White House hopeful Hillary Clinton on Wednesday accused her Republican adversary Donald Trump of corrupting the party of Abraham Lincoln, in a speech at the site of a historic address on slavery by the Civil War-era president.
Clinton delivered a wide-ranging speech on race in America, after a week of shootings and street protests against racial bias by police painfully highlighted the country’s divisions.
Speaking on the grounds of Illinois’s Old State Capitol, where Lincoln warned in his 1858 “House Divided” address that slavery was tearing the country apart, the presumptive Democratic nominee invoked his memory as she pleaded for unity.
“The challenges we face today do not approach those of Lincoln’s time, not even close,” she said. “But recent events have left people across America asking hard questions about whether we are still a house divided.”
In a rare moment of candor, the former secretary of state accepted her share of blame for the shrill partisanship raging in the country.
“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 fuelled the partisanship that often stands in the way of progress,” she said.
“I recognise I have to do better.”
But Clinton hit out much harder at Trump, rounding on him for “stoking mistrust and pitting American against American.”
“This man 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,” Clinton charged.
“Because Donald Trump’s campaign adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America — a message that you should be afraid.”
While attacking her populist rival, who is to be named the Republican standard-bearer next week at a party convention in Cleveland, Clinton offered an open hand to his voters.
“Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of Donald Trump’s supporters,” said Clinton.
“We may disagree on the causes and the solutions to the challenges we face, but I believe like anyone else, they’re trying to figure out their place in a fast-changing America.”