Can the Democrats and Republicans Heal Themselves?

WASHINGTON, DC – The contests to decide the nominees of America’s two main political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, for the presidential election are all but over. That leaves both parties facing the challenge of reuniting for the fall campaign – a feat that will be much harder to pull off this year than it was in most other presidential election years.

Though it is mathematically impossible for Bernie Sanders to win enough pledged delegates to capture the Democratic nomination, he is staying in the race, which means that Hillary Clinton cannot yet begin her healing effort. But winning the support of the millions of voters who fervently back Sanders poses a serious challenge. Sanders is not simply an adversary; he leads a movement that opposes what Clinton and the “establishment” stand for.

The contest between Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008 seemed to end amicably enough. Though Clinton stayed in the race to the end, she toned down her rhetoric against Obama as the contest wound down. That summer, she took the unusual step of going onto the convention floor to urge the party to nominate him by acclamation.

Yet the efforts in 2008 to unite the Democratic Party weren’t as successful as the conventional wisdom suggests. It is one thing for candidates to decide that they must be gracious in defeat. Their followers can be harder to reconcile. After 2008, tensions between some of Clinton’s and Obama’s strongest supporters lingered for years.