The image was glitzy and undeniably poignant: Hillary Clinton — who could tomorrow become the first woman elected president of the United States — standing in front of the most iconic place in Philadelphia, the city where her campaign officially began in July with the DNC.
“I am not going to let anybody,” she said, “rip away the progress we’ve made.”
Monday night’s campaign-closing event on Independence Mall in Philadelphia featured Clinton’s closing arguments while she was flanked by some of her most famous friends: Barack and Michelle Obama, husband Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi. More than 30,000 people waited all day in a two-mile line that stretched from Independence Hall to South Philly to hear Clinton’s final appeal before Election Day.
The night that was unlike anything else during the 2016 campaign capped an election season when, perhaps more than ever before, Philadelphia has been at the center of the conversation — whether it’s about the Democratic National Convention, the prospect of voter fraud or the sheer impact of its population in Pennsylvania.
“Tomorrow, Philadelphia,” President Obama said, “the choice you make when you step into that voting booth, the choice you make could not be more serious.”
It seemed as though Philadelphia’s importance in a presidential election could have peaked in 2008, when Obama delivered his historic address on race relations at The National Constitution Center. But this summer, Philadelphia played host to the convention that could go down in history as the one that kicked off the first successful presidential campaign with a woman at the top of the ticket. Tonight, it served as the backdrop for two former presidents, a potential future president and celebrities who gave their final pleas for votes in what’s become arguably the most memorable campaign of our lifetimes.
Beyond the symbolism of this final rally taking place the birthplace of the country, the decision to send Clinton to Philly for her final night before Election Day stood for something more practical: Pennsylvania is still important. And, by extension, Philadelphia is still, too. Clinton was never going to lose Philadelphia to a Republican. But in this state that’s never had the option of early voting and where polls for Clinton are just too close for comfort, her final ask to Philly was simple: Just go vote.
“Tomorrow we face the test of our time. What will we vote for? Not just against,” she said. “What will we decide is on the ballot? Because although my name and my opponent’s name may be on the ballot, every issue you care about is on that ballot.”
Clinton was introduced by President Obama, who said his White House “turned ‘Yes We Can’ into ‘Yes We Did.’” Why, he asked, would voters want to go backwards? But after shortly taking Donald Trump to task, Obama shifted to a message of resilience. He highlighted the “vicious attacks” on her, but said “I know she will work her heart out for you.”
“She will work, and she will deliver,” he said. “She won’t just tweet.”
The president was introduced by First Lady Michelle Obama, who pressed a Get Out the Vote message, saying, “If we get out and vote tomorrow, Hillary will win. But if we stay home, or mess around with a protest vote, her opponent will win.” But she also noted the emotion of the evening, looking out upon the sea of “I’m With Her” signs
“In many ways,” she said, “speaking here tonight is perhaps the last and most important thing I can do for my country as First Lady.”
The night ended with Clinton’s final appeal: “I do believe we are stronger together,” she said.
“Vote for an America where we build bridges, not walls,” she said, “and maybe most importantly, you vote in great numbers to demonstrate conclusively, once and for all, that yes, love trumps hate.”
And she left the stage as “Fight Song” blared through loudspeakers facing Independence Hall.