Eight years ago this week, on June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton conceded to Barack Obama. "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling," she said, "thanks to you it's got about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before." On Tuesday, when she won a majority of the pledged delegates in this year’s Democratic contest, it quickly became obvious why the campaign decided to make a glass-filled greenhouse in Brooklyn Navy Yard the backdrop for this moment. Clinton began her speech by noting that America was going to have a woman be a major political party’s presidential nominee (yes, we see you there, Jill Stein!) for the first time in history. The crowd exploded.
The fact that this Democratic primary could end in as historic a fashion as the one Clinton lost eight years ago is often overshadowed since many voters couldn’t believe that a person so tied to the political past could accomplish anything new and exciting. It was clear she didn't want anyone to forget that fact on Tuesday. Before Clinton took the stage, her campaign played a video that flipped through the greatest — and some very diverse — hits of women in American politics, beginning with Seneca Falls. When Clinton's voice could be heard saying "women's rights are human rights," the noise from her audience, eagerly applauding the video throughout, crescendoed.
Clinton obviously — and understandably — wanted to relish the occasion as her speech segued from history to the present, to her final opponent in the race. The significance of this moment will soon get obscured again; this is an election between two of the most disliked presidential candidates in history.
On Tuesday, at least, supporters could savor not only the history of that single data point — a woman getting nominated — but all the future history it could inspire. Women make up less than a quarter of elected positions at the federal, state, and local levels, despite making up more than half of the total population of the country. How many women could be inspired to run, now knowing how far they could go? And not only that — will we also start to ask ourselves if there are other ways to be a "natural politician" than the options offered to us the past few centuries? Rebecca Traister wants us to at least think about it.
Next, Clinton has to face the unknown — what happens when a woman has to run for president in the general election? It looks like we’re going to find out.
The Third Woman of Color in the Senate
In November, California will elect a candidate who will become the third woman of color to ever be in the Senate. It’s not clear who exactly it will be just yet, but after Tuesday’s primary, the state has no choice but to make history. The two Democrats in the race finishing ahead of the other 32 candidates running will now face each other in the general election, thanks to California’s top-two primary system. Attorney General Kamala Harris would become the only black woman serving currently in the upper chamber, or Representative Loretta Sanchez could become the first Latina to ever get elected to the Senate. More historic moments!
The General Election
You tired of the primaries yet? Exhausted from the war of attrition that is the whittling-down of the primary field to two major candidates? Eyes glazed over from the mind-numbing and obscure math that translates primary and caucus votes into delegates? Tired of all the vicious sniping between people who agree on 99 percent of everything? Too bad. If your brain has liquefied, dribbled out of your ears and onto the floor, then sop it up with a sponge, wring it into a cup, and pour it back into your skull; it's general election time! We still have like five months until we decide our next president, which means five more months of gaffes, mini-controversies, news-cycle tornadoes, debates, Freudian slips, campaign ads, sloganeering, baby-kissing, telepromptering, forced smiles, Twitter beefs, glad-handing, speechmaking, overpromising, mud-slinging, and lying. These are the most unpopular presidential nominees since we invented polling to keep track of these things! The fate of the republic may hang in the balance! Get excited!
Donald Trump's Reading-Out-Loud Abilities
Trump's speeches are typically extemporaneous and off-the-cuff, freewheeling, and rambling affairs, delivered almost flippantly. But occasionally, when Trump is being careful — or what passes for "careful" for a guy like Trump — he has someone write him a speech, which he reads off of a teleprompter. This is what he did, for instance, when he delivered his speech to AIPAC, and that's what he did for his latest victory speech, perhaps trying to avoid saying something super racist-even-for-him again?
There's nothing particularly wrong with teleprompters, and it says nothing about your intelligence or lack thereof if you decide to read a prewritten speech off of one rather than reading a prewritten speech off of a piece of paper. But Trump had a really hard time reading this speech! My man looked like he didn't know what some of the words meant and was sounding them out for the first time as he delivered the speech; he was speaking like someone who has memorized the speech phonetically, like an actor delivering lines in a foreign language that they don't know. It was very uncomfortable to watch, and for my sake, I plead Trump to get some practice with that machine before subjecting us all to that kind of performance again. Preferably before the convention.
Speaking of the convention!
The long-suffering sports town has endured a half-century drought since any of its major sports teams have won a championship. What has made it so awful is not just that this sports pain has been backdropped by real pain — globalization and technology have wreaked economic havoc on the city, which has lost much of its population since the '60s — but the ways in which Cleveland has had its hopes repeatedly dashed. For example, LeBron James's return to his home-state team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, was supposed to be a triumphant one that would yield a championship. Last season, they were derailed by injury, and this year, the series returns to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland with the Cavs down 2-0 to a historically great Golden State Warriors, looking dead in the water against a multi-tentacled basketball machine.
Another example: In 2014, the GOP announced that it would be holding the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Holding a party convention is a usually proud moment for any city, providing a small economic boost and a chance to show off, and it would be an especially proud moment for Cleveland, which hasn't hosted a major party's convention since its heyday in the 1930s.
No one could have known, at the time, that they would be playing host to the coronation of Donald Trump. The Curse on Cleveland may last another half-century.
Republicans Who Have Already Endorsed Trump
On Tuesday morning, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that the presumptive Republican nominee’s comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel were the "textbook definition of a racist comment." He later added that he didn’t think Trump was a racist "in his heart."
It was incredibly similar to what Nebraska senator Ben Sasse had tweeted a day earlier, the only difference being that Sasse hasn’t endorsed Trump.
New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte called Trump’s comments "offensive and wrong." She also has said she has plans to support him, if not endorse him, as if there is a difference. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, has called Trump’s comments "racially toxic." He still plans to vote for Trump. South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham told the New York Times, "This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy." He hasn’t endorsed Trump.
It is only June. High-profile, if lackluster, Trump supporters still have months to go in their non-negotiable side-hustle contracts as part-time Trumpsplainers. It is sure to be an intensive undertaking, a perpetual motion machine powered by a never-ending game of "stop hitting yourself."
Just in the past week, Trump has pointed at a man at his rally and yelled, "Look at my African-American over here." The man, Gregory Cheadle, was not a Trump supporter, at least not yet. The Republican House candidate has been visiting rallies from many of the presidential candidates. The remark came shortly after Trump said that Curiel, the judge in charge of the Trump University case, was biased because of his "Mexican heritage," and shortly before that, Trump also said that Muslim judges could be biased against him. (The Guardian notes that there are no Muslim federal judges at the moment.) Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson later said that female judges could be biased against the candidate, because why stop at this point? Priorities USA, the pro-Clinton super PAC, started running a new ad in swing states. It focuses on the moment when Trump mocked a reporter with a physical disability (he has denied that he was making fun of the reporter’s body).
And that’s just one week.
The GOP faithful are now tasked with defending or explain away these comments until the election. They’ve been trying. "We're all anxious about what he'll say next," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who would not like to get demoted just yet, said on Tuesday, adding that Trump has to "get on message." The problem, however, it seems, is that they don’t agree on what that message might be. On a conference call earlier this week, Bloomberg reports, high-profile Republicans told Trump that his campaign was informing surrogates to stop talking about the Trump University case. Trump said that his campaign was wrong, and that the attacks should continue. "The people asking the questions — those are the racists. I would go at ’em."
Did we mention that it is only June?
There is a steady drip of Republicans shuffling away from the party’s most visible representative, including Sasse, Graham, Mitt Romney, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A state senator in Iowa is no longer a member of the Republican Party, saying, "I will not stand silent if the party of Lincoln and the end of slavery buckles under the racial bias of a bigot."
But then! There are people like Utah senator Orrin Hatch, who says, "Be nice to him, he's a first-time candidate."
If that’s the best you can come up with now, you might want to start stockpiling excuses for September. On the other hand, if none of the other stuff that Trump has been saying for months was enough to cut off support, why would these remarks change your mind?
The Cruel Passage of Time
In 2010, Renee Ellmers whooshed into the House on a tea party wave. Six years later, redistricting forced her into a primary with another incumbent drawn into the same district. She became the only member of the House to get an endorsement from Donald Trump, and her opponent was backed by the Koch brothers, and ran to her right.
She lost. It seems like there’s a lesson here?
Bernie Sanders’s Campaign
Back when the Vermont senator announced he was running for president in April 2015, he warned, "I think people should be a little bit careful underestimating me." It was true when he won his first mayoral election by 10 votes in 1981, and it was true this year. Bernie Sanders’s presidential run has been far more successful than most people believed it could ever be. Even his own campaign seemed a bit shocked by how well it did, judging from the stories about how staffers wished it had expedited national exportation of the Bern.
This year’s race never got as close as the 2008 contest between Obama and Clinton, but Sanders did go from 3 percent in the polls to raising more than $200 million from an astounding number of small donors. He excited lots of young voters for the first time, and at least some of them appear to have caught the political bug permanently. Emma Roller at the New York Times talked to many young Sanders supporters, some of whom said that they were planning on getting involved in local politics after getting inspired by his campaign, or at least on staying politically engaged for good. It’s too soon to say what will happen to all that energy — which is mostly focused right now on being frustrated that it wasn’t enough to win. When you’re at a rally, surrounded by thousands of other people who believe the same thing as you, it’s probably hard to believe that anything could stop you except the same nefarious forces your candidate of choice has been fighting. But the fact that there is energy there that could turn into something is a good thing.
Of course, the big question is what happens to Sanders’s campaign now, after it has gone further than anyone expected, and is now likely to head downhill, pushed by the gravity of math.
The Democratic Party has given Sanders’s team a voice in writing its new platform, and the candidate has vowed to keep running until the convention in July. He has a rally scheduled in Washington, D.C., which holds its primary next week. His campaign, running out of voters to court and preparing for the long haul, is laying off at least half of its staffers, per the New York Times. His supporters are preparing for protests in Philadelphia, and his surrogates are still planning to pressure superdelegates to change their minds, even though none have done so yet. President Obama, who is expected to endorse his former secretary of state soon, is going to meet with Sanders on Thursday, and says he "looks forward to continuing the conversation with Senator Sanders about how to build on the extraordinary work he has done to engage millions of Democratic voters, and to build on that enthusiasm in the weeks and months ahead."
Do all of these factors point to Sanders’s quick exit from the campaign trail, or is it a sign that he’s going to follow through on his promise to take this to the convention? We’ll have to wait and see. Judging from a new Politico story on the sunset of Bernie’s campaign — turns out the candidate is not ready to give up after getting so close — he miiiiight not appreciate it if other Democrats start pressuring him to get out now. "They would be very smart," strategist Tad Devine said, "to understand that the best way to approach Bernie is not to try to push him around." Yup, I think everyone figured that one out already.