By Amrit Singh
And so closes an unpredictable, compelling, maddening, amusing, terrifying, often absurd, and absolutely unprecedented primary season. Last night (June 7) the final six states voted, Hillary Clinton became the first woman to be a major party's presumptive presidential nominee, Bernie Sanders showed little sign of conceding that point just yet and Donald Trump said a series of words which he thought about before saying them. An historic cap to an historic season. So, where do our stars go next? Let's find out.
HILLARY MAKES HISTORY
Her supporters rejoiced as Hillary literally stood under a glass ceiling in Brooklyn to deliver a speech making reference to the metaphorical glass ceiling she cited in her 2008 concession. Her detractors, the ranks of whom are sizably outspoken, even had to pause. Last night Hillary Clinton made history with her candidacy, which is something any American can pause to appreciate. Women received the right to vote 96 years ago via the 19th amendment, and now we have our first female presumptive presidential nominee for a major party. PRETTY FAST, RIGHT? The winds of change can blow slowly in some directions, and to weather them can take persistence, patience, and steely resolve. Over her decades years in the spotlight, and a protracted campaign for presidency dating back over two presidential terms, Hillary Clinton has exhibited these things. So, last night was sweet, if slightly incomplete seeing as she still has an opponent who remains in the field, set on waging his battle all the way to the Democratic National Convention.
For her part, Hillary was extraordinary complimentary of Senator Bernie Sanders, the earnesty of which is impossible to fully know amid the political expediency of it: Hillary needs those who #FeelTheBern to #GetWithHer, or else November will not be pretty. In that speech last night, she said Bernie's campaigning to "raise income, reduce inequality, and increase upward mobility have been very good for the Democratic party and America." From here, Hillary goes on the campaign trail to prove it, and gears up for an historic party in Philadelphia next month for the Democratic National Convention.
TRUMP GOES TELEPROMPTER
While none of yesterday's primaries were of consequence for the Republican party's already-presumptive nominee, Donald Trump still had a lot on the line last night. After making a tentative peace with the party establishment, resulting in a wave of endorsements from Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, Trump spent the week essentially claiming that the judge presiding over his Trump University litigation should be disqualified on the grounds of his Mexican heritage and the inherent bias that judge must surely harbor against Donald because of his plans to build a wall to Mexico. By most people's measure, these were overtly-racist comments, suggesting that this federal judge was unable to render his services based strictly on his ethnicity. Cue the rebuke from aforementioned party leaders, and the public agony of the Republicans who now fully realize that Trump will be anything but a consistently on-message candidate. And so, Donald made a speech last night with the specific intent of speaking to those concerns. He showed up to the podium scripted to the T. But the address Trump gave earned mixed reviews. There was a positive mention from Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus, and some party insiders celebrated its relative restrained discipline, but other watchers worried that his reliance on TelePrompter (for which he had roundly criticized Hillary Clinton just the other day) drained some of the lively zest that drew voters to him in the first place, setting up an interesting tension to watch unfold: As Trump re-calibrates his campaign in attempts to be more "presidential" and predictable in tone and posture, will his appeal remain with the fired-up base on whose shoulders he rode into the nomination?
And while he attempts to normalize his message for a broader audience, he still has to answer for his statements about the judge, which Paul Ryan called "racist" and Graham called "un-American," and which earned Donald his first un-endorsement (from Illinois Senator Mark Kirk). So where does Donald go from here? Into the workshop, to find a way to toe the line between charismatic geyser of bon mots for enraged nationalists, and disciplined candidate who avoids detouring into alleys of racist and xenophobic insinuation. Also, Donald promises a big speech on "The Clintons" this week, making clear that he plans to run a very ad hominem campaign, strongly and directly attacking the family and history of his opponent. Whatever you think of the strategy, that is one way to take up airtime while avoiding taking any steps his party finds racist. Probably.
BERNIE GOES…WHERE DOES BERNIE GO?
The night before the final Super Tuesday of 2016, The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton as the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party. The timing raised eyebrows, particularly with delegate-rich California on the line and in play. Sanders supporters claimed that this was the latest exhibit of a long-running media conspiracy to anoint Clinton and suppress the Bernie vote. On the other hand, Clinton supporters claimed the inevitable had finally come. But Bernie, well, Bernie kept doing his thing, campaigning hard in California as the polls closed, visiting the Hollywood & Highland Center (returning to the scene of our Town Hall with the man) and glad-handing his way through Sunset Junction in the hipster 'hood of Silver Lake. An eyewitness at the farmer's market on Sunset Blvd. told me Sanders's advance staff let people know that "Bernie is now at Intelligentsia," the coffee shop that more frequently hosts indie rock luminaries than presidential candidates. But such is the appeal of Senator Sanders, a man with an uncommon connection to the streets. How he translates that people's touch into this next moment is the greatest remaining unknown of the 2016 primary season. During his speech last night, Bernie claimed he would continue to fight for every delegate—meaning the super delegates whose votes are officially logged at the Democratic National Convention yet who have predominantly announced allegiance with Clinton.
Experts have viewed his speech as a missed opportunity to open the pathway to concession and unifying the party, though maybe Bernie isn't all that interested in party unity at this moment. After all, he said last night, "our mission is more than beating Trump, it is transforming our country." And he's leading a self-professed "political revolution," and if you know your history, you know that revolutions don't tend to end with easy truces. In fact, he said he's continuing to fight to all the way to the convention, despite being "pretty good at arithmetic" and seeing the numbers against them. Those numbers, it should be mentioned, include losing to Clinton in pledged delegate vote, superdelegate vote, overall states, and popular vote. So the reason for Bernie to soldier on, outside of a Quixotic quest to secure the nomination, perhaps would be to keep the party's feet to the fire to adopt the progressive agenda he rallied for so strongly. And on that note, with this pivotal moment and decision of how best to proceed ahead of him, Bernie is getting some unsolicited advice from a Democratic primary also-ran from 2008, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean: "Bernie has changed politics, but his changes are not going to be realized unless he leads—and leading is not going to mean tilting at windmills at the convention," Dr. Dean said. "He has to switch into the mode of a statesman." In any event, to answer the question of where Bernie goes next quite literally: The Senator is in Vermont today, and has a meeting with President Obama at the White House on Thursday. And wherever he decides to go after that, one ultimate destination is for sure: Bernie's going straight into the history books.