Last night was the last of the major state contests in the primaries for 2016. Although we still await the outcome of the Washington D.C. primary next week, the results there will not impact the overall outcome other than to reassert the momentum Clinton has going forward.
Last night, Secretary Hillary Clinton became the first woman in the history of the United States to clinch the nomination of a major political party. Her win was made sweeter by the winning of 4 of the 6 primaries that night, including decisive wins in both California and New Jersey. Her moment began with a touching video that sought to place herself amongst the pantheon of notable women in American history; a place she unquestionably deserves. This video furthermore was an inclusive message that sought to bring the party and the nation together after a hard-fought primary. Incredible to me was her inclusion of many ethnic groups, as well as the LGBT community. Her subsequent speech didn’t disappoint. Rich with the history of the moment and accentuated by her personal narrative, Clinton was positively radiant as she clinched her spot in the history books and on the general election stage.
I was touched by her speech and her video. In some ways, I was more moved by Clinton’s win last night than President Obama’s win in 2008. in 2008, I had wanted Clinton to win, so a part of the historical moment was eclipsed by my sadness at her loss (not that that kept me from crying on Election Day in November when he won the Presidency). But more importantly, the issue of LGBT equality was not embraced in 2008 by either party, leaving me with nowhere to turn to feel genuinely included. Not so last night. The LGBT community was wholeheartedly embraced by Secretary Clinton and I felt that. I felt empowered an included in her message and in her candidacy. I wasn’t just ready for Hillary— I was excited to be with her.
I wish that it was on the high note that the night had ended, but it was not meant to be. Senator Sanders took the stage late last night in what ultimately became a rather defiant speech. The beginning was demure and less fiery, leading several people to think that maybe— just maybe— he was conceding. Instead, Sanders asserted that he somehow had an mathematical way toward victory, which he clearly does not. Clinton has clinched the majority of pledged delegates and leads in the popular vote. The only way Sanders could win would be to convince hundreds of superdelegates (a thing he supposedly doesn’t like) to switch their allegiance away from the way the people voted (his exact criticism of them). I’m not saying that Sanders should have dropped out right then and there; he is certainly entitled to make his decision in his own time. And there is much that he could still do with his energized base that could be helpful to the Democratic Party and not harmful. My issue is that he insists he can do something he really cannot do— become the nominee.
Apart from his somewhat befuddling grasp of his electoral deficit, Sanders was silent in a moment where the candidate should have stepped in. At one point, Sanders mentions Secretary Clinton, the presumptive of the nominee of the party in whose party he ran, and the crowd boos her. This in and of itself is not that surprising. The hard core supporters of both candidates are always pretty ginned up at a rally. But what was surprising, and in my view damning, was Sanders silence in the chorus of boos. This is a woman who just did something historic and is now your best chance to beat Trump, a goal you just reiterated that you had and you did nothing? This to my mind conjured up the now-famous incident where John McCain corrected a woman that believed Barack Obama to be a Muslim. While the woman here was factually incorrect and there was no such factual issue with Sanders (apart from his “arithmetic”), the decorum and decency McCain showed in stepping in and correcting a supporter was sorely missed from that moment last night. Indeed how hard would it have been when the booing stopped to put your hands up and reiterate that though you have your differences with Clinton, it was Trump that deserved their ire and attention? Where was the courageous politician that waved aside a political scandal of his opponent to address the real issues facing the country? Woefully absent.
As the general election officially gets underway, let us hope that Sanders comes around and helps assist Clinton in her bid to stop Trump. A blistering primary shouldn’t get in the way of the general election and the history of the moment. Sanders needs look no farther than Clinton herself for an outstanding model of how to act gracious in defeat and as a member of a team looking toward history.