After last weekend's chaotic Nevada Democratic convention, where supporters of Bernie Sanders tossed chairs and later sent death threats to the state party chair, leading Democrats called on the Vermont senator and his supporters to settle down. They wanted Sanders backers to quit complaining about a "rigged" nominating process and to lay off the threat to take the fight to the July convention if—as looks almost certain—Hillary Clinton locks up the nomination next month. At the Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky chastised the Vermont senator for not rebuking his supporters and asked if Sanders "wants to destroy the Democratic party." He depicted Sanders and his wife, Jane Sanders, as Thelma and Louise, driving off a cliff.
But, in a way, the party has been at this precipice before. The fretting over what a Sanders schism might mean for the party's chances in November against Donald Trump is not without justification. And many Democrats had cause to freak out over a New York Times article that reported that Team Sanders was bent on causing Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee, much harm in the weeks up to and at the convention. But Sanders' decision to push for the Democratic nomination all the way to the convention is not unprecedented. This is sort of what happened the last time there was a Democratic presidential primary, when Clinton was in the never-give-up role.
The comparison isn't perfect. At this point in 2008, Clinton, running second to then-Sen. Barack Obama, had a statistically better shot at the nomination than Sanders does now. The gap in pledged delegates was much smaller, and there was an unsettled issue of how harshly Michigan and Florida would be penalized for holding early primaries against the party's orders. (Clinton won both states, Obama had chosen not compete, and it was unclear how many delegates each state would have at the convention.) Still, Clinton was a long shot, and Obama backers wanted her to go away quietly, or at least to quit attacking the likely nominee. She and her supporters chose the opposite course, pitching superdelegates to switch sides based on a racially tinged argument that Clinton would fare better than Obama in the general election.
Here are some flashbacks to that tense period in 2008:
May 8: After narrowly beating Obama in Indiana, Clinton says, "Senator Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again." This was an argument that superdelegates should support her because her black opponent wouldn't be able to win white voters in November.
May 9: Sixteen pro-Clinton House members send a letter to superdelegates touting Clinton's "ability to connect with voters we must deliver in the fall, including blue collar Democrats who can sway this election as they have in the past."
Mid-May: Bill Clinton frantically tries to convince superdelegates to switch their allegiances. According to Game Change, "Clinton's message, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, was that the country wasn't ready to elect an African American president."
May 23: Hillary Clinton tells the Sioux Falls Argus Leader that she's staying in the race because anything can happen. "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California," she says. She pledges to fight until the convention and challenges Obama to more debates. Obama supporters howl at Clinton's fear tactic.
May 31: The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets to settle the fate of the Michigan and Florida delegates. It decides to cut both states' delegations in half—a death blow to Clinton's chances. Angry Clinton supporters outside the meeting tell the Huffington Post's Sam Stein that an ex-Senate majority leader (Tom Daschle) had "rigged" the South Dakota primary, that Obama was in the pocket of a billionaire megadonor (George Soros), and that his base of supporters was little more than an "anti-woman cult."
Early June: Rumors circulate of a secret video, known as the "whitey tape," in which Michelle Obama supposedly shares a stage with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and denounces white people. According to Game Change, the Clinton campaign clung to the video as its last best hope: "[Top Clinton aide Sidney] Blumenthal was obsessed with the 'whitey tape,' and so were the Clintons, who not only believed that it existed but felt that there was a chance it might emerge in time to save Hillary. 'They've got a tape, they've got a tape,' she told her aides excitedly."
There was no tape, and Clinton dropped out of the race on June 4, shortly after the last Democratic primary. On June 27, she and Obama held their first joint appearance together, in Unity, New Hampshire.
Sanders may yet pursue a different course. (His aides are talking about trying to transform the Democratic Party and its rules.) But for now, his decision to stay in the race and keep the pressure on the front-runner is not extraordinary. It's déjà vu.
Meet Texas state Supreme Court Justice Don Willett.
Tim MurphyMay 18, 2016 2:50 PM
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a short list on Wednesday of 11 judges he'd consider appointing to the Supreme Court if elected. Among the contenders: Texas state Supreme Court Justice Don Willett. Willett is a rarity among judges in that he also runs an active—and candid—Twitter account, under the handle @JusticeWillett. And with relative frequency, he's used his platform to troll Trump himself.
In response to Trump's comments at a February debate about Justice Samuel Alito "signing" a bill:
Update, 5/17: It finally happened. Hillary Clinton won a county called Clinton County. Her long national nightmare is over. Read below for the original piece.
Bernie Sanders can make history in Tuesday night's Kentucky Democratic primary. No, he can't clinch the Democratic presidential nomination, nor is he likely to score a big win that convinces superdelegates to switch their allegiances en masse. But if he can beat Hillary Clinton in Kentucky's Clinton County, he will have defeated Clinton in all nine of the Clinton Counties in the United States.
Let's take a look at where things stand, by way of the New York Times' excellent interactive maps:
New York (4/19):
The nine counties are named for two different men from New York state—George Clinton, who was vice president to both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and former Gov. Dewitt Clinton, the planner of the Erie Canal. So it makes sense that the various counties reflect the Yankee migration into the Midwest (or old Northwest) or are in places that might have benefited from the canal's economic boom. More to the point, people in the South, where Clinton has dominated, tended not to name their counties after New York politicians.
Still, Kentucky's Clinton County could put the streak in jeopardy. It is similar in demographics to two bordering counties in Tennessee, Pickett County and Clay County, which Clinton won handily in that state's Super Tuesday primary. There is only one Sanders County in the United States, named for the former Montana Sen. Wilbur Fisk Sanders. Clinton will have her chance at payback when Montana votes on June 7.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) did not endorse Donald Trump during the Republican presidential primary. He endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and in a radio interview before his state's caucus, he denounced the GOP front-runner in the strongest language possible: He called Trump a fascist. "Donald Trump does not represent Republican ideals; he is our Mussolini," he said at the time. "Donald Trump's approach is, 'I am just going to do it.'" In the same interview, Stewart said the election was the most important since 1860, when Abraham Lincoln's win prompted the South to secede.
But now that Trump has all but clinched his party's nomination, Stewart is having second thoughts on the GOP's Mussolini. "While Mr. Trump wasn't my first choice, we must move forward and unite to defeat Hillary Clinton," he told the Associated Press.
As recently as a week ago, Republican lawmakers were promising to fight Trump on the beaches (or at least the convention floor in Cleveland) if necessary to stop the steak magnate from taking control of the party. Now, even the guy who compared Trump to a fascist dictator is coming on board.
On Thursday afternoon, speaker of the House Paul Ryan told CNN that he was "not ready" to endorse Donald Trump. But it was not, as they say, a Ryanesque statement. The 2012 vice presidential nominee said he was "not there right now"—but left open the possibility that he would come around to Trump eventually. "I hope to, I want to, but I think what is required is that we unify this party," said Ryan.
This is how people in Washington say "yes."
In the two days since Trump became his party's presumptive nominee, a ton of Republican officials have fallen in line. A bunch more, such as Maine Sen. Susan Collins, have taken the same cautious position that Ryan did. Indeed, for all the #NeverTrump chatter over the primary's final two months, you can count the number of GOP politicians who have unequivocally ruled out supporting the New York steak magnate on two regularly sized hands:
Some context here is helpful. Dold, who represents a district that President Barack Obama won by 17 points in 2012, may be the most endangered Republican in the House. Curbelo represents a majority-Latino swath of Miami-Dade—the only county in Florida that Trump didn't win in the March primary. Obama won Curbelo's district by 11.5 points. Baker governs a deep-blue state where he'll face an uphill reelection fight in two years. Ribble, Rigell, and Hanna are all retiring. Amash, who leans libertarian, has made a career out of scrapping with other Republicans and represents the only Michigan district Trump didn't win. Sanford has, presumably, already survived the worst. The only Republican politician who might actually have something to lose by denouncing Trump is Sasse, who was elected two years ago with tea party support. But as a 44-year-old senator who is considered a rising star, he also has the most to gain—by positioning himself for a leading role in the party going forward should Clinton win in November.