Now that Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination is a fait accompli, the only remaining question is when — or whether — Bernie Sanders will man up by standing down.
For now, of course, he’s fulminating about how “the media” — AP, NBC News, ABC News — is aiding Clinton by calling the race prematurely. But anyone with a grasp of third-grade math knows the race is over.
California, New Jersey, and the other four states that vote tonight will not alter the empirical truth. In fact, an expected Clinton victory in New Jersey will buttress her delegate majority, regardless of what happens elsewhere. As numbers-cruncher Nate Silver noted this morning, Clinton “is winning her party’s nomination by every available measure.”
No matter what the Bernie bitter-enders may prefer to believe, math is not a “corporate media” or “establishment” conspiracy. On the cusp of tonight’s contests, Clinton has roughly 300 more pledged delegates than Sanders (wider than Barack Obama’s winning margin in the ’08 primaries); Clinton has roughly three million more votes than Sanders (wider than Obama’s winning ’08 margin); and Clinton’s huge advantage among the unpledged “superdelegates” is based on the simple fact that the superdelegates have always — without exception — honored the popular vote.
So Bernie’s madcap belief — repeated endlessly in recent days — that he can somehow change the superdelegates’ minds, that he can persuade them to abandon Clinton at the Democratic convention, is sheer fantasy. The superdelegates are not going to defy the will of the people. They’re not going to suddenly declare fealty to a nominal Democrat who, when all the primary season votes are tallied, will have lost to Clinton by roughly 54 to 46 percent. Dissing the popular will would be very undemocratic.
Bernie’s time is up. Shortly after tonight’s contests augment Clinton’s winning majority, President Obama will formally endorse her and, soon after that, begin to campaign for her. (Obama reportedly phoned Sanders on Sunday to alert him to this impending reality.) Obama is broadly popular among Democrats — according to a recent national poll, 90 percent like his job performance — and Sanders is smart enough to know that it’s a fool’s errand to paint the president as a “rigged” “establishment” conspirator.
And the din of Democrats urging Sanders to stand down will grow louder in the days ahead. Clinton quit her ’08 candidacy, and strongly endorsed Obama, just four days after the primaries ended. She wanted to ensure that the summer convention would not be acrimonious; that kind of mood helped kill the Democrats in 1980, when Ted Kennedy took his losing primary campaign to the bitter end and tried unsuccessfully to change delegate rules on the convention floor.
The overriding aim now — or what should be the aim, assuming that Sanders grudgingly agrees — is to demonstrate that the Democrats are sufficiently united to take down the toxic Republican nominee. If Sanders can somehow muster the grace to abandon his lost mission, and signal to his followers that unity serves the greater good, Democrats could head toward summer with a clear advantage over the GOP. Because right now, the GOP is staging a disputatious spectacle for the ages.
Seriously, have you heard what’s been going on lately? What a freak show. As I detailed here last week, never before have so many prominent Republicans announced their refusal to attend their own national convention. And never before, in anyone’s memory, has a presidential nominee been assailed as a racist and demagogue by prominent members of his own party.
Clinton and Sanders occasionally exuded hostile vibes during their long battle, but the accelerating Republican backlash against Donald Trump — for his serial sliming of the federal judge in the Trump “University” fraud case – is unparalleled. (For those of you in hibernation, Trump has assailed the Indiana-born judge as a “Mexican,” who, by dint of being “Mexican,” is unqualified to pass judgment on Trump’s alleged fraud.)
In the last 48 hours alone, Trump has been rebuked by at least eight Republican senators — including Ben Sasse (“Saying someone can’t do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of racism”), Lindsey Graham (“This is the most unAmerican thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy”), and Jeff Flake (Trump is “ill-informed and ignorant”). Even Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, calls it “one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. Inexcusable. That judge is not Mexican. He’s an American.”
The GOP is stuck with a nominee who is, by an objective measure, an unqualified loon. And feeding the GOP’s disunity is the fact that, for all his self-vaunted managerial skills, he can’t even put together a competent campaign. On Sunday, his staffers told his surrogates to stop talking about the Trump University case, to let it play out in court; on Monday, Trump overrode his staffers – he rebuked their “stupid information,” and called them “people that aren’t so smart” – and told his surrogates to double down on the judge.
Bernie Sanders can help unite the Democrats and draw the most advantageous contrast; either that, or he can play the sore loser and help the unqualified loon. Six weeks ago, he stated: “I will do everything in my power to make sure that no Republican gets into the White House in this election cycle.” So do it already.
A fun factoid: As soon as the ’08 primary season was over, when it was clear that Barack Obama had won the popular vote and amassed the majority of pledged delegates, he was swiftly endorsed by a superdelegate named Bernie Sanders.