The beers were $5 and flowing Tuesday night at the Hillary Clinton victory rally at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in a cavernous building with a literal glass ceiling, under which several thousand spectators were in an anticipatory mood to watch her emerge as the nation’s first woman to become a presumptive major party presidential nominee.
The die-hard fans, the curious, the merely nearby, made their way on their own winding tour through American history through the complex, which used to employ thousands and where warships were manufactured during World War II.
Now, some of that industry is still there, combined with more modern fare: sprouting beer gardens, distilleries, movie studios. Old world and new hand in hand.
With a mind toward the changes inherent in that long arc, Clinton looked forward with no further reservations to her final test.
A speech eight years in the making
Introduced only by a campaign video placing Clinton in a line of American feminists from Seneca Falls to her own “women’s rights are human rights,” Clinton took the stage wearing pure white and a smile, giving the speech she has been waiting and preparing, painstakingly, eight years to give.
She thanked "our friends in New Jersey" who, after Tuesday tonight, allowed her to say that a majority of pledged delegates now supported her campaign, which made her the Democratic presumptive nominee. (The opposing campaign doesn't necessarily agree).
In presumptive victory, she was gracious to Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying their debate had been "very good for the Democratic Party and America."
Quickly she turned to her next opponent, Donald Trump. "Bridges are better than walls," she said of his infamous campaign boast.
Repeating her claim that Trump is "temperamentally unfit" to be president, she said that the presumptive Republican nominee was trying to take America "backwards."
Pondering that backward glance, Clinton briefly reached for something larger than her usual campaign talking points – the history of the moment. Noting that her mother had been born on the very day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, she conveyed the hopeful rhetoric of President Barack Obama channeling the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. America, she said, moved "slowly at times, but unmistakably" forward, a pretty good tagline for the Clinton campaign. Soon it was back to business.
"The end of the primary's only the beginning of the work we're called to do," she said.
Front-row seat for history
There was a moment before Clinton appeared, as the “Star Spangled Banner” played, when rally-goers waved the American flags on wooden sticks they’d been given, the banners snapping more solemnly than ecstatically, the looks on attendees faces more determined than blissful.
For Priscilla Wright, 36, a born-and-raised Bronxite, Clinton was a true New Yorker, meaning “one who believes. One who fights.”
Her husband, Gregory Jones, 56, said Clinton “may be incremental, but that’s Ok.” A union carpenter for 23 years who even worked on Trump buildings (“Money’s money”), he said he’d gone back to college and was now licensed as a massage therapist. It took time.
Henrik Kromann, 63, an actor who has had bit parts in “Boardwalk Empire” (filmed just down the block) and “The Knick,” appraised Clinton’s worth as a performer.
“She’s underrated,” he said. People accuse her of being inauthentic, but in the uneasy business of politics, like acting, she's forced into an "inauthentic form": “You become part of anything you immerse yourself in.”
But in person, and looking behind the mask? “Lovely,” said Kromann, “succinct. To the point. Everything I ever hoped and expected.”
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