Another handful of Clinton wins in big states, and the margins grow. I’m writing before the full pledged delegate count from tonight is known, but she led by 244 coming into tonight, not counting super delegates, and that may grow by another 30 to 40. (Here’s a great delegate calculator; bookmark it.)
As for the popular vote, she led it by a lot coming into Tuesday night: 10.4 million to 7.7 million, a nearly 2.7 million-vote difference, or 57 to 43 percent, numbers that we call a landslide in a general election. She may have added a couple hundred thousand to that margin tonight. Depending on what happens in California and New Jersey, this could end up being close to 60-40.
So forgive me for being a little confused about why these margins give Bernie Sanders such “leverage” in what we presume to be his looming negotiations with Hillary Clinton over the future of the party of which he’s not a member. It is “incumbent” upon Clinton, he told Chris Hayes on Monday on MSNBC, “to tell millions of people who right now do not believe in establishment politics or establishment economics, who have serious misgivings about a candidate who has received millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests.”
Is there precedent for the losing candidate demanding that the winning candidate prove her bona fides to his voters? I sure can’t think of any. The most recent precedent we have for this kind of thing is 2008, a contest that of course involved Hillary Clinton. Let’s have a look at how that one wound down.
Clinton did indeed run until the end, winning states all along the way. On the last day of voting, June 3, they drew—she took South Dakota, and Obama won Montana. At that point, depending on what you did or didn’t count (Michigan and Florida were weird races that year after they broke the DNC calendar to move their primary dates up, and the party punished them by taking away delegates), she was actually ahead of Obama on popular votes. But even excluding Michigan, where Obama wasn’t on the ballot, it was a hell of a lot closer than 57-43. It was 51-49.
Did Clinton carry on about her campaign of the people? Did she say it was incumbent upon Obama to prove his worth to her voters? Did she put her forefinger on her cheek for weeks and make Obama twist in the wind? No, of course not.
Four days after the voting ended, she got out of the race, gave the famous 18 million-cracks-in-the-glass-ceiling speech, and said: “The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States. Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him. And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me. I have served in the Senate with him for four years. I have been in this campaign with him for 16 months. I have stood on the stage and gone toe-to-toe with him in 22 debates. I've had a front-row seat to his candidacy, and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit. In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream...” and so on. She laid it on thick, and gave a strong and gracious convention speech later.
Now granted, it’s not June. There’s plenty of time for this to wind down civilly. It was a good sign that Tad Devine told The New York Times Tuesday afternoon that Sanders would “reassess” things Wednesday morning. Of course, that was Devine talking—the only one of Sanders’s top crew who is actually a Democrat and who has to mend fences to eat lunch in this town. At the same time that Devine was speaking these conciliatory words, the Sanders camp sent out a cheeky, we’re-not-done-yet fund-raising solicitation featuring a photo of Bill and Hill at The Donald’s wedding.
So the signals from Sanders-world are mixed. One thing’s for sure: There is no expectation that Sanders will behave like Clinton did in 2008. It’s worth examining why.
On the one hand, it’s understandable. He’s not a Democrat, so party loyalty isn’t a thing here. And the main thing is that the ideological differences between Sanders and Clinton are greater than between Clinton and Obama, or John Edwards and John Kerry, or Bill Bradley and Al Gore. The people voting for Bernie are voting to reject Hillary’s politics in a more fundamental way than the people voting for Bradley were rejecting Gore.
On the other hand… the media’s expectations of these people hinges so greatly on the personality types they establish, and that the media just accept them. No one expects Sanders to be a team player because he’s a guy (emphasis on guy) who has always agitated outside the system. Whereas everyone expects Clinton to behave properly because she’s a woman (emphasis on woman) who has always been the type to do what’s expected of her.
If this were two men, the onus would clearly be on the one who’s behind to play ball and do the responsible thing. But I can’t help suspecting that the media are going to put the weight on her in these next few weeks: Will Hillary accept Bernie’s conditions?
She shouldn’t accept conditions. But she absolutely should take steps to mollify his voters. She’s going to have to. However, she should do it like someone who’s ahead 57-43 should do it. She should say: Sure, I’ll adopt a couple of your positions. But I have a couple of conditions of my own. If I hear the words “Goldman” and “Sachs” coming out of your mouth one more time, if I see any more fund-raising appeals that paint me as the harlot of Wall Street, the deal is dead, and I’ll call Chuck Schumer and make sure that you don’t chair the Budget Committee if we retake the Senate, but instead you have the post-office renaming subcommittee. And I may drop some of that oppo I have on you that I’ve never used. You know the stuff I mean.
Sanders should run to the end. He owes it to his backers in California and New Jersey to give them a chance to vote for him. I don’t know anyone who says otherwise. But it’s now time for him to think about his future, and the future of the influence his movement will have in the Democratic Party.
I want that movement to have influence. There are a lot of people like me, who think Clinton is the stronger candidate, but want Sanders to have some influence over her. And to us, it looks like it’s time for him to think less about revolution than evolution.