It was a long and ferocious slog for the Democratic presidential nomination. But in the end, the party found unity – and victory.
This would be 2008 and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
I went back and watched Clinton’s remarkable speech when she conceded the race and endorsed Obama. Then I found a video of her on the floor of the Democratic convention that August, when she urged delegates to nominate Obama by acclamation.
And as I watched, I found it really hard to imagine that Bernie Sanders will do anything remotely like that.
Yes, he’ll eventually, grudgingly support Clinton, but to get there he’s being really stubborn and ornery.
After last Tuesday’s primaries, Clinton has a clear majority of pledged delegates and 3.7 million more popular votes, and she cleaned his clock in California, where he spent weeks campaigning. But in his primary night speech in Santa Monica, he didn’t even acknowledge the history she made as the first woman to win a major party nomination, and ended by telling the crowd: “The struggle continues.”
Maybe, but chivalry is dead.
Two days later, right after Sanders and Obama met privately, the president formally backed Clinton. Hours later, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a hero to Sanders supporters, endorsed Clinton as well, putting more pressure on him to end his campaign.
Tuesday, Democrats go to the polls in Washington, D.C., in the final nominating contest. Fine. All the voters should get their say, as Sanders wants. But that should be it.
Sanders said Sunday that he and Clinton will meet Tuesday night, but he made demands on what he wants in the party platform and her campaign promises to win his full support.
He has to stop sending mixed signals and talking about taking his fight – if not his candidacy – all the way to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia in July. He’s giving his supporters false hope, fueling “Bernie or Bust” groups such as RootsAction, which on Friday started an online petition urging Sanders to contest the convention, complete with an image of a roaring bonfire and the slogan “Let it Bern.”
I don’t think most Americans want to burn everything down for a political “revolution.”
Sure, Sanders is in a different situation than Clinton eight years ago. Unlike Clinton, he’s not going to run for president again. He’s an independent, not a longtime Democratic loyalist. He’s never had this much attention for his ideas.
Still, a little grace in defeat would be nice.
For all her faults, Clinton certainly displayed that in 2008. As so often happens to candidates, her best speech of that campaign was her concession, as painful as it was to deliver.
If you watch it, you’ll probably be struck by how many themes and issues echo today – expanding health care, boosting the middle class, expanding equal rights, combating climate change. But the most lasting image is of women in the crowd weeping as Clinton finally spoke at length about running to become the nation’s first female president.
“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” she said, “and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
Eight years later, it’s Clinton herself, one big step closer to finally breaking that ceiling.
She was eloquent and gracious and she threw her support to Obama without equivocation. “The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand,” she implored her supporters, “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.”
Sanders should take a cue from that script. Time is fast running out before he really damages his own movement for economic, social and political justice.
In 2008, the last primaries were on June 3. Two days later, Clinton and Obama had their famous meeting at the Washington home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California. Two days after that, Clinton delivered her concession speech. And three weeks later, they held their first joint rally in the aptly named Unity, N.H.
So if Sanders follows that schedule, he’ll endorse Clinton by the weekend. Maybe they could hold their first joint rally in Justice, Ill.
On issues that he cares the most about, Sanders has to realize that Clinton on a bad day is far closer to him than Donald Trump on his best day. And in their responses to the horrific Orlando, Fla., massacre, Clinton proved once again that she is far more ready to be president. Their speeches Monday – Clinton’s calm policy outline and call for unity, Trump’s divisive, fact-challenged anti-Clinton tirade – could not make the choice any clearer for Sanders and his supporters.
The Clinton camp and Democratic leaders are treating Sanders with kid gloves, not wanting to alienate his army. But he needs to man up and decide: Is he really willing to risk going down in history as the man who helped put Trump in the White House?