ATLANTA — Wading back into politics for one of the first times since the end of her campaign, Hillary Clinton promised Democrats meeting here in Atlanta that she will stay active in the party's efforts to rebuild and to oppose President Donald Trump.
"We as Democrats must move forward with courage, confidence, and optimism, and stay focused on the elections we must win this year and next. Let resistance plus persistence equal progress for our party and our country," Clinton said in surprise video recorded for Democrats at a party-wide meeting on Friday in Atlanta.
"Keep fighting," she said. "I’ll be right there with you every step of the way."
After a devastating loss last fall to Trump, Clinton's future role in the party has been a subject of speculation and debate among Democrats and progressives — some of whom argue that the Clintons' time as central figures in the party has passed, and that she and former president Bill Clinton should clear the way for new voices.
Democrats close to Clinton, however, have said she will remain involved in party business and helping candidates, though plans for that effort remain fluid.
Even as the Democratic National Committee's 447 voting members convene here to elect a new chair and plot a fresh course forward, Democrats are quick to invoke lessons from 2016 election and Clinton's tight primary against Bernie Sanders.
A rules committee meeting on Thursday was dedicated in part to a post-mortem of Clinton's loss and to questions about whether to abolish the super-delegate system that benefited Clinton over Sanders. And the two frontrunners in the chair's race, Tom Perez and Keith Ellison, have been cast by some Democrats as proxies in an ongoing battle between the establishment and the activist grassroots community.
Clinton's message to Democrats, delivered direct-to-camera, was met with cheers and applause among those assembled in the Westin Peachtree Plaza ballroom.
The former first lady acknowledged divisions inside the party ("we are Democrats, after all") and touted the DNC platform that her campaign helped write in collaboration with Sanders — tying those values to the so-called resistance movement on the left.
"Ideas we championed are now inspiring leaders and activists across our country," Clinton said.
"Nearly 66 million votes are fueling grassroots energy and activism. And everywhere, people are marching, protesting, tweeting, speaking out, and working for an America that’s hopeful, inclusive, and big-hearted."
Among the millions of Democrats marching in the streets, Clinton said, are "future mayors, city and state officials, governors, members of congress..."
"Even," she added, "future presidents."