“Clinching” the Nomination

clintonAs the results of this weekend’s Virgin Islands caucus and Puerto Rico primary became clear—Clinton handily won the Virgin Island caucus and won the Puerto Rico primary by more than 2:1—Clinton expanded her already substantial lead over Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary contest and is now just 19 delegates short of “clinching” the nomination and becoming the  presumptive nominee of the Democratic party in the 2016 presidential election. This will make her the first woman to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. The enormity of this causes my hands to shake as I type those words.

But Bernie “I am the winner no matter what” Sanders and his supporters claim this is not the case. That, because Clinton does not have enough pledged delegates alone to meet the necessary 2,383 delegate count, she will not, in fact, become the nominee after the votes are counted in the California, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota and South Dakota primaries tomorrow. He argues that since the votes of super delegates are not counted until the convention, they cannot be counted until the convention. And, because superdelegates can change their announced support up to the convention, he is going to lure the superdelegates who now support Clinton to his side because, well, he is clearly the winner even despite the fact that the American voters disagree..

Now Sanders’ argument here is both frustrating and false. It’s frustrating that after spending most of the campaign portraying superdelegates as corrupt elites and establishment shills there to deprive the popular winner of the vote; however, once it became clear that Clinton was both the  winner of the popular vote, and the pledged delegate count, Sanders’ view of superdelegates changed: suddenly they are not only legitimate, but they also should determine who wins the nomination regardless of the popular vote or the tally of pledged delegates.

In addition to being hypocritical, Sanders’ arguments—both the earlier and the later bernie_loserones—about superdelegates are flat out wrong. After hours and hours of research, I have yet to find a democratic nominee since the addition of superdelegates who was noted as having “clinched” the nomination  based on pledged delegates alone.

Let me be clear here: since the addition of the superdelegate system in 1984, “clinching” has always been defined as having enough superdelegates and pledged delegates to win. Certainly some candidates ins 1984 have reached that number on surer footing than others, the press has always called the nomination “clinched” at the point the pledged and superdelegates number is reach the necessary number needed to win the nomination.

In fact, since the addition of superdelegates in 1984, almost all non-incumbent candidates have needed superdelegates to win. It is also the case that the history of superdelegates has been that once a Democrat hits the magic number and becomes the nominee, superdelegates are more likely to move to support that nominee than to move to support someone else. Sanders’ argument, then, defies logic and history.

Let’s take a brief look at that history.

In 1984, the first democratic contest in which superdelegates were used,  a total of 1,967 delegates were needed to clinch the nomination. The contest came down to Walter Mondale, Gary Hart and Jessie Jackson. Mondale had a plurality of delegates but was not able to reach 1,967 with pledged delegates. Superdelegates helped  Mondale get past the threshold he needed to achieve an outright majority of delegates.

In 1988, 2,081 delegates were needed to clinch the nomination,  and Michael Dukakis hit the target with a combination of super and pledged delegates with the California primary on June 8.

By the end of the democratic primary in 1992, Bill Clinton had 52 percent of the vote and 3,372 of the delegates, a number that once again represented a combination of pledged and superdelegates.

In 2000, the magic number was 2,170. Bill Bradley withdrew in early March and by the end of March, Al Gore had enough pledged and superdelegates to be declared the nominee.

The magic number in 2004 was 2,162. By the time John Kerry clinched the nomination on March 12, 2004, Edwards had already withdrawn the previous Tuesday, leaving no rivals for Kerry; he hit the delegate target with a combination of super and pledged delegates.

As many of recall, the 2008 election brought much attention to the issue of superdelegates. With a combination of super and pledged delegates putting him just over the number he needed, Obama was considered the nominee as of June 3rd, 2008. Although it was a number of  superdelegates who put him over that year’s magic number of 2,118.Still, when Obama bit that number, major news sources proclaimed he’d clinched the nomination.

This brings us to 2016. This year there are 4,175 pledged delegates total in the Democratic primary. Let’s for a moment look at Sanders’ contention that only pledged delegates should count. If  that were the case, the number Clinton would need to win would be 2,088. At this point that would mean she only needed 276 delegates to hit that number and win the pledged delegate count. In contrast, Sanders would now need  567 delegates in order to win the pledged delegate count. But that, of course, it not how it works. Instead, the magic number this year is 2,383, and with a combination of pledged and superdelegates, Clinton has 2,360 to Sanders’1,567.

Therefore, tomorrow Hillary Clinton will clinch the democratic nomination and become he first woman in U.S. history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party.I think that bears repeating: tomorrow Hillary Clinton will clinch the democratic nomination and become he first woman in U.S. history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party.

But rather than reveling in that accomplishment, Clinton will have to temper her celebration so as not to offend the male privilege of Bernie and his bros that allows them to believe that, despite the pledged delegate count, the popular vote, and the support of superdelegrates, Bernie is more worthy of the nomination than a woman who has by all objective measures demonstrated she is the most qualified candidate for the job.

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