Hillary says Sanders needs to “do his part” to unify the party, as she did in 2008. But even on the day of the last primaries in that race, when she was the one who was mathematically eliminated unless the superdelegates turned, she came onstage to Terry McAuliffe heralding her as “the next president of the United States.” She then touted having more votes than any primary candidate in history as her fans cheered “Yes, she will!” and “Denver!”Yes, Hillary Clinton refused to drop out of the race until the very end and kept the party divided long after it was clear she couldn't win the nomination. (I hated her for it.) But everything worked out just fine in 2008, right? Why shouldn't we assume that history will repeat itself?
Because 2008 was a very different year. Democrats were trying to replace a Republican president who had job disapproval ratings in the mid-60s to low 70s throughout the summer and fall of 2008. Democrats -- both Obama and Clinton-- were pledging to change the direction of the country in a year when more than 80% of Americans consistently told pollsters the country was on the wrong track.
So Democrats could afford a little disunity. They had the wind at their backs.
They don't have the wind at their backs now. They're trying to win a third straight election, something that's been done only once by a party in the past 56 years (the GOP in 1980/1984/1988). President Obama's approval/disapproval numbers right now, according to Gallup, are 51%/45% -- but that's not overwhelmingly positive the way Bush's numbers in 2008 were overwhelmingly negative. And the "right direction/wrong track" numbers are still negative -- not as negative as they were in 2008, but they'd have to be as positive now as they were negative in 2008 for the two elections to be analogous for the Democrats. We'd need 80+% of the country to be happy with the way things are going; we have about 30%.
(And even in 2000, when the country was extremely happy with the status quo under a retiring Democratic president, the Democrat who wanted to be his successor couldn't put the election away.)
No, the Democrats can't afford the luxury of a sustained fight. Not this year.