Jumping the Nomination Gun

On Monday, the Associated Press got the ball rolling on Hillary Clinton’s coronation, declaring:

Striding into history, Hillary Clinton will become the first woman to top the presidential ticket of a major U.S. political party, capturing commitments Monday from the number of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination.

Other news outlets quickly followed suit. The New York Times declared, “Hillary Clinton Clinches the Nomination. Will Bernie Sanders Fight On?” Had Clinton actually clinched the nomination, one might wonder what Sanders had to fight for.

Clinton allegedly reached the 2,383 delegates (a combination of both superdelegates and delegates awarded according to the will of ordinary voters) after a “decisive weekend victory in Puerto Rico and a burst of last-minute support from superdelegates.” Clinton won 16 more delegates than Bernie Sanders in the Puerto Rico primary. Superdelegates only offer endorsements until they actually vote on July 25 — and between then and now they can change their minds, as Sanders is banking on.

Sanders hopes to convince the superdelegates to swing his way with the argument that he is the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in the presidential election, as polls consistently support. His mission is an immense challenge, as Clinton has 571 superdelegates currently backing her and Sanders has only 48 (93 more are undecided). In the regular delegate count — those awarded based on the results of the primaries and caucuses — Clinton has 1,812 and Sanders has 1,521.

On Tuesday, six states vote for the Democratic nominee, and hundreds of delegates are up for grabs. Many Sanders supporters are angry the media would already announce, in the words of the AP, “Clinton’s victory,” before the remaining six states (and later D.C.) have voted. California, the largest prize on Tuesday, has popped up in a Twitter hashtag: #CAVotesCount. The band Foster the People called all this “irresponsible journalism” and “voter suppression,” echoing common sentiment.

Of course, there is also worry that declaring Clinton the winner early may affect the results on Tuesday — discouraging Sanders voters from making their voice heard — called “misleading” by some and “voter suppression” by others. This is on top of the feeling among Sanders supporters and critics of the media that calling superdelegate support “unequivocal” (AP) or set in stone is also misleading, when in fact superdelegates can change their mind at any time and do not vote until the end of next month.

As unlikely as it may be that Sanders could convince the majority of superdelegates to switch support, and the questions such a thing would raise for longtime critics of the superdelegate system, how it is designed to overrule the will of ordinary voters, declaring something like “Clinton Clinches Democratic Presidential Nomination” (CNN) is a bit premature.

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