After last night's primaries in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maryland, Hillary Clinton has racked up a commending lead of 374 pledged delegates, according to The Green Papers. Counting the publicly committed super delegates, she's 91 percent of the way towards securing the Democratic nomination. Today, there is almost certain to be an increase in calls for Democratic unity and we need to be careful how we talk about it.
Supporters of Hillary Clinton, myself among them, must recall how we felt during the 2008 campaign. The calls for unity sounded a lot like "get the heck out of this race" and felt like she was being bullied to drop out. It's very likely that Bernie supporters in 2016 feel very much the same way. It's important for us to remember and empathize.
For supporters of Bernie, it's important to correct some misconceptions that may be obstacles to achieving unity. First, there is an argument I often hear about the number of delegates that candidates had in 2008 as compared to 2016 and the possibility of a comeback. NPR had a good piece with the numbers on this:
Clinton now has a bigger lead over Sanders than Barack Obama ever had over Clinton at any time in 2008 -- more than twice as big, in fact. When all was said and done in the 2008 primary, Obama finished just 69 pledged delegates ahead of Clinton.
His biggest pledged-delegate lead was 114 after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries on May 6th. Clinton currently has a 275-pledged-delegate lead over Sanders.
For perspective, that's bigger than where Obama finished over Clinton -- 238.5 ahead -- with pledged and superdelegates combined. Clinton currently has a 739-delegate lead with pledged and superdelegates.
Keep in mind that this was written before netting well over 100 additional pledged delegates last night. Another issue to dispel is a notion that Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver has been pushing. He contends that if Hillary is unable to reach the 50% + 1 threshold with only pledged delegates, then there should be an open convention. Dave Weigel at the Washington Post provided some great context on this via a Facebook post:
When Clinton conceded to Barack Obama in 2008, Obama had won just 41.8% of the total delegates. He won slightly more pledged delegates, and got to 50%+1 by adding superdelegates. At her current win rate, Clinton is going to get closer to 48% of the total before any superdelegates are counted.
Using Weaver's logic, Hillary could have and should have waged a floor fight for the nomination in 2008. That would put him squarely in the camp of the infamous PUMA crowd (Party Unity My Ass). They were an extreme minority widely viewed as extremists among Hillary supporters. It would be a huge disservice to Bernie to be associated with any similar effort.
Finally, there is a huge misconception among some Bernie supporters, and it is often repeated in the media, that Hillary is "too cautious" or that she is an "incrementalist". That's just not true. She has put forth a bold, progressive agenda. Debt-free college, creating a solar economy, reforming our criminal justice system, providing equal pay for women, going to war with the NRA and much more are far from cautious. They would radically change our nation for the better. There is little light between Hillary's agenda and Bernie's and there is a great big chasm between the issues they care about and what the Republicans are proposing. Her honesty about the challenges of implementing an agenda we would all support does not make her "cautious" or "incrementalist." Let's remember that we are all fighting for the same things.
Today, it is reported that Bernie is huddling with his senior advisers to reassess the race. I have no insight into the nature of their discussions, but they must be feeling some pressure. The media has been increasingly asking when he plans to exit the race and whether he will enthusiastically embrace Hillary's candidacy.
Up to this point, Bernie has insisted he will be in the race to the end through California. (Note to the Sanders campaign: DC has a Primary after California.) He has also demurred on whether he will support Hillary and help bring his supporters into her camp. Getting these questions must be annoying when you've run a strong campaign and have plenty of money in the bank to continue.
Nonetheless, progressive Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio recently gave an interview to Greg Sargent at the Washington Post and telegraphed much of what may come to pass. Senator Brown has several excellent ideas at brokering a peace between Hillary and Bernie and got at the crux of the matter here:
"In the end Bernie knows that Hillary will mean progress -- not as fast as he wanted, not as dramatic as he wanted, not as colorful as he wanted," Brown said. "But Bernie wants to move the country in this direction, and would find it abhorrent that any of these right wingers would win. I know how personally he cares about this stuff. And he's not going to let this get away."
This sentiment was echoed by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell last night at a party in Philadelphia. It's likely that we will hear more of this from prominent surrogates as a means of calling for party unity. While this is all well and good and the tone is just right, the single greatest ingredient for unity is time.
It is important for Hillary and her supporters to give Bernie the time and space to exit the race on his own terms and on his own schedule. It is equally important to give Bernie's supporters the chance to grieve the loss of the hopes and dreams they ascribed to their candidate. To quote Hillary, a little love and kindness will go a long way in healing our divisions. We must get this right because the stakes are far too high in November. It is the most consequential election of our lifetimes and we cannot afford to lose.