Clinton needs to back off trying to muscle Sanders out

In the wake of a mini-protest of Bernie Sanders supporters against the Nevada Democratic Party at its state convention in Las Vegas, Hillary Clinton in a CNN interview has essentially called on Senator Sanders to rein them in.

The protesters had engaged in some minor violence in a fight over delegate allocation to the July national party convention, reportedly throwing chairs and making personal threats against the state party chairwoman.


Both sides overreacted, a reflection of the kind of tension that mounts as a presidential nomination nears its conclusion after months of intense competition. Clinton backers, including Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, called on both sides to cool their tempers, and President Barack Obama through his press secretary has echoed her, saying he expected all parties to adhere to nonviolent behavior.

A still-feisty Mr. Sanders, noting his recent string of state primary victories, called any criticism of his troops "nonsense" and vowed to press on to the end of the primary calendar next month, which includes delegate rich primaries in California and New Jersey.

Mr. Sanders took the occasion to complain again about some states limiting participation to registered Democrats in what essentially are party functions, and he reiterated his belief that he still had a path to winning the nomination. In doing so, he brushed aside the fact he trails Ms. Clinton by more than 700 pledged delegates, and allocations in the remaining primaries will be split on a proportional basis.

Nevertheless, it is indisputable that he has every right to compete to the end of the process. And it is understandable in light of the remarkable success he has had, starting as the longest of longshots, that he has gotten as far as has. He has already proved his case that there is strong support in the party for the extreme progressive agenda he has advocated.

Ms. Clinton in her CNN interview, however, took the occasion to point out that her campaigners and those of Mr. Sanders were "following the same rules," that she was "three million votes ahead of him, and I have an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates."

It was time for him, she implied, to follow her example in her failed 2008 presidential race against Barack Obama, when she finally bowed out in the interests of party unity against Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. She told her CNN interviewer: "So Senator Sanders has to do his part. ... That's the lesson of 2008, which was a hard-fought primary ... because I did my part."

Driving home her point, Ms. Clinton reminded Mr. Sanders that he has said he would "do everything possible to defeat Donald Trump" if he became the Republican nominee. "He said he'd work seven days a week. I take him at his word."

But Mr. Sanders never said he'd quit, or stop trying to win, before all Democrats had voted. It must be remembered that he also has been on a career-long mission to bring about a political revolution in the party and the country, and he still has a huge megaphone through which to deliver his message.

Ms. Clinton does little for her own cause by seeming to be impatient to seize the crown. Mr. Sanders' insistence on persevering is not likely to inflict much damage to her election chances by doing so. And her suggestion that she deserves his premature exit because she bowed out against Mr. Obama at the end of their competition in 2008 is irrelevant. What's that to the zealous Bernie?

In one debate in that campaign, Mr. Obama memorably drew laughs and snickers by observing of Ms. Clinton that she was "likable enough." If she would give Mr. Sanders whatever time he needs now to mollify his loyal campaigners, she just might win a few brownie points with Democratic voters who apparently still feel that way about her, or worse.

There will be nearly six weeks after the last primaries and the opening of the Democratic convention for Mr. Sanders to fulfill his pledge to join the fight against Donald Trump, and to bring his loyal army with him in the effort. Hillary should not crowd him and wait until she officially is the Democratic nominee, before behaving as if she already is.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and a former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power," published by Smithsonian Books. His email is