Zemia Edmondson says it’s time for Bernie Sanders supporters to hop on the Hillary Clinton bus.
She distinctly remembers the moment she did. It was a Wednesday night in early February, and Edmondson, a high school senior from West Palm Beach, Florida, was still “teetering” as she describes it, between Bernie Sanders—a candidate whose moral absolutism had captivated her generation—and Clinton—a candidate she admits she initially found disingenuous.
That night, CNN hosted a town hall with Clinton, during which a rabbi in the audience asked Clinton how she balances the ego that’s required to seek the most powerful office in the world with the humility that’s required to do the job well. In her lengthy answer, Clinton admitted it’s something she struggles with daily, particularly during the many deeply personal moments she’s experienced in the public eye. Clinton pointed to a line in the book The Return of the Prodigal Son that, she said, has helped her through it: “Practice the discipline of gratitude.”
For Edmondson, Clinton’s answer settled it. “She gave a remarkably eloquent and human response,” she remembers. “I said, ‘Wait. I think a lot of what I’ve been seeing is not the Hillary Clinton who’s speaking right now. It’s the villainized woman who’s had to deal with a lot.”
So, Edmondson climbed aboard the proverbial bus. Four months later, as the early evening June sun beat down, she and hundreds of other Clinton supporters waited for the actual bus, the one that would take them to the massive industrial space on the Brooklyn waterfront where, on Tuesday night, Clinton celebrated her historic achievement in becoming the first woman in history to be a major political party’s presumptive nominee for President.
“I’m ready,” Edmonson said. As primary season comes to a close, she hopes other would-be Sanders supporters will be, too.
I know it never feels good to put your heart into a cause or a candidate you believe in – and to come up short. I know that feeling well. Hillary Clinton
She’s not the only one. As Clinton addressed a crowd of thousands Tuesday night—their many mini-American flags rippling through the air—the obvious theme of her speech was unity. “I know it never feels good to put your heart into a cause or a candidate you believe in—and to come up short. I know that feeling well,” she said, calling to mind her own concession speech to then-Senator Barack Obama eight years ago this week. “But as we look ahead to the battle that awaits, let’s remember all that unites us.”
Both campaigns, Clinton argued, want to rein in Wall Street, get big money out of politics, and guarantee social tolerance. But above all, she said, both campaigns want to ensure that Donald Trump is not the next president of the United States. “This election is different. It really is about who we are as a nation,” Clinton said. “It’s about millions of Americans coming together to say: ‘We are better than this. We won’t let this happen in America.’”
Clinton also spent a significant portion of her speech talking about the centuries-long battle for gender equality—dating back to the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls in 1848—that made her very candidacy possible.
Throughout primary season, Clinton supporters have often resisted talking about wanting to see a woman in the White House, for fear that it would undermine the other reasons they support her. On Tuesday night, hoisting signs that read “Caution: Shattered Glass” and H-I-S-T-O-R-Y they relished in it.
“Having a woman in power is pretty much essential in sending a message to women in America that this is something that’s possible,” said Cecelia Katzenstein, 18.
“I think it emboldens my argument for her,” said Saaleh Baseer, 23. “The fact that she is a woman and has such high political acumen strengthens the idea she should be President, because she’s faced more challenges.”
Alex Soberman, 28, put it more simply: “It’s time, isn’t it?”
Clinton said her supporters are “writing a new chapter” in history, and talked about her own mother, who was born the same day the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote was signed. “She taught me never to back down from a bully,” Clinton said. “which, it turns out, was pretty good advice.”
As she said it, a little girl in a neon t-shirt, resting on her mothers hip hoisted a little arm in the air and cheered. She might not have understood the significance of Clinton’s words, or the significance of the moment, and maybe she never will. Maybe, in the future, she’ll take a woman presidential candidate for granted. Maybe that’s the point.
“This campaign is about making sure there are no ceilings—no limits—on any of us,” Clinton said. “And this is our moment to come together.”
It was Clinton’s own way of arguing that Sanders supporters need to get on the bus. She told them, essentially: No, we’re not leaving you behind. Yes, we know this ride will be grueling—it’s a bus, after all—and we know some of you were really excited about riding the shiny new Hyperloop from Vermont. But that train doesn’t actually exist. The bus is more practical, and at least it’s heading in your direction. The only other choice is a different bus, Trump’s bus, and it wants to take you back where you came from. Why turn around now when you’ve already come so far? Oh, and one more thing: it’s taken 240 years for this bus to arrive, so please, let’s just go, ok?
But while the roar of the crowd proved Clinton’s audience in Brooklyn had clearly bought into this message, the equally deafening roar of the crowd in Santa Monica, California, where Sanders delivered his primary night speech, indicated that his supporters had not.
Though Clinton had been declared the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party on Monday based off superdelegate interviews, and though she racked up popular vote wins in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota on Tuesday night that secured her position outright, Sanders insisted that he’ll continue fighting on to the final race in Washington D.C. and to the Democratic convention in July.
“I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight,” Sanders said, but concluded his remarks, saying, “the struggle continues.”
Back in Brooklyn, Alex Soberman said he understands that instinct. During the 2008 primary, when it was clear Obama would beat Clinton, Soberman, too, says he wanted to fight on. But this year, he says, is different, because the alternative—a President Trump—is just too risky. “At this point, every person who’s against Donald Trump needs to circle the wagons,” he said. “It’s time to get on board.”
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