News Local/State

Clinton Derides GOP For Going From ‘Party Of Lincoln’ To ‘Party Of Trump’

Hillary Clinton at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Speaks at the Old State House in Springfield, Ill., on Wednesday. Andrew Harnik / AP

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came to Springfield Wednesday to deliver a campaign speech about America’s racial divides. The former secretary of state also accused her presumptive Republican opponent of trying to incite further division.

Clinton’s speech comes a week after the deaths of black men at the hands of police last week in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the sniper attack that killed five police officers in Dallas.

Blocks away from the domed capitol building in downtown Springfield where Illinois lawmakers spent the past year locked in an unprecedented stalemate that left Illinois without a budget ...  sits the building that served as Illinois' statehouse in Abraham Lincoln's day.

As a lawyer, Lincoln argued cases before the state Supreme Court there. He debated there as a member of the state legislature. The "Old State Capitol", as it's now known, was headquarters for his campaign for president.  And it's where in 1858 Lincoln gave his famous "House Divided" speech.  Hillary Clinton says that speech "marked a turning point in our nation."

"The question of slavery was being fiercely debated across America,” said Clinton in her speech Wednesday. “Roughly half the states allowed it. Half abolished it. And some people – including Lincoln – believed that until it was gone entirely, our country would never be truly united and at peace." 

Clinton began her half hour long remarks saying Lincoln's remarks still resonate.

"The challenges we face today do not approach those of Lincoln’s time,” said Clinton. “Not even close. And we should be very clear about that. But recent events have left people across America asking hard questions about whether we are still a house divided."

Deaundra Tunstall, an African American woman from Belleville who works as child care provider, was among the approximately 150 people who heard Clinton’s speech at the Old State Capitol. She says there's an obvious answer to Clinton’s rhetorical question.

"Most definitely,” said Tunstall, “you see it every day. On the news. House divided when you see cops kill innocent black people. House divided when you know regular constituents of the country kill you know innocent police officers. You know, we don't stand together."

Rev. Thomas Walker of the Main Street Church of the Living God in Decatur agreed that America is absolutely divided.

"A House divided cannot stand,” said Walker. “We have to come together in unity to be able to strive against the ills and the problems that we have in our state,"

Both Tunstall and Walker said Hillary Clinton is the best hope for bridging those divisions. The former First Lady called for greater restrictions on guns, and for police and criminal justice reform, though she didn't get into specifics.

"We do need to listen to those who say ‘Black Lives Matter’”, said Clinton. “Too many black Americans, especially young men, feel like their lives are disposable. And they worry every single day about what might happen. They have reason to feel that way. And it’s absolutely unacceptable.”

While Clinton spent much her speech focused on racial tensions, she also spoke about economic fissures, nothing that the police incidents took place on a backdrop of  disruptions she says have stripped many Americans of their sense of security and dignity.  And, in the heat of a long, heated race for the presidency, of political divides, Clinton said she was not without fault.

"And 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 fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of progress,” said Clinton. “So I recognize I have to do better too."

She then went on to make what sounded like the most forceful comments in a speech that was largely given in a subdued tone ... and called Donald Trump "dangerous."

Clinton says Trump's campaign is built on stoking divisions --- be it his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., his proposal to deport undocumented immigrants, or by banishing reporters from campaign events. She accused Trump of having "contempt for and ignorance of our Constitution."

"This man is the nominee of the Party of Lincoln,” said Clinton. “We are watching it become the Party of Trump. And that’s not just a huge loss for our democracy – it is a threat to it. Because Donald 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."

Clinton says Trump has an ugly message for America, a message that says anyone who has a different ethnicity, faith, or political belief should be afraid.

Next week, voters whose beliefs differ from Clinton's will have their say; Republicans will convene in Cleveland, to officially nominate Trump as their candidate for President.