SPRINGFIELD — At the spot where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, Democrat Hillary Clinton on Wednesday amped up her criticism of GOP rival Donald Trump, accusing him of turning the “Party of Lincoln” into the “Party of Trump.”
As polls show the presidential race tightening, Clinton made the case that Trump is deepening the national divide, starting with the issue that helped launch his bid, denying that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S.
Clinton on Wednesday cast Trump’s campaign as dangerous and at odds with American values. The former secretary of state is sharpening her attacks on Trump days before he accepts the GOP nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week.
“I’m running for president with the belief that we need to face up to those challenges and fix them in order to become a stronger, fairer country. And in times like these, we need a president who can help pull us together, not split us apart,” Clinton said of Trump’s campaign, which she said is built on “stoking mistrust and pitting Americans against Americans.”
TRANSCRIPT: Read Clinton’s full remarks
She called Trump’s campaign one of “fear mongering.”
“He says that if he doesn’t win this November, we – and again I quote – ‘won’t even have a country anymore,’ America’s ‘not going to continue to survive.’ I do not know what he’s talking about,” Clinton said to laughs.
Clinton said Trump “only listens to himself” and is turning the “Party of Lincoln,” into the “Party of Trump.”
“That’s not just a huge loss for our democracy,” Clinton said. “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 who hold different political beliefs.”
She urged the country to instead unite and “hold together in the face of our challenges, not turn on each other or tear each other down.”
The former secretary of state also slammed Trump for an interview he gave Tuesday night in which he said he understands systemic bias against blacks because the political system is rigged against him.
“Even this – the killing of people – is somehow all about him,” Clinton said.
Clinton delivered her carefully balanced speech on race relations and police the day after President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush spoke at a memorial service in Dallas for the five law enforcement officers killed last Thursday.
In choosing the House Divided theme, Clinton — just as did Obama on Tuesday in Dallas — said the divisions can be bridged. The difference in talking about race relations, of course, is that Obama is speaking as the first African American president. Said Obama Tuesday, ” Dallas, I’m here to say we must reject such despair. I’m here to insist that we are not as divided as we seem. And I know that because I know America. I know how far we’ve come against impossible odds. I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life, what I’ve seen of this country and its people — their goodness and decency — as President of the United States.”
At the historic Old State Capitol — a few blocks from Lincoln’s home and not far from where the slain president is buried — Clinton weaved the Lincoln into her 32-minute speech in front of about 200 supporters.
She said many Americans are questioning “whether we are still a house divided” in light of recent tragedies, including the killing of five police officers in Dallas, and the shooting deaths of two African-American men at the hands of police officers. And she noted that Lincoln’s era was very different and extremely challenging as he fought to abolish slavery.
“The challenges we face today do not approach those of Lincoln’s time. 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,” Clinton said. “Despite our best efforts and highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished,” Clinton warned.
“There is too much violence and hate in our country — too little trust and common ground,” Clinton said.
Clinton again spoke of the devastating impact of gun violence in the country, a topic she highlighted just weeks ago at a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition women’s luncheon. She also brought up Laquan McDonald — shot 16 times by a Chicago Police officer – and Naperville-native Sandra Bland, whose family is remembering her on the one-year anniversary of her apparent suicide in a jail cell.
Clinton left Springfield for a fundraiser in Wilmette. Clinton was last in Springfield on the day before the Illinois primary on March 15, for a town hall at the old historic capitol.