Hillary Clinton on Wednesday accused Donald Trump of turning the party of Abraham Lincoln into a divisive entity at a moment when the U.S. should be working toward building a renewed sense of unity.
"This man is the nominee of the Party of Lincoln," Clinton said of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. "We’re watching it become the Party of Trump. And that’s not just a huge loss for our democracy, it’s a threat to it."
Speaking at Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln declared in 1858 that “house divided against itself cannot stand,” the presumptive Democratic nominee aimed to put Trump's rise in historical context, stressing that while the threats he poses are not as immediate as those the country faced more than 150 years ago, they are nonetheless serious.
"Recent events have left people across America asking hard questions about whether we are still a house divided," she said, alluding to the debates about race and violence that have been revived in the aftermath of last week’s shootings in Dallas, Minnesota and Louisiana. There's a need, she said, to take "a hard look at our laws and our attitudes," which she suggested starts by listening to the Black Lives Matter movement and the families of people killed by police and gun violence, as well as to police officers who work hard to build strong relationships with the communities they aim to protect.
Clinton has often stressed that one of her advantages, not only over Trump, but also Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary, is her desire and skill to listen to people and to work toward consensus. "In times like these, we need a president who can help pull us together, not split us apart," she said.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his presidential rival's speech.
Clinton also acknowledged that her actions and words have "sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of our progress," telling the crowd of several hundred gathered in the capitol chamber: "I recognize I have to do better too."
Clinton herself has been an extremely divisive figure for decades, dating back to debates about her role as a deeply engaged political wife. The most recent Bloomberg Politics national poll, conducted in mid-June, found that 54 percent of registered voters had an unfavorable view of her. (Trump's unfavorable number in that poll was 66 percent.) She also struggles to be seen as trustworthy; a Marist College-McClatchy poll released Wednesday found that 35 percent of Americans see Clinton as trustworthy, while 40 percent say the same as Trump.
Then, she launched into a laundry list of things that Trump has said that make his campaign "as divisive as any we’ve seen in our lifetimes."
Clinton charged that Trump is exploiting and exacerbating the divides in the country with his positions on a range of issues, including his proposed Muslim ban, as well as his views on women and race. "Donald Trump’s campaign adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America," she said. "A message that you should be afraid – afraid of people whose ethnicity is different, or whose religious faith is different, or who were born in a different country or hold different political beliefs."
Influenced by her father, Clinton was a Republican before attending college, and on Wednesday she also scolded Trump for a self-centered approach to politics and policy. "I just wish Donald Trump would listen to other people once in a while. He might learn something," she said. "But he’s made it clear -- that’s not his thing. He only listens to himself."
She accused him making the killing of black people by police about himself after he said Tuesday night during a Fox News interview that he understands systemic bias against black people because "even against me, the system is rigged. I can relate to it very much myself."
The Old State Capitol is also steeped in more presidential history than Lincoln. Then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama launched his presidential campaign outside the building in February 2007 and returned in August 2008 to announce his selection of then-Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.
Obama has often invoked Lincoln to argue that the party has strayed from its roots. The first Republican president “couldn’t win the nomination for the Republican primary right now,” he said in 2012, often talking up the 16th president’s support for investing in infrastructure and creating institutions like the land-grant college system.