Yesterday was the final “Super Tuesday” of the 2016 election. As is often the case this late in the process, there was very little suspense. Donald Trump clinched the nomination in early May, and so Tuesday was a formality for Republicans. The Democratic contests were more interesting, but only slightly. Primaries were held in six states: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and South Dakota.
As of this writing, Hillary Clinton was declared the winner in New Jersey (by a substantial margin), virtually guaranteeing she’ll be the first woman in American history to lead a major-party ticket. At her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, Clinton referenced the historical significance of her nomination. "We are all standing under a glass ceiling right now," she told supporters.
The final results from yesterday's primaries remain unclear, but Clinton is likely to secure a majority of the 126 delegates at stake. However the numbers break down in the smaller states, it won’t change the overall dynamics.
Much of the Super Tuesday anticipation was shattered on Monday night when the AP called the race for Clinton. But that, too, was a formality. Since March 15, when Clinton won North Carolina, Ohio and Florida, the writing has been plastered on the wall. After Bernie Sanders’ defeat in New York on April 19, the race was over.
Sanders fought hard in California, as a kind of last stand. And his supporters there deserved their chance to vote. But the truth is that California didn’t matter. Before the polls closed on the West coast, Clinton had already crossed the delegate threshold.
Sanders has vowed to keep lobbying superdelegates to abandon Clinton. This was a weak argument three months ago; today it’s positively stupid. First, it won’t happen. Second, it’s inconsistent with the spirit of his democratic revolution. The nomination process is broken and needlessly byzantine, but that’s not why Sanders lost. The voters elected Clinton. For all the righteous indignation over superdelegates, she won the old fashioned way – by receiving more votes than her opponent; Sanders has to accept that.
A candidate so deeply opposed to anti-democratic measures cannot in good faith ask party elites to overturn the will of the voters. To do so would undercut his credibility in the worst way imaginable.
Before yesterday, it was difficult to distinguish posturing from genuine appeals. Because Sanders has said one of his goals is to acquire as many delegates as possible, it was necessary for him to say he was still in the race, even though he wasn’t. But there’s no point in feigning optimism anymore. There isn’t a cogent argument left to make. If Sanders continues pretending he has a path to the nomination, the race will get ugly and the calls for him to exit will get louder. Prominent Democrats are already pressing Sanders to pivot. “He should stand down now,” said Sen. Bill Nelson. “Democrats will come together after the convention anyway. But it’s an unnecessary diversion at this point.” Sen. Martin Heinrich said “It’s time to focus on making sure there’s an adult in the White House and not Donald Trump,” adding that Sanders’ is approaching “a point of diminishing returns” by refusing to concede the race. Other Democrats will make similar exhortations in the coming days, and Sanders ought to listen.
Creating chaos won’t advance his agenda and it won’t prevent Clinton from winning the nomination. Instead, it will benefit Trump and the Republicans. In his speech on Tuesday night, Trump made yet another plea to disillusioned liberals, invoking the anger over superdelegates. This is naked pandering, but it will resonate in this climate.
The more protracted the Democratic race, the more time Republicans have to exploit it. Sanders has political capital right now. The best way to preserve that is to concede the race and use his influence to shape the party platform. Denying reality and misleading supporters serves no useful purpose for the Sanders campaign. Nor will alienating the very party he seeks to change. It’s time to move on to the next phase of his campaign, which is about leveraging his influence.
The battle for the nomination is officially over.