The Associated Press called the Democratic primary race for Hillary Clinton on Monday night, based on its survey of superdelegates. CNN confirmed the count a few hours after that, based on the network’s criteria, then declared that it had broken the story.
Calling the race early is neither an unprecedented nor, in this case, a particularly revelatory media move. But since superdelegates don’t technically vote until the end of July, and there are six primary races Tuesday, both the Internet and the Democrats on the ballot had misgivings about it.
Surprisingly, AP’s declaration found Bernie Sanders and Clinton in wholehearted agreement for perhaps the first time since their smiley email moment at the initial Democratic debate, except this time they were both ticked off. Sanders ignored the news at his San Francisco rally, while his press people put out a statement condemning the early call and his supporters complained that it was simply one more pro-Hillary move from a biased media that had long ago deemed her the winner.
Clinton insisted that she was merely poised on the precipice of victory, while at her Hollywood pre-vote party actress Eva Longoria told people they still needed to vote and in Oakland Bill Clinton told people from the back of a pickup truck that the primary wasn’t over. Meanwhile, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump was off in Trumpland, talking about how he’d broken the glass ceiling for women. (Don’t think about it too hard; it won’t make any more sense if you do.)
If voters don’t turn out because they believe the presidential race has already been decided, then all the down-ballot stuff doesn’t get voted on.
For Clinton’s camp, it was one more kick in the shins in an often flatline contest where she had again failed to animate the voters’ imagination. After months of taking flack for being an out-of-touch insider, it now looked like she had nailed the nomination because of her friends inside the halls of government, rather than the voters (never mind that over 3 million more have voted for her than Sanders; it’s perception, not reality, that matters in politics).
But, like so much in this race, the blowback on the early call is fanfare without substance. Clinton is all but certain to claim the nomination, and neither the AP nor CNN nor Sanders’ exhortations for superdelegates to flip to his side have the power to change that at this point.
Here’s why it matters: if voters don’t turn out in California because they believe the presidential race has already been decided, then all the down-ballot stuff doesn’t get voted on. And those races and ballot measures matter a lot. Yes, the man or woman in the White House is going to have the nuclear codes, and far be it from me to downplay the significance of that; I’m as terrified as everyone else. But local officials are more likely to control the issues that matter to Californians: fixing affordable housing and the growing inequality in our state, regulating agriculture, improving police oversight, and developing effective transportation. If we don’t vote, we miss the opportunity to weigh in on who makes the decisions that will affect our day-to-day lives and our communities the most.
We’re picking nominees for US Senate and congressional seats, a bunch of Superior Court judges and a proposition that has the potential to change the way state politics are played. Civic duty is local just as much as it is national. Even if you see no reason to check a box for Trump, Clinton or Sanders, you should still care about who will be setting the federal and state budgets, overseeing Los Angeles County and deciding court cases. If you don’t show up to vote, those decisions will be made by someone else.
There are a few hours left. Get out there, Angelenos. It still matters.
MORE FROM OPINION