Democrat Hillary Clinton handily won the California primary on Tuesday, setting the stage for her to become the first female candidate in U.S. history to claim the presidential nomination of any major party.
With 94.4 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton was ahead of rival Bernie Sanders, 56-43 percent. Clinton also racked up victories in New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota on Tuesday, while Sanders prevailed in Montana and North Dakota.
“Sanders has been clear from the start: he’s building a movement to challenge a failed establishment and transform the party and the country.”
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The outcome intensified calls for Sanders to drop out of the race.
But Sanders—in a speech that celebrated how far his grassroots campaign has come—vowed to “continue the fight.”
“All of you know that when we began this campaign a little over a year ago we were considered to be a fringe campaign,” he told a cheering crowd in Santa Monica. “But over the last year, I think that has changed, just a little bit. By the end of tonight, we’ll have won, I believe 22 state primaries and caucuses. We will have received well over 10 million votes.
“And what is most extraordinary to me is that in virtually every single state, we have won in big numbers, the votes of young people,” he continued. “Young people understand that they are the future of America, and they intend to help shape that future. And I am enormously optimistic about the future of our country when so many young people have come on board and understand that our vision, a vision of social justice, economic justice, racial justice, and environmental justice, must be the future of America. Our vision will be the future of America.”
Referring to the final primary of the season, taking place on Tuesday, Sanders said, “We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.”
But even he admitted: “I am pretty good at arithmetic and I know that the fight in front of us in a very, very steep fight.”
Watch the full speech below:
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Pundits reporting on the speech painted Sanders as “petulant” and “grudging,” with Bloomberg writing that Clinton’s “historic moment” was “tempered” by Sanders, “who won’t go away.”
However, Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage wrote on Wednesday:
But that doesn’t mean it’s up to Sanders to facilitate the “unity” sought by the Clinton camp.
“Unifying the party isn’t what Bernie does, it’s what Hillary Clinton does,” RootsAction co-founder and Sanders supporter Jeff Cohen said on Real News Network this week. “She’s got to take it seriously that half of the Democratic Party’s base is quite, quite progressive.”
Indeed, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee declared in a statement Tuesday night: “One version of calling for Democratic unity would almost be a guilt trip, functionally telling the other side’s voters to get in line because the only thing that matters is defeating Donald Trump. This message would not have the intended effect, especially with independents and new voters who have less allegiance to the process of party unity than habitual Democrats do.”
Rather, the statement continued, “The sooner that Hillary Clinton and her representatives on the Platform Committee publicly signal they will unify around a bold progressive agenda, the sooner Bernie Sanders will be able to make some decisions and his supporters will know they have achieved the mission of helping to transform the future of America.”
Sanders’ campaign spokesman Michael Briggs said the Vermont senator plans to travel on Wednesday to his home state of Vermont. At Sanders’ request, he will reportedly meet with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, before holding a rally ahead of next week’s primary.