As balloons fell around Hillary Clinton and the smell of cordite wafted across the hall from a briefest of fireworks display, Debra Saunders teared up with joy and pride.
“Eight years ago,” Saunders, a white woman, said, “I cried when we elected our first African American president and today we have a woman nominee who could be president.”
Declaring the US was at a “moment of reckoning”, Clinton accepted the Democratic party nomination on Thursday, presenting herself as a unifier, a healer of divides and as someone who will get the job done no matter how tough it gets.
She presented a vision for the US that was in stark contrast to her Republican rival Donald Tump, who unveiled last week a dark vision of a divided nation at war within and abroad.
Clinton said Trump was moving the Republican party from its icon Ronald Reagan’s vision of a sunny and optimistic “Morning in America” to a dark “Midnight in America”.
And she portrayed Trump as a thin-skinned, easily riled man least prepared for the Oval Office: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Introduced by daughter Chelsea Clinton as a “fighter who never gives up and who always believes we can do better, it we come together and work together,” she spoke for little under an hour.
Supporters of Bernie Sanders who remain unmoved by their leader’s appeal for party unity, continued protesting on the floor, but they were few and were drowned out by her supporters.
Clinton reached out to Sanders and his supporters in her speech saying “to all of your supporters here and around the country: I want you to know, I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause.”
Party leaders expect many of them to come around over the next weeks, given the choice before them — “are they going to vote for Trump?” asked a delegate from California.
They may stay home, or, some of them have said, vote for Jill Stein, the presidential candidate of the Green Party, one of many alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties.
But the larger mass of the party has moved on. And there is a sense of history being made here, as Saunders said, echoing a general sentiment felt around the convention arena.
Mary C Curtis, a North Carolina columnist who writes on politics and race, said, “With all the partisan sniping, people have lost sight of the fact that there is real history being made here.
“You come from a country that has had a woman as the head of government,” she said, referring to Indira Gandhi, Indian prime minister from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984.
It’s time now for the US. But Clinton’s real challenge, Curtis said, would be the turnout. “Will she be able to turnout the Obama coalition that helped him win?” she asked.
The “Obama coalition” is a demographically diverse voting block — African Americans, Latinos, unmarried women and young people — that gave the president two terms.
Democrats haven’t won a majority of white votes in years, and Clinton trails Trump among white voters by an average of 17 points, and will have to bank on the Obama coalition.
That work got underway in earnest at the convention with powerful speeches from President Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, and Vice-President Joe Biden.
They hold Clinton’s key to the White House, experts have said.