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Clinton Takes the Capital

The presumptive Democratic nominee surged to victory in the District of Columbia’s primary, but Bernie Sanders still refuses to bow out of the race.

Andrew Harnik / AP


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Hillary Clinton has emerged the winner of the Washington, D.C., primary. Though Clinton had already effectively clinched the Democratic nomination, winning the D.C. primary must nevertheless be a sweet victory. The win is a high note for her campaign as the primary season draws to a close. In the days and weeks to come, Clinton will undoubtedly ratchet up her attacks on Donald Trump as the general election begins in earnest.

The Clinton win also denies Bernie Sanders one last chance for victory in the final primary of the Democratic presidential race. For now, Sanders remains stubbornly in the race, despite the fact that any path he might have had to the White House effectively evaporated long ago. The Democratic rivals met on Tuesday evening, and despite his lingering presence, the senator no longer appears to pose much of a threat to Democratic unity. Above all else, Sanders seems intent on putting his own stamp on the party’s agenda and the electoral process in the run-up to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Later this week, Sanders is poised to lay out the path forward. Sanders will speak to supporters on Thursday evening in “a live, online video message” from Burlington, Vermont. What exactly Sanders hopes to achieve has increasingly come into focus. The senator laid out a series of demands in a press conference on Tuesday, calling for the “Democratic National Convention to approve a progressive platform, the most progressive platform ever passed by the Democratic Party.” He asked for reforms to the presidential nominating process, including the elimination of superdelegates, a group of influential party elites who can decide to support whichever candidate they choose.

Perhaps the most contentious change Sanders called for was new party leadership, a demand that takes aim at the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The request isn’t surprising given that Sanders has already decided to support her primary challenger, but the repeated emphasis shows that he’s far from ready to give up the fight. Additionally, the senator declined to endorse Clinton at his Tuesday press conference.

It remains to be seen how much negotiating power Sanders actually has with the Democratic Party. For now, however, it is makes sense for him to pursue reforms to the electoral process as well as concessions in the party platform. The platform serves as a blueprint for what the party stands for and hopes to achieve. If Sanders can make it look more like his own agenda, that success could create a foundation for Democrats to enact legislative changes along the same lines. Ultimately, however, the platform is nonbinding and stands as a highly imperfect tool for achieving change. That’s undoubtedly one reason why Sanders is simultaneously pursuing procedural reforms, even if those kinds of changes may seem less sweeping. If Sanders is successful in winning changes to the nominating process, that could help him keep his supporters engaged in the political process beyond the presidential election. Many of the senator’s supporters believe that the system has been rigged against Sanders throughout the primary, and if nothing is done to reform the process, they may be less likely to remain engaged in the political process.

The list of demands laid out by Sanders shouldn’t be viewed as comprehensive. He himself emphasized, “Those are just a few of the changes that I think have got to take place and that we will be fighting for in the weeks and months to come.” But it is notable that he did not mention reforms to the caucus system, a primary contest that tends to lead to lower voter turnout but has consistently benefited the senator’s campaign.

Ahead of his meeting with Clinton on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that “he would try to get assurances from Mrs. Clinton that she will fight for many of his campaign policy proposals, including a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, a jobs program tied to repairing the country’s infrastructure, and tuition-free public colleges and universities.” Efforts by Sanders and Clinton supporters to draft the party platform are already underway.

As the fight continues, it no longer seems like Democratic unity is in serious jeopardy. After Clinton claimed victory as the first woman to become the presumptive nominee of a major political party in the United States, high-ranking Democrats moved swiftly to close ranks. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren endorsed Clinton in quick succession.

Significantly, Sanders pledged to work with Clinton to make sure Democrats win the White House. “I look forward to meeting with her in the near future to see how we can work together to defeat Donald Trump and create a government, which represents all of us and not just the 1 percent,” Sanders said after a meeting with the president last week. Crucially, Sanders thanked the president and vice president for “impartiality,” a stand likely to make it easier for his supporters to eventually back Clinton if he drops out.

In yet another sign that Democrats are increasingly coming back together, Sanders reportedly received several standing ovations from Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill earlier on Tuesday. Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, indicated to Politico his belief that Sanders will help Democratic candidates running for Senate. While some Democrats might prefer that he exit the race, his colleagues in the Senate seem to be taking care not to apply too much pressure. “The time table’s up to him,” Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, told The Washington Post. “I’m giving no advice, nor judging him, for how he decides.”

Reminder, fair readers, now that the presidential primary season is over: There are just over 100 days until the first general-election debate. You know where we’ll be!

It’s official: D.C. is with her.

Andrew Harnik / AP
Peter Morgan /AP       

When polls have closed in presidential primaries this year, no one has been more excited than CNN. Its countdown clocks keep time on viewers' TV screens in the hours and minutes beforehand, and Wolf Blitzer can barely contain his enthusiasm at announcing Key Race Alerts. Even when commentators have little to share before actual results roll in, they share what little they have.

But as voting ended at 8 p.m. tonight, there was no such pomp and circumstance on CNN, as reporting on the weekend's terror attack trumped coverage of the presidential primary. MSNBC and Fox News, too, focused on the aftermath and the politics involved. This is in part a sign of how little consequence D.C.'s presidential primary has: Hillary Clinton is already the presumptive nominee, and Bernie Sanders is figuring out what's next as the race draws to a close. But it's moreso a reflection of how deeply affected Americans have been by the weekend's mass shooting. The presidential race isn't off the table, but it's so far been noted in the context of the attack. Networks are often criticized for capitalizing on tragic events—think CNN's extended (albeit award-winning) coverage of a missing Malaysia Airlines airplane in 2014. But tonight most of the network's coverage seems to track the magnitude of the event—and serve viewers who turned on their TVs to learn more about what happened, not about the Democratic primary race.  

Betting markets are 99 percent sure Clinton will win the D.C. primary. Boring! (Real Clear Politics hasn’t recorded any D.C. polls, but Clinton has been 14 points ahead of Sanders in the last three national surveys.)

So gamblers have now moved on to guessing Clinton’s margin of victory: a lot, or a lot a lot? Odds are for the latter: Bettors give Clinton a 67 percent chance of beating Sanders by 50 points or more. The market calculates only a 3 percent change of the margin being lower than 30 points. I’m guessing it will be a pretty quick call for the networks once the polls close at 8 p.m.

A helpful reminder from Mayor Muriel Bowser that D.C. voters don’t have much time left to get to the polls:

Incidentally, Bowser is not up for reelection, though Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the city in Congress, is on the ballot. And as has already been mentioned, voters weighed in on multiple city council races today, too.

Alan Diaz / AP       

As residents in D.C.’s Ward 7 cast their votes, they’ll see a familiar face on the Democratic ballot: former Mayor Vincent Gray, who is running for city council and, some say, setting up his political comeback. Elected as mayor in 2010, Gray was immediately dogged by accusations that his campaign paid for a third candidate, Sulaimon Brown, to stay in the race and attack incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty. (The Gray administration later gave Brown a $110,000-a-year job with the city.) Though Gray was never charged, six of his aides pleaded guilty to crimes in connection with the scheme. Gray subsequently lost his reelection bid to Muriel Bowser.

And now he’s back! In running for city council so soon after disgrace, Gray is following the lead of the late Marion Barry, a beloved fixture of D.C. politics who was famously caught smoking crack cocaine while serving as the city’s mayor. Barry went to federal prison for six months, but just a few weeks after his release, he filed papers to run for his ward’s council seat. His slogan was “He May Not Be Perfect, But He’s Perfect For D.C.” And he won.

As suspected, Barry ran again for mayor in 1994. He won that, too. He ran for city council again in 2000. Yep, he won. He kept winning until 2014, when the 78-year-old abruptly went into cardiac arrest and died.

Barry, nicknamed “Mayor for life,” was in a class of his own. If Gray wants to stage a similar comeback, he’ll have to first beat incumbent Yvette M. Alexander, who, last we heard, was heckling the former mayor outside a neighborhood Denny’s. That’s D.C. politics for you.

Richard Drew / AP       

It looks like Debbie Wasserman Schultz isn’t going anywhere. When asked by Chuck Todd during an interview on MSNBC if she would remain chair of the Democratic National Committee through the general election, despite Bernie Sanders’s calls for her to step down, Wasserman Schultz replied: “I am planning on continuing to focus all the way through the election, to the end of my term, on making sure we can elect Democrats up and down the ballot, especially, and including the president of the United States.”

Wasserman Schultz continually pivoted away from questions aimed at whether she would hold her position, seeming to prefer denouncing Donald Trump rather than dwell on the details of Sanders’s demands. “We’re all going to be one team after this primary is over,” she stressed. After Todd suggested her answers had left some wiggle room, however, she said: “I am going to continue to focus on electing a Democratic president ... I’m focused and my team is focused. Democrats will come together as we should.”

Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP       

And now for some comic relief: New York magazine published an interview with Louis C.K. this week, and the conversation started—as all conversations do this year—with the presidential election. The comedian is vehemently anti-Trump and addresses his feelings at length with the interviewer—with brutally frank descriptions.

But there’s funny in here, too, especially when C.K. addresses the rhetorical styles of the remaining candidates in the race. He uses the example of each contender auditioning to be a pilot and outlines what they’d say. Here are their pitches, per C.K.:

Hillary Clinton: “Here’s my license. Here’s all the thousands of flights that I’ve flown. Here’s planes I’ve flown in really difficult situations. I’ve had some good flights and some bad flights, but I’ve been flying for a very long time, and I know exactly how this plane works.”

Bernie Sanders: “Everyone should get a ride right to their house with this plane.” “Well, how are you going to do that?” [C.K. asks in the voice of the person choosing the pilot, before pivoting back to Sanders’s answer.] “I just think we should. It’s only fair that everyone gets to use the plane equally.”

Trump: “I’m going to fly so well. You’re not going to believe how good I’m going to fly this plane, and by the way, Hillary never flew a plane in her life.”

Bernie Sanders is on his way out. But the down-ballot candidates he’s endorsed won’t necessarily follow. That includes Lucy Flores, a Nevada Democrat running in a competitive congressional primary today. (That’s right, D.C. Democrats—you’re not the only ones headed to the polls.)

As I wrote this afternoon, Flores is one of dozens of Sanders supporters running for office this year, but she was lucky enough to see an endorsement and fundraising support from the candidate himself. Her primary election today could offer early clues about Sanders’s staying power: not that of his candidacy, which is approaching its end, but the staying power of his platform.

Political endorsements have questionable value when it comes to swaying voters, but Sanders’s campaign raised the prominence of policy issues that resonated with millions of Americans, including many in Nevada. Down-ballot candidates who share his values, regardless of whether he endorsed them, could get more attention from voters for echoing his point of view. …

If Flores and other congressional endorsees like her win, their success will be evidence that Sanders’s progressive platform has political influence up and down the ballot—and that his ideas won’t just be pushed in the U.S. Senate, where he’s expected to have more sway once his campaign formally ends.

Flores’s fate will be sealed soon enough, and her fellow endorsees will face the ballot box in primary elections in the weeks and months to come.

The revolution may not be televised, but it might be livestreamed. Bernie Sanders’s campaign has announced that the senator plans to speak to supporters in “a live, online video message” on Thursday at 8:30 pm from Burlington, Vermont. It remains unclear how long Sanders will remain in the race, but what he wants is increasingly coming into focus. Earlier today, Sanders outlined some of the changes he hopes to see from the Democratic party. The list includes getting rid of superdelegates, the pool of influential party leaders and elected officials who can choose to support whichever presidential candidate they want.

Sanders is set to meet with his rival Hillary Clinton later today. What will Sanders ask for? For now, he appears to be focused on changes to the nominating process, and winning influence over the party agenda. Citing anonymous sources close to the senator, The New York Times reports that “he will try to get assurances from Mrs. Clinton that she will fight for many of his campaign policy proposals, including a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage, a jobs program tied to repairing the country’s infrastructure, and tuition-free public colleges and universities.”

According to The Washington Post, Sanders vowed that “he would continue to push for a 'fundamental transformation' of the party up until its convention next month” in a D.C. press conference on Tuesday. Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, even told the Post that he could “see a scenario where [Sanders's] campaign continues all the way to the convention.”

Following up on Nora's earlier post on the Morning Consult poll: There's an interesting age gap in who thinks Clinton's all-but-certain nomination is noteworthy. Only 29 percent of people aged 18 to 29 said her victory signals “a historic moment.” Compare that to voters 65 and older, 52 percent of whom called Clinton's presumed nomination historic. (Oddly enough, they were also the least likely to say Clinton's victory was “a step forward for the country,” indicating they acknowledge its record-setting nature but aren't very pleased about it.)

While women who identify as Democrats were most likely to fall in favor of “historic” (58 percent), Republican women were actually the least likely to acknowledge the moment (19 percent, one percentage point below Republican men). While the report doesn't break down responses among Democratic women of different ages, it's probably a safe bet there's an enthusiasm gap there, too. For some context, I'd direct you towards this 2015 cover story in National Journal, which examined why young women of all stripes weren't very enthusiastic about a Clinton presidency. TL;DR: To some, Clinton is a corporate feminist, in the business of empowering women who are already powerful. Many of today's young women have a different definition of a “historic” first female president in mind—and Hillary Clinton ain't it.

Although the outcomes of the primary races are no longer in question, lingering questions of statehood and new voting regulations in D.C.'s primaries make them more than just a symbolic process. As Chris noted, statehood has long been a contentious issue in the nation's capital, especially after recent near misses, but the issue of status for D.C. and American territories has become much more fertile political ground lately. The statehood effort animates much of the local politics that Yoni mentioned, and Council member Todd has been a staunch advocate for it. With presidential candidates also weighing in, this primary can be seen as a bit of a referendum.

Here in D.C., the recent trend in statehood movements and the trend in changing the way people vote dovetail. The District is also trying out some new voting procedures and rules. New voting equipment keeps the paper ballots, but introduces more disability-friendly accessibility options and makes tabulation via iPad apps, which should speed up the final tally. Voters can also seek information through new mobile apps. Starting with this election, voters must fill in ballots in their assigned precinct and can no longer fill out special ballots in a different precinct.

Status questions could drive turnout even without a presidential nomination in play. Will D.C.'s new voting efforts facilitate or impede that motivation?

There will be no Republican votes counted in the District tonight: The GOP voted in March, about a century ago in terms of this election. D.C. Republicans largely split the vote between former presidential candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich; Trump, with 14 percent of the vote, narrowly beat Ted Cruz's 12 percent.

But turnout was low, with half as many ballots cast than 2012. Local GOP officials blamed the dip on voter apathy and the committee's decision to host the vote in a single downtown polling location.

The Democrats won't have that excuse, given that they're using traditional polling places spread throughout the city. But the lack of any big-ticket contested election—outside the council races Yoni mentioned earlier—means voter participation could be quite low. All the same, the D.C. Democratic Party is doing its best to gin up interest, fielding a robocall to 80,000 homes Monday evening, encouraging residents to make the trip to the voting booth.

The Democratic race isn’t over yet, but it seems like life is already starting to return to normal for Bernie Sanders. There are reports that the senator is back on Capitol Hill today and meeting with Senate Democrats over lunch. Apparently, he’s getting a warm welcome.

It’s possible that the senator may be planning to give his Capitol Hill colleagues a heads up about what he plans to do later tonight. But whether or not Sanders decides to drop out of the race, the fight over the Democratic agenda is poised to continue. Last week, supporters of both Sanders and Hillary Clinton convened in Washington D.C. to start discussing the way forward for the 2016 party platform. The first day of testimony was a very civil affair. During the second meeting, however, trade policy emerged as a potential fault line. A fight over the platform is likely to continue in the run up to the Democratic National Convention next month.

Bernie Sanders’s already dim prospects of winning the Democratic nomination disappeared completely last week when Hillary Clinton clinched a majority of delegates. But it’s understandable why he would want to continue his campaign one more week through the final primary in D.C. After such a long battle, everyone should have a chance to vote.

D.C.’s demographics, however, make it unlikely Sanders will be able to end his campaign on a high note. Besides being the hub of the Democratic political establishment that has been loyal to the Clintons for nearly 25 years, the District is a majority-minority city, with African Americans making up just about half the population. Clinton has dominated among African Americans throughout the primary. Even if the race hadn’t effectively ended a week ago, it’s unlikely the D.C. primary would be a close contest.

The District’s polling locations will look slightly different this year, thanks to new voting equipment. The new system is expected to improve voters’ experiences at the polls as well as vote tabulation.

According to WTOP:

Election workers will check in voters using an electronic poll book access on an iPad. Election workers will be able to scan Department of Motor Vehicles-issued ID cards or voter registration cards to pull up the correct voter instantly. They can also use the manual search option to quickly identify voters. On Election Day, election workers will also be able to direct voters who show up at the wrong polling place to the correct one.

The equipment will “also allow poll workers to wirelessly transmit election results from precincts to the board once the polls have closed.”

Voting equipment in Washington D.C. has been a source of concern in the past. In 2008, a glitch in the system led to inaccurate results. And in the last election, in November 2014, the District also faced with technical difficulties.

Roughly 15,000 ballots have been cast in early voting, while several others are expected to turn out to the polls. Hopefully, it’ll all go smoothly.

In 1982, Washington, D.C.’s statehood convention settled on a name for the 51st state of the Union. If their efforts were successful, D.C. would be known as New Columbia.

That May, by a vote of 37 to two, the convention not only chose a name but also approved an 18,000-word constitution. The vote was met with hugs and applause. The document, they hoped, would become the legal basis for the new state.

Hurdles remained. First, D.C. voters would have to approve the constitution in a referendum. Then, Congress would have to ratify the draft. In November, D.C. voters proved supportive—if only barely. The referendum passed by just over 7,000 votes. But soon after the movement began to cannibalize itself. Delegates peeled away their support. Some feared the constitution’s progressive text would scuttle its chances on Capitol Hill. They wanted to amend it. Others wanted to push ahead.

The debate over stratagem was probably moot. Republicans controlled the Senate, while Washington was (and remains) a Democratic stronghold. GOP leadership on the Hill would no doubt look askance on any attempt to add two Democratic senators and a representative to their midst.

By the time Mayor Marion Barber sent the petition to Congress in 1983, its chances were slim. “I’m sure I’ll be dead, or a grandmother, before it gets out,” one Hill staffer told The Washington Post. “And you will be too.” The petition languished.

But today, the statehood movement’s fortunes may be shifting once more. Voter support for statehood is at a record high. As recently as April, Mayor Muriel Bowser renewed her promise to pursue it. Even John Oliver has weighed in.

D.C. statehood may be approaching. But, until then, New Columbia’s founding day will simply have to wait.

When Hillary Clinton gave her victory speech last Tuesday, after securing the title of presumptive Democratic nominee, she embraced the historic nature of the moment. Clinton had just become the first woman ever in line for a major-party nomination, and her remarks cited the generations of Americans who “struggled and sacrificed” on behalf of women’s rights. “In our country, it started right here in New York, a place called Seneca Falls, in 1848. When a small but determined group of women, and men, came together with the idea that women deserved equal rights, and they set it forth in something called the Declaration of Sentiments, and it was the first time in human history that that kind of declaration occurred,” Clinton said. “So we all owe so much to those who came before, and tonight belongs to all of you.”

But while Clinton reveled in breaking ground last week, most Americans surveyed in a new Morning Consult poll don't think she made much history at all. Just four in 10 classified Clinton's victory as a “historic moment,” including 42 percent of women. Those positive respondents fall along a spectrum. Twelve percent say she's the “most historic” nominee, and 30 percent say her presumptive nomination is “one of the most historic.” In many voters' eyes, President Obama, the first black man to win a major-party nomination, takes the “most historic” prize. More than 1,300 voters were polled over two days last week, and the findings have a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Clinton also didn't see positive numbers when it came to Americans' feelings about a female nominee in general; 18 percent were angered by it. In the end, though, Clinton might have the last laugh: The voters surveyed might not see her candidacy the way she does, but her lead over Donald Trump in the firm's polls is nevertheless growing.

Perhaps not all politics is local, but on Tuesday morning, it certainly felt that way in D.C.

At Shepherd Park Elementary School, in the city’s Northwest quadrant, more than a dozen people milled about in brightly colored t-shirts, handing out flyers backing their favored candidates. But they weren’t there for the presidential race. The polling place sits in Ward 4, where a Democratic primary pits incumbent city council member Brandon Todd, a longtime aide to Mayor Muriel Bowser who succeeded her in the seat, against three challengers.

Inside, poll workers reported a steady stream of voters, but, one said, “no surge just yet.” By 8 a.m., just over 60 votes had been cast.

There’s also an at-large city council seat on the ballot. Bobby White, 56, greeted voters as they approached the school, urging them to vote for his son, Robert. Asked about the other, neglected, race on the ballot, White said he finds Clinton’s experience dispositive: “It’s really a no brainer.”

If there were Donald Trump supporters or Bernie Sanders fans casting their ballots, they declined to identify themselves amid the morning rush. Almost lost amid the large placards touting council candidates, a small Sanders sign was wrapped around a nearby street-sign pole—a single reminder of the day’s overshadowed race.

It’s been just over one week since Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party and shifted Bernie Sanders’s campaign into legacy mode. She had won enough delegates to earn the title by the time six states were scheduled to vote last Tuesday, but waited until results came in that night to claim it as her own. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden finally declared their support, signaling to the Vermont senator that his race was lost.