He lost to Hillary Clinton by every metric: popular vote, number of states, pledged delegates. Her lead in the popular vote, at 3.7 million and counting, dwarfs the lead that Barack Obama ended with in 2008. And yet Sanders last night pledged to soldier on all the way to the convention, declaring to his supporters, “The struggle continues.”
Well, no, it doesn’t. And it was odd to hear a candidate talking this way when the race is clearly over. Not just mathematically in Clinton’s favor, as Clinton supporters and election observers have been saying for weeks, but done, finished, caput (except for Washington, D.C., which won’t change anything). It didn’t help that Clinton’s victory was also a celebration of a milestone that is of immense importance to liberals and the Democratic Party. That Sanders refused to recognize not only the obvious reality of the situation, but also the historic import of the moment, was jarring.
Still, it was a bit much for the Times to report this morning that Sanders last night “basked, bragged, and vowed to fight on.” It implied that he was “petulant,” said he was “grudging,” and got David Gergen to call him a “grumpy old man.” In a breathless behind-the-scenes look at the end of the Sanders campaign, Politico reports that “Sanders is himself filled with resentment, on edge, feeling like he gets no respect—all while holding on in his head to the enticing but remote chance that Clinton may be indicted before the convention.”
But in his defense, California wasn’t called until this morning. And before the speech, Sanders quietly laid the groundwork to lay off a significant number of campaign workers later today. Meanwhile, his own surrogates are calling for party unity. This time eight years ago, Clinton took a few days to think it over before conceding to Obama. Sanders will probably do the same, perhaps as early as tomorrow.