Hey everyone, I missed out on the fun here last night because I wanted to just tune everything out and listen to what our candidates had to say.
Contrary to what the entire traditional media is saying - and contrary to the outrage expressed by many who are upset that Clinton didn't outright conceed last night - I believe that last night Hillary did exactly what she needed to do. Follow me beneath the flip and I'll explain....
I have been lucky enough to volunteer for four candidates for President. However, in the 2004 cycle I became more deeply involved than ever. Rather than simply registering voters and canvassing (not to take ANYTHING away from those who do), in August of 2002 I dove headfirst into the Dean campaign. I participated in a popular group blog, donated thousands of dollars, volunteered locally at fundraisers and rallies, spent a few days on the Sleepless Summer Tour, and travelled to Iowa several times to canvass. I gave untold numbers of hours to Team Dean, and I was there in the Val Air ballroom on the night of the infamous "scream".
It is because I was in that room that I know that Hillary's done. The situations - while seemingly very different - have a lot of similarities.
At both gatherings - Dean's in 04 and Hillary's last night - the rooms were packed with the hardest of hard core supporters. Those were the people who'd put blood, sweat, tears, and money into a campaign only to see their efforts ultimately fall short. Those were the people that believed when nobody else did. Those are the people who put their lives on hold in order to work for a candidate they believed in. And make no mistake, although they were stuffed in a basement with spotty cellphone and wireless access, Hillary's supporters knew before she hit the stage that Barack Obama had passed the delegate threshold and would be the Democratic nominee.
I know exactly what was going through their minds as they waited. They were tired, sad, and disappointed. They were asking themselves if there was more they could have done. They were asking themselves if their candidate's failure was their own failure. I know, because that's exactly what we were all asking ourselves in the Val Air ballroom in the hours before Howard took the stage.
And when he did, Howard came out and spoke not to the media, not to the nation that was watching, but to those of us in that room. In hindsight people can criticise that decision - much as they're criticising Hillary today - but Howard did what he needed to do. So did Hillary. She had to come out and give those folks a reason to believe that their efforts were not in vain. She had to show them her gratitude and most of all she had to lift their spirits. Hillary is the leader of a movement (much like Dean was), and her supporters needed that pep talk. They needed to go home last night with their heads held high and with the knowledge that they did all they could. Hillary couldn't let them down, and she didn't. She gave them what they needed. And because of that I have confidence that together with Barack Obama, Hillary will do her best to bridge the chasm between the two camps and unite the party to defeat John McCain in the fall.
And much like Dean's Val Air appearance signalled the end of his campaign for President (even if it sputtered along for a few more months), Hillary's speech last night contained all the signals that her campaign was coming to an end. Sure, she didn't come right out and conceed, but she will. She didn't call Barack Obama the presumptive nominee, but in her heart she knows it's true. She didn't urge her supporters to flock to Team Obama, but she will, most likely by the end of the week. I don't expect her to drop today. In fact, she gave herself an out on that by mentioning that today is her mother's birthday (Happy birthday Dorothy Rodham!). But let's give her a few days and let's give her the space she needs to do what is right. That's what Dean did, and it's what I strongly believe Hillary will do as well.