If you can make it in New York -- you will win your party's presidential nomination. That is the big message following the landslide victories Tuesday by Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump trounced his opposition, collecting 60 percent of the Republican primary vote and 89 delegates. Senator Ted Cruz paid a huge price for mocking "New York values" as he won a mere 14 percent of the vote and zero delegates. Talk about a Bronx cheer!
"We don't have much of a race anymore," Trump said in his shorter than usual victory speech Tuesday night at Trump Tower. As a result of his decisive victory in New York, Trump is all but certain to achieve the required 1237 delegates to win his party's nomination outright on the first ballot at the Republican Convention. No matter, there is little doubt that he will come close enough to the magic number to fend off any attempts to stop him.
"The race for the Democratic nomination is in the homestretch and victory is in sight," Hillary Clinton said at her victory rally late Tuesday. While Hillary Clinton's Democratic victory was nearly as impressive as Trump's, Senator Bernie Sanders was and remains a formidable opponent with a huge passionate following. Clinton reached out to Sanders' supporters in her remarks, "To all the people who supported Senator Sanders, I believe there is much more that unites us than divides us."
Sanders congratulated Clinton Tuesday night, but told reporters in Burlington, Vermont, "We have a message that is resonating throughout the country." His explanation for his New York loss was the process. "Some 3 million New Yorkers were unable to vote (Tuesday) because they had registered as independents, no Democrats or Republicans, and that makes no sense," he said.
There is no clear path forward for Sanders to the nomination. Yes, he went from having no name recognition to drawing enormous crowds at his campaign rallies across the country. Yes, he magically ignited the imagination and support from millions of otherwise disengaged young Americans. Yes, his progressive voice gave hope to the disenfranchised and the victims of income inequality. Yes, his anti-Wall Street fervor tapped into a deep-seated frustration in America. Yes, his anti-war posture reflected the feelings of many in a war-weary nation.
Sanders has run a brilliant campaign, a campaign that has generated tremendous emotion. But emotion can hamper clear and practical judgement. Were Sanders to decide to aggressively continue his attacks on Clinton, especially his negative attacks, he will be playing into the Republican's hands. He may also make in impossible for some Sanders' supporters to vote for Clinton in the general election.
On the other hand, Sanders could resume his positive campaigning, speaking out on issues that have shaped his campaign while highlighting his differences with Clinton. This would be a constructive way to legitimately raise issues without turning his most ardent supporters against Clinton. And there will come a time in the next few weeks when the Democratic Party will have to unite, just as it did following Barack Obama's nomination in 2008.
Donald Trump has set his sights on the White House. He has overcome gaffes, he has won despite alienating Latinos, Muslims, women, Mexicans, and Fox News anchors. He has staged a highly entertaining campaign that has drawn enormous crowds, and he has campaigned round-the-clock on Twitter. Several times Trump has defied pundit predictions of his demise, most recently following his defeat in Wisconsin. He has done so because he has tapped into the frustrations of millions of Americans who believe Trump is the one who will "make America great again," even though Trump has offered little in the way of details.
Trump has proven to be a fierce and wily politician who will pose a tremendous challenge for Hillary Clinton. And he has already started using his "crooked" Hillary Clinton line at rallies. Trump has already begun to unify the GOP, even though many Republicans don't trust him.
Yes, presidential candidate Donald Trump will be unpredictable and challenging in the general election. But he will be near impossible to beat if the Democratic Party is divided, and Sanders' supporters stay home. Then everything that Sanders believed in will be lost, and decades of progress for progressives will be deleted from history.