Tonight, a long and grueling presidential nominating season drew to a close, with nominating events in New Jersey, California, New Mexico, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. With the exception of North Dakota and Montana, early returns show Hillary Clinton prevailing, including in California, which means she has the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nomination locked up.
(The District of Columbia will hold the very last event of the season next Tuesday, but only a few delegates are at stake in that contest.)
Clinton declared herself the presumptive nominee in a powerful, eloquent speech delivered in Brooklyn, celebrating the historic shattering of the glass ceiling that she said had “eighteen million cracks” in it exactly eight years ago.
““Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about eighteen million cracks in it,” Clinton said on June 7th, 2008. “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.”
Precisely eight years later, Clinton’s prophetic words have been fulfilled. Today she became the first woman likely to be nominated by a major political party in the history of the United States of America, which is a hugely significant accomplishment.
Clinton was magnanimous in victory, gracefully celebrating her achievement and sharing it everyone who had invested in her while congratulating Bernie Sanders for running one of the most remarkable, people-powered campaigns in U.S. history. Again and again, she used language evoking progressive values and principles.
Sanders, speaking hours later, vowed to push forward and continue working to earn delegates and votes in the District of Columbia’s June 14th Democratic primary, the very last event on the calendar, and then after that, take the fight to Philadelphia, the site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
Sanders briefly acknowledged speaking with Clinton, but otherwise did not mention her. He blasted Donald Trump, (who had made an overture to his supporters earlier in the evening), but opted not to say anything negative about Clinton.
The White House announced that President Obama had telephoned both Clinton and Sanders to congratulate them on running inspiring campaigns.
We at NPI join President Obama in offering our congratulations to the candidates. It has been a long primary season, and it’s appropriate to celebrate the history that both candidates have made. Hillary Clinton has broken one of the biggest barriers in American politics by securing the Democratic presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders has come further than just about any progressive presidential candidate in history by winning around two dozen states and earning ten million votes.
When Bernie began his journey in April of 2015, few pundits or observers expected the “Democratic socialist from Vermont” to go very far. He himself noted in his remarks tonight that he was treated at the outset as a fringe candidate. People working in big media regarded his candidacy with amusement and derision.
Over the course of the next year, Bernie utterly astonished them by galvanizing a large people-powered movement and raising large amounts of money over the Internet from small donors. Thanks to Bernie’s campaign, ActBlue now has over three million credit cards on file — to the consternation of Republicans.
Bernie may not end up as the 2016 Democratic nominee, but he and his supporters have already won a huge victory. They have begun a much-needed transformation of the Democratic Party and the progressive movement that will reshape American politics for years to come. Bernie’s campaign put bold progressive ideas like Medicare For All or expansion of Social Security on the table for discussion, and has slowly been pushing Hillary Clinton’s campaign in a more progressive direction.
Clinton and Sanders have each demonstrated resilience and stamina by campaigning vigorously for six months in every state in the country. With nominating season now drawing to a close, we tip our hats to them and say, congratulations and well done.
Some of us at NPI are Hillary supporters, and some of are Bernie supporters. As an organization, we have no position because we do not endorse candidates and we do not do any electioneering for or against any candidate.
I myself am a Bernie Sanders supporter. I was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention last month for Bernie, and I remain committed to his candidacy as long as he chooses to be an active candidate. Were I him, I would have used my speech tonight to exit the presidential contest and begin the work of creating a permanent campaign to continue revolutionizing American politics, though I respect his decision to stay in and compete in the D.C. primary.
I believe strongly that Bernie’s impact will be far greater over the long-term if he can pivot from being a presidential candidate to a party leader.
Howard Dean successfully did this twelve years ago. Dean for America became Democracy For America (which today employs NPI President Robert Cruickshank as Senior Campaign Manager) and Dean was chosen to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee following the 2004 presidential election.
Under Dean and the fifty-state strategy, the Democratic Party swept to victory in the 2006 and 2008 elections, winning both houses of Congress as well as the presidency. Most of Dean’s gains were wiped out following his departure from the DNC, but his impact continues to be felt, and the progressive political infrastructure he built continues to help progressive candidates and causes.
Thanks to Howard Dean, Democracy for America stood ready provide support and aid to Bernie Sanders after he decided to run for President — even though Dean himself chose to endorse and work for Hillary Clinton.
Sanders now has a similar opportunity to create a legacy that will continue to change America for the better. Considering that Sanders’ campaign conquered heights never reached by Dean, his long-term impact could be even greater than Dean’s.
Dean himself seems to recognize Sanders’ potential. He also knows how hard it is to leave the trail. As he told The New York Times earlier tonight:
“It’s very hard to concede,” he said. “You are tired. You are cranky. You’ve worked your butt off for two years.”
Nobody, Mr. Dean said, resisted ending a presidential campaign more than he did. Once a high-flying front-runner, he had a string of setbacks that left him feeling, by February 2004, much as Mr. Sanders does today: furious at an unfair system and determined to fight on.
Then Al Gore called. Mr. Dean fulminated, uninterrupted, for 10 minutes, “ranting and raving,” he recalled. But Mr. Gore, schooled in the art of painful concessions, was blunt. “You know, Howard,” he said, “This is not really about you. This is about the country.”
The progressive candidates and causes of the future will be much better positioned to succeed if Sanders can convert his presidential campaign into a permanent campaign to raise America’s quality of life, and keep his supporters engaged in progressive politics. It won’t be simple or easy, but if the revolution is to continue, then Bernie has to find a way to inspire as many of the people who voted for him, donated to him, and volunteered for him to stay involved.
It’s unrealistic to expect people to stay involved if they don’t have something to do, so no task is more important than mapping out priorities for the coming general election season. For Team Bernie, these could include defeating Trump, getting rid of so-called superdelegates, insisting the Democratic Party offer the American people a progressive platform rooted in progressive values, and electing progressive Democrats downballot. Beyond the election, there are a seemingly endless number of issues to pick from to organize around.
Building progressive infrastructure is hard work, and at times, it can seem like a thankless job. But it’s very rewarding. There is a tremendous value to creating organizations and projects with staying power. At NPI, following an election, we don’t ramp down and we don’t turn out the lights. We keep on going, thanks to the loyalty of our dedicated supporters. And though we are always working on one short term objective or another, we’re always thinking long term.
We need to train more progressives to be effective activists and to organize their communities and constituencies on a year-round basis, removing barriers to participation in our political system. We have to help our fellow Americans realize that that we don’t just have elections in this country in years divisible by four. Decisions that affect people’s lives aren’t just made every once in a while. They’re being made all the time. Those who show up will have the opportunity to influence the decisions that get made. Those who don’t, won’t.
Fourteen years ago, after starting Permanent Defense, I got involved in my first campaign. It was the Bush error. I joined the fight against Tim Eyman’s I‑776, because I wanted to ensure that Sound Transit could start construction on a regional line rail spine for our region. I became really invested in NO on I‑776.
I worked hard because I wanted to win.
Unfortunately, the campaign to defeat I‑776 was unsuccessful, and the 2002 elections were a huge disappointment. I could have walked away from politics at that point. I could have said, forget this. But I didn’t. I stayed involved. I resolved to carry on and keep fighting. And I’m glad I have.
When I‑776 passed, Tim Eyman thought he’d succeeded in shutting down Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail. But he was wrong. Sound Transit challenged I‑776 in court, and won approval to continue collecting the vehicle fees it had pledged to pay off bonds. Then, to Eyman’s utter astonishment, it secured federal funding to break ground. Six years later, the light rail line Eyman thought he’d killed opened to the public, and since then, three new stations have been added to it, with another one on the way this September and many more under construction.
The moral of this story is simple: Stay involved, because there’s another campaign that needs to be won. If you walk away, then you’re depriving a cause or a candidate somewhere of badly-needed help.
As Bernie himself has said, his campaign isn’t about him. It is rather about a ideas this country needs to become more prosperous and inclusive. Those ideas are still in need of champions to bring them to fruition.
As nominating season ends and summer begins, the Democratic Party will need to unify if it is to elect its nominee and put America on a progressive path.
This organization is not affiliated with a political party and won’t be backing any candidate, but I will be supporting Hillary Clinton this summer and fall individually in my capacity as a Democratic activist and party leader.
After Bernie, Hillary is the candidate who best represents my values and can defeat Donald Trump. So that’s who I’ll be enthusiastically voting for.
As a practically-minded activist, I know I can’t always get what I want, but I can get a lot of what I want over time through hard work and negotiation. In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want/But if you try sometimes well you just might find/You get what you need.
To everybody out there who believes that America needs progressive change and is feeling disappointed, I have five words for you: Don’t burn out. Keep organizing.
You’ll be glad you did.