PHILADELPHIA — When Hillary Clinton takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention Thursday night to formally accept her party’s nomination for president, she should keep her remarks upbeat while still addressing the economic struggles of average citizens.
That’s according to top congressional Democrats who have gathered in Philadelphia for the convention and who spoke to WTOP to offer their advice for their party’s standard-bearer.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, who represents Maryland’s 5th congressional district and serves as the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Clinton needs to “convey a conviction, a vision and a plan for achieving a better life for average Americans who have been shut out” of the political process and who feel that the “power brokers of America are not paying attention.”
Hoyer credited the Obama administration with leading the country out of the 2009 recession, which has led to a roaring Wall Street and healthier employment figures. But Clinton shouldn’t take a victory lap just yet.
“Americans are doing much better than they were doing than when the Democratic administration took over in January 2009. But too many of them are not doing well enough,” Hoyer said. “And I think they need to have a sense of confidence that Hillary Clinton … will tell them where she’s going to take this country and help them to lift themselves up and their families up to a secure and stable life.”
Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., called the economy the “key issue” for Clinton’s address and said he hoped for a “fairly straightforward economic speech.” Clinton needs to explain “why her policies are what we need based on what’s going on in the world,” he added.
Other advice from rank-and-file Democratic officials?
In contrast to Donald Trump’s address last week that some analysts criticized for its dark tone, Democrats hope Clinton maintain an upbeat tone.
“I think the most important thing is that she present a very positive vision of America,” said Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who represents Virginia’s 8th congressional district. “The Trump vision last week was so negative.” (In his address, Trump blasted Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state as a legacy of “death, destruction, terrorism and weakness.”)
Beyer added that a positive tone would give Clinton an opportunity to heal some of the rifts in the Democratic Party still left over from the bruising primary campaign fight between Clinton and her Democratic rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“I think the Sanders people really want to come on board, and I think Hillary will have this opportunity by painting a positive vision to let them know that progress and the progressive vision is not limited to Bernie,” Beyer said.
Still, healing those divisions hasn’t exactly been easy. The first day of the convention got off to a rocky start after Sanders was booed by his own supporters when he urged them to support Clinton.
Democratic officials said Clinton should also think big.
“I’m looking forward to an overarching vision,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who represents Virginia’s 11th congressional district. “I know that every campaign speech at a convention has a laundry list of issues you’ve got to tick off. I’m less interested in that.”
Connolly added: “I think she has an opportunity really to lay out a real alternative that’s sunny and hopeful and calls people to a different future with a different vision that’s very hopeful and optimistic for America.”
WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.