Hillary Clinton needs just 24 more delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination, when the total of delegates she’s won in primaries and caucuses are combined with her superdelegate supporters. Assuming she wins New Jersey on Tuesday night—and she is leading there 64-36 in the latest polls—she will get them, hours before the polls close in California, where she and Senator Bernie Sanders are still locked in a tight race.
As a former Californian, I’ve been ambivalent about rumors that Clinton plans to declare victory after her New Jersey win, reportedly with a big rally in Brooklyn on Tuesday night. An early call by the networks could dampen California turnout. Plus, while I’m a Clinton supporter, I’m concerned about party unity, and I think her campaign should take every opportunity to reach out to Sanders voters.
Then I looked back at what Barack Obama did in 2008, the night he crossed the delegate threshold—like Clinton, with pledged and super delegates. And I looked at the way The New York Times covered it. And I shed my good-girl reservations about an early Clinton declaration of victory. She will win the nomination Tuesday night, no matter what the Sanders campaign says about superdelegates (more on that in a minute.) She will become the first female major-party nominee for the presidency, and she should claim that victory for herself, and for the tens of millions of women who support her. And the media should cover it as the historic event that it is.
Here’s The New York Times story from June 4, 2008. It is headlined “Obama Clinches Nomination; First Black Candidate to Lead a Major Party Ticket.”
Notice that it’s treated as a big, historic occasion; Obama doesn’t share the headline with Clinton. There’s no hedged “Obama claims victory, but Clinton vows to fight on” at the top of the paper of record. The headline and story cover Obama’s proud claim to a historic victory, and it’s treated as a done deal. While it’s true Clinton didn’t concede that night, the next day she scheduled her concession speech in Washington, DC, for the following Saturday. On June 7, 2008—eight years to the day before she will clinch the 2016 nomination—she paid tribute to her voters, those “18 million cracks in the highest and hardest glass ceiling”—and asked them to support Obama.
I understand what Sanders has been trying to do to date, with his promise to take his fight for the nomination into the Philadelphia convention. He wants to turn out the highest possible California vote—he still hopes he can win the state—and go into Philadelphia with the maximum leverage. It’s his right. I even support it, within reason. I certainly support his efforts to move the party platform to the left, on the minimum wage, on financial regulation, on student-loan debt. If that’s what he means when he promises a “contested” convention, deal me in.