Hillary Clinton invoked Abraham Lincoln in a speech on Wednesday that framed the choice for voters this November as representing two very different visions of race in America.
Clinton spoke at the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech 158 years ago.
Donald Trump, Clinton said, "is the nominee of the party of Lincoln. We are watching it become a party of Trump. And that's not just a huge loss for our democracy, it is a threat to it."
"Donald Trump’s campaign is built on stoking mistrust and pitting American against American," she said, building to the heart of her speech:
Trump's campaign adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America. A message that you should be afraid — afraid of people whose ethnicity is different or religious faith is different, or who were born in a different country or hold different political beliefs.
Make no mistake, there are things to fear in this world. And we need to be clear-eyed about them. But we are each other's countrymen and women. We share this miraculous country. This land and its heritage is yours, mine, and everyone's willing to pledge allegiance and understand the solemn responsibilities of American citizenship. That's what indivisible means: that we're in this together.
Trump has tried to make the election about Clinton’s ties to special interests and Wall Street, bashing her for accepting speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and the Clinton Foundation for taking cash from foreign governments. Trump said Bernie Sanders was now part of a "corrupt system" after the Vermont senator endorsed Clinton Tuesday.
Clinton’s speech on Wednesday, however, framed the race as being fundamentally a referendum on inclusiveness in America. She went after Trump for denigrating Muslims, Mexicans, and women, for questioning the citizenship of the country’s first black president, and for circulating "an anti-Semitic image pushed by neo-Nazis."
She also sounded the alarm over Trump’s attacks on the "Mexican" heritage of the Indiana-born judge overseeing the Trump University case, saying they risk endangering the "bedrock principle enshrined in the 14th Amendment: that if you're born in America, you're a citizen of America."
"It was a cynical, calculated attempt to fan the flames of racial division," Clinton said of the attack. "Why would someone running for president want to do that?"
An apparent shift in strategy after the Dallas shootings
In the week before the Dallas shootings became national news, Clinton focused her speeches on tearing down Donald Trump’s economic populism and attacking his business record.
"What [Trump] did for his businesses and his workers is nothing to brag about. In fact, it’s shameful. And every single voter in America needs to hear about it," she said in a speech in Atlantic City earlier this month.
The next day, Clinton released an ad featuring a middle-class architect who accused Trump of bilking him of payment over a construction project. She also released a suite of new policy proposals aimed at promoting small-business growth.
"Much of [Trump’s] campaign necessarily focuses on the idea that the skills he has deployed as a businessman are both admirable and transferable to service in the Oval Office," wrote Vox’s Matt Yglesias. "But Clinton is arguing that his actual business record proves the opposite — that he’s only skilled at enriching himself at the expense of others and has demonstrated no competence in actually building and managing sustainable operating companies."
Shortly afterward, the shootings of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — and then the slaying of five police officers in Dallas — seized the national media’s attention.
Since then, the majority of Clinton’s addresses have instead focused on going after Trump for his divisive racial rhetoric. On Friday, she gave a passionate speech at a historically black church in Philadelphia about how she understands the danger African Americans face from police violence.
"Let’s focus on what we already know deep in our hearts. We know there is something wrong with our country. There is too much violence; too much hate; too much senseless killing; too many people dead who shouldn’t be," Clinton said. "And we know there is clear evidence that African Americans are much more likely to be killed in police incidents than any other groups of Americans."
Her speech today doubled down on that approach.
"I’m deeply concerned about the divisions that still hold our nation apart," Clinton said. "Let's put ourselves in the shoes of African Americans and Latinos and try as best as we can to imagine what it would be like if we had to have the talk with our kids about how carefully they need to act."