Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic party’s presidential nomination on Tuesday night to become the first woman to capture the nomination of a major political party in the United States’ 240-year history.
- Clinton surpassed the 2383 delegates mark required for nomination by over 200 delegates
- Clinton reached out to rival Bernie Sanders in a commendatory message while she attacked Republican opponent Donald Trump
- President Barack Obama called both Clinton and Sanders to congratulate and thank them respectively
- Hillary Clinton dedicated her victory to women, describing it as a milestone
An exultant Clinton delivered a soaring speech at the Brooklyn Navy Yard that appealed for party unity against Donald Trump ahead of what she framed as a battle for America’s very identity as a nation.
Clinton began by paying tribute to the history-making moment that precluded her eight years to the day when she conceded to Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary.
“Tonight caps an amazing journey – a long, long journey,” Clinton said.
“It may be hard to see tonight but we are all standing under a glass ceiling right now. But don’t worry. We’re not smashing this one. Thanks to you, we’ve reached a milestone. The first time in our nation’s history that a woman will be a major party’s nominee.”
Upon accepting the mantle of party standard-bearer, Clinton then moved quickly to congratulate her rival Bernie Sanders while acknowledging the unlikely revolution that has routinely drawn crowds in the tens of thousands to the Vermont senator’s rallies.
“He has spent his long career in public service fighting for progressive causes and principles and excited millions of people, especially young people,” Clinton said.
The debates inspired by Sanders and his legion of supporters, she added, “have been very good for the Democratic party and for America”.
Clinton spoke shortly after she secured an overwhelming victory in New Jersey. Ballots had not yet been counted in five other states voting on Tuesday, including California, which she later won with a wide margin. Clinton was later declared the victor in the New Mexico primary, while Sanders had triumphed in North Dakota.
Earlier in the evening, Sanders signaled he would not go quietly into the night – vowing to carry forth with his unlikely quest to persuade so-called superdelegates who have endorsed Clinton to reverse course and switch their allegiances to him.
“Defying history is what this campaign has been about,” Sanders said in an interview with NBC’s Nightly News, even as it was reported that he planned to lay off at least half of his staff on Wednesday.
Sanders however declared after the results that “we will never allow Donald Trump to be president”
Clinton extended an olive branch to Sanders supporters with a dose of empathy – drawing upon her loss in 2008 to make clear her familiarity with pouring one’s heart into a cause and falling short. But she reminded them of the looming contest with Trump and the need to rally together.
“Whether you supported me or senator Sanders or one of the Republicans, we all need to keep working toward a better, fairer, stronger America … As we look ahead to the battle that awaits, let’s remember all that united us.”
Barack Obama, who is expected to endorse Clinton any day, called both Democratic contenders on Tuesday night.
The president congratulated Clinton on securing the nomination and separately thanked Sanders “for energizing millions of Americans”, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement. Obama also accepted a meeting with Sanders, at the senator’s request, to be held at the White House on Thursday.
Although Clinton has in recent weeks run two races in parallel – pivoting to the general election while still fending off the challenge from Sanders – on Tuesday she placed a target squarely on Trump and what she decried as a campaign rooted in demagoguery.
“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander-in-chief,” Clinton said, while pointing to Trump’s controversial rhetoric against immigrants, Muslims, women and, most recently, a judge of Hispanic ethnicity.
“He wants to win by stoking fear and rubbing salt in wounds and reminding us daily just how great he is.”
She went on to outline two dramatically different visions for the direction of the country. Trump’s agenda was one embodied by fear and a return to the painful vestiges of America’s past, Clinton argued, while hers would be defined by optimism and the values upon which the nation was founded.
“He’s not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico, he’s trying to wall off Americans from each other,” Clinton said. “We are better than this. We won’t let this happen in America.”
Taking aim at Trump’s campaign slogan, she added: “When he says let’s make America great again, that is code for let’s take America backwards.”
“To be great, we can’t be small. We have to be as big as the values that define America.”
The news that a woman had finally reached such a vaunted place in the US halls of power brought emotional responses from voters who had hitched their hopes to the former first lady, US senator, and secretary of state to reach this day.
“To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, this is one big step for women, and a bigger step for America,” said Barbara Lee, founder and president of the nonpartisan Barbara Lee Family Foundation which researches women’s races for executive office.
“A woman at the head of the table changes the conversation,” Lee continued. “A woman at the top of the ticket changes our perception of leadership – and the narrative about what girls can aspire to be.”
Ellen Malcolm, the founder of Emily’s List, which has worked since 1985 to get Democratic women who support abortion rights elected, said “it looks like we’re going into the locker room for halftime and we’re ahead and I’m very excited.”
Democrats are eager to seize upon a series of gendered comments Trump has made with respect to Clinton, such as his recent assertion that her achievements were the result of “playing the woman card”.
Trump, speaking before Clinton from the Donald Trump golf club in Briarcliff Manor, New York, held little back in hitting her record on trade while making a direct appeal to the economically disenfranchised voters who have flocked to Sanders in droves.
“To all of the Bernie Sanders supporters who have been left out in the cold in a rigged system with superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,” Trump said, echoing the language used by Sanders to characterize the Democratic primary.
Both Clinton and Trump will enter the general election contest with record high unfavourable ratings. For Clinton, the drop in numbers have been associated with her use of a private email server as secretary of state – a controversy that will be a centerpiece of the Republican strategy to derail her campaign going into November.
Democrats nonetheless remain confident in their ability to portray Trump as fundamentally unserious and unfit for the office.
Even as Clinton emerged as the de facto Democratic nominee, Republicans were grappling with the fallout from Trump’s latest attack on an American judge born to Mexican immigrants.
The US has had a Catholic president, a divorced president, a black president, all before tapping a woman to be a major party’s presidential candidate.
More than a dozen women have previously launched a bid for the White House , starting with Victoria Woodhull in 1872, nearly half a century before women even had the right to vote. Clinton now appears to get closer than anyone to date – becoming the first woman to lead a major political party’s bid for the presidency.
“To every little girl who dreams big: Yes, you can be anything you want—even president. Tonight is for you,” Clinton said in a tweet showing a little black girl dancing at her feet.