Hillary Clinton made history Monday night – a landmark achievement she marked in the most muted way possible.
The news that she had clinched the Democratic nomination for president and would become the first female presumptive nominee of a major party in the life of the United States unfolded fitfully, not with a bang but with a couple of bumps.
It was an anti-climactic climax, another odd moment in a campaign replete with them.
The Associated Press surprised the world and its competitors at 8:20 p.m. ET Monday. CNN followed at 11 p.m. And Tuesday morning, a New York Times front page for the ages came with attribution: “CLINTON REACHES HISTORIC MARK, A.P. SAYS.”
Bernie Sanders’ campaign and his supporters blasted the media for jumping ahead of voters who head to the polls Tuesday night in six states, including the big prizes of California and New Jersey.
And while they howled, Clinton herself was largely silent.
CNN’s Dan Merica pressed her seven times Monday night on the rope line in Long Beach, California, for her reaction to her historic achievement. She didn’t answer.
In her moment of triumph, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state was forced to put history on pause. She urged her supporters to head to the polls. She waited – at least for one night – to revel in her journey, to talk about the arc of history and the little girls who sat in classrooms for so many years and wondered if they, too, could one day become president.
She waited to talk about the light shining through all of those cracks in the glass ceiling. During her first try at president, she had shied away from making gender a cornerstone of her candidacy – then summoned her greatest eloquence on the topic as she conceded defeat, exactly eight years ago Tuesday.
“Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it’s got about 18 million cracks in it,” she said on June 7, 2008. “And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time.”
Instead, with trademark discipline, Clinton kept herself on the brink Monday night.
“I got to tell you, according to the news we are on the brink of a historic, historic, unprecedented moment, but we still have work to do, don’t we?” she said. “We have six elections tomorrow and we are going to fight hard for every single vote, especially right here in California.”
Clinton added, “So I am asking each and every one of you, how many of you have already voted by mail? How many of you have a ballot at home on your kitchen counter? You could send it in tonight or even better, go to the polls tomorrow and take your family and your friends.”
The soaring rhetoric would have to wait one more night, and so would the 68-year-old woman who has been a pioneering – and controversial – figure for decades.
This time around, there will be no tiptoeing around the role of gender in life or in the presidential campaign. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has made that clear – and so has Clinton herself.
Her campaign will hold an event in Brooklyn Tuesday night. Aides say her speech there will directly address the significance of the moment and extend an olive branch to Sanders’ supporters.
“We look forward to Tuesday night, when Hillary Clinton will clinch not only a win in the popular vote, but also the majority of pledged delegates,” Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manger said in a statement.
For Clinton, it will at long last be an opportunity to mark, for real, a moment in history.