Guest Opinion: Sanders supporters, Clinton won
Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders were outraged on Monday when news reports suggested that Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic presidential nomination even before Tuesday’s contests in California and five other states. But now that those states have voted, they — and he — need to face facts.
The contest for the Democratic nomination is effectively over — and not because the system was rigged in Clinton’s favor or because she was given a free pass by the “corporate media.”
With only next week’s District of Columbia primary remaining on the schedule, Clinton has outperformed Sanders in the total number of votes cast, states won and pledged delegates earned. On Tuesday she won in New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and California, leaving Sanders to claim North Dakota and Montana. True, she won’t actually be the nominee until a vote at the Democratic National Convention. But even Sanders can’t honestly believe that so-called superdelegates — prominent party members who overwhelmingly support Clinton — will transfer their allegiance to him.
Why should they? Voting for Clinton would affirm the preference of the primary electorate, which Sanders once seemed to regard as sacrosanct. And there is a fatal flaw in Sanders’ argument that the superdelegates should defect to him because he would be a more formidable opponent for the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. That calculation ignores the fact that Sanders hasn’t been subjected to the sort of scathing scrutiny that Clinton has endured — not just in this campaign, but throughout her public life. That situation would change abruptly if he were the nominee.
No, Sanders has been a formidable contender, but he will not be the party’s nominee. That doesn’t mean he and his delegates can’t play an influential part in the drafting of the party platform or in the shaping of the message Clinton and her running mate take to the campaign trail. In fact, Sanders already has succeeded in moving Clinton in his direction on a wide range of issues, including opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and support for a dramatic increase in the minimum wage.
As for Clinton, she is now in sight of a political personal best that would have huge historical significance. The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of State has demonstrated a mastery of foreign and domestic policy that would position her well, even if she were facing a similarly knowledgeable and well-prepared Republican opponent.
That she instead will be opposed by Trump, an intemperate, intolerant and ill-informed businessman and television reality star, ought to be a source of optimism for her and her party. But Trump’s improbable success in capturing the Republican nomination counsels against complacency.
Clinton is on notice that, even with such problematic competition, she must show that she not only is competent but capable of articulating a vision of prosperity and national renewal. Sanders can provide valuable assistance in that undertaking, and he should start doing so now.