The AP Announcing Clinton’s “Victory” Was an Embarrassment to Journalism and U.S. Politics
By Shane Ryan
Last night, you may have seen the surprising news—first reported by the AP and then transmitted like a virus to every other major news outlet—that Hillary Clinton “clinched” the Democratic presidential nomination. To do so, she had to surpass the 2,383-delegate mark, just over the halfway point for the 4,765 total delegates available. Once she reached that milestone, it became mathematically impossible for anyone to beat her.
For those readers blessed with political savvy, something about the timing of this story might strike you as strange. How, you might ask yourself, could Hillary Clinton win on Monday night? There was no primary or caucus on Monday night, and as such there were no delegates available on Monday night. So what happened? Did Alabama cheat and hold a secret second primary?
Nope. What happened is that one AP reporter, Stephen Ohlemacher, called up some superdelegates—those party bigwigs whose influence in the primary is both undemocratic and overtly stifling— and extracted their commitment to support Clinton at the convention. With these new superdelegate supporters, he padded his numbers and essentially manufactured a Monday night win hours ahead of his competitors. This all went down on the eve of the last major set of primaries, when states like California and New Jersey were set to vote and play a major role in determining the mood of July’s national convention. The AP announcement was perfectly timed, if the goal was to have a chilling effect on those voters.
So, to recap: We live in a democracy where a victory can be declared not after a vote, but after a national reporter calls up a collection of mayors, congressmen, or whoever else, and badgers them until they say, “yes, fine, I’m supporting Hillary.” Even if that exact outcome was bound to happen down the line, the inescapable truth is that Ohlemacher created this victory from a few phone calls, and as a citizen, that should make you want to scream.
Now, let’s give the point-missers a chance for a predictable rebuttal:
“Hillary Clinton won the primary because she had more votes!”
That’s true, point-misser, but you’ve missed the point. Sure, Hillary has more votes, and yes, she was going to win eventually, and even though I think this will dampen turnout in today’s primary states, it might have even annoyed her camp that the AP essentially scooped their dramatic Tuesday victory moment. The point is not that this hurts Sanders, or even that it’s a purposeful conspiracy. The point is that we’re living in a fucked-up system where the absurd has become the new normal at every step in the process, and the mainstream media has been utterly complicit in the corruption.
Before the first votes ever took place, Clinton had a huge lead over Sanders because of the superdelegates, and almost every major media outlet included these vote totals in the overall tally without explaining what, exactly, was going on—even though the DNC told them not to. Why would the party’s ruling body take this step? Because superdelegates don’t vote until the convention, so their preference is entirely hypothetical!Unlike primary and caucus voters, whose choices are locked in, superdelegates can change their minds! Things can happen, like another candidate winning the popular vote and the supers thinking, gee, maybe we shouldn’t subvert the will of the people (see Clinton v. Obama, 2008). Or someone could get indicted, or die, or whatever.