party aching from a raucous last few days.
“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders said.
The crowd roared for Clinton. It turned the tide of a convention that was veering toward chaos early on. The unity set up the former president, who in turn helped set up the historical significance.
“Hillary Clinton will be our first woman president,” actress Meryl Streep declared. “She’ll be the first, but she won’t be the last.”
“Women are the answer,” said musician Alicia Keys.
On one level, Bill Clinton’s speech (his amazing 10th at a Democratic convention) was a bridge to a previous century. The Clintons can ask for new starts, but they are not — and will never again be — new.
Tuesday night laid the candidate’s biography on thick, seeking to change perceptions that might be unshakable after decades in the spotlight.
But the history is real. When the candidate appeared on the stage’s giant video screen, things got a bit louder.
An animated glass ceiling shattered, as pictures of 44 familiar men dissolved to bring Clinton into the room, via live video.
“I may become the first woman president,” Clinton said. “But one of you is next.”
A woman is the nominee of a major political party, finally and officially. The glass ceiling may not shatter in November, but Hillary Clinton’s story began to break through.