Pennsylvania is now the state where an American Revolution sprang to life — and where a modern revolt completely stalled out.
For thousands of Democrats who lined up outside YMCAs or firehouses to vote in places like West Philly under an unseasonably sweaty April haze yesterday, the so-called "year of the outsider" in American politics was as foreign as the Chinese new year.
And so it was that the "political revolution" promised by a democratic socialist — and virtual stranger — from chilly Vermont was ground up in Philadelphia's Democratic machine like a dumpster full of rusty spare parts.
Hillary Clinton's solid victory in today's Pennsylvania primary all but guaranteed that the next time she sets foot in the Keystone State will be to make history — as the first woman to claim a major-party nomination for president.
Indeed, Pennsylvania may be just one of Clinton's five — or 17, I've lost count, frankly — home states, but at this point you have to wonder if the former secretary of state is ever going to want to leave the city that loved her back. Over the last week, she found sustenance in Philadelphia again and again — promising to "ride and die" with black moms who's lost kids to violence, calling for "more love" from the pulpits of North Philly, even supporting Mayor Kenney's soda tax..
And so she came back again tonight to claim her prize before a cheering and stomping crowd at the Pennsylvania Convention Center — flanked, as has been the case in recent days, by the local Democratic elites like Mayor Kenney, Governor Wolf and Sen. Bob Casey who demonstrated her unwavering support from the party poobahs.
If Clinton was irritated by Sanders' attacks, she bit her tongue for the night. Instead, she insisted they share similar goals on income inequality and climate change. "I know together we will get that done," she insisted.
She could afford to be magnanimous, as her delegate lead swelled to a level almost impossible for Sanders to overcome. In addition to her solid win in Pennsylvania. Clinton claimed a massive victory in neighboring Maryland, won Delaware and was running neck-and-neck in Connecticut. Sanders claimed his lone win in Rhode Island, the only state where independents could vote last night.
The Cradle of Liberty showed tonight that not all revolutions are created equally. While Sanders was able to accelerate from zero to 40-plus with his solid backing from 20-somethings and the far left and a smattering of blue-collar types, Philly's rowhouse voters seemed more likely to defect to the Frank Rizzo-flecked Republican Donald Trump than to back a self-declared "democratic socialist."
The last-minute party-registration switch by some 60,000 state Democrats who bolted for the GOP, presumably to back tonight's landslide winner Trump, may have been the last straw for Sanders's dream of using the trade issue to stir up working class votes in rust-bitten factory towns. That was doubly true in a closed primary where independents who've generally supported the Vermonter can't vote.
And the bulk of voters who stayed behind in the Democratic Party, at least here in Pennsylvania, didn't seem to be all that angry. According to a CNN exit poll of the state's voters, 58 percent of Republicans said the primaries had "divided" their party while a whopping 71 percent of Democrats said their party was "energized" by the contest so far.
Voters in Philadelphia's high-turnout, predominantly black wards — places that have rewarded President Obama with sky-high approval ratings and value Clinton's service in Obama's cabinet — weren't really in the market for a revolution. And Sanders's slash-and-burn style — as a lifelong independent who's ripped the Democratic Party as too cozy with corporate elites — didn't play well in those neighborhoods.
The odd truth is that many Democrats enjoy being a Democrat, especially in a city were so-called get-along-go-along "transactional politics" has largely been the rule since the mid-1960s. And they weren't shy about telling reporters.
"This is a loyalty thing," a 69-year-old West Philadelphia voter, Rob Troy, told a Los Angeles Times journalist yesterday outside a polling place. "The Clintons have been loyal to Democrats, to the black community. They've been with us...I'm a lifelong Democrat; so is Hillary. The other guy isn't. That means something to me."
Other city voters reported that — despite current polling data that shows Sanders is the strongest candidate against the current Republican field in a general election — they think Clinton is the only Democrat who can actually defeat Trump. That claim is likely to be amplified after Trump's huge landslide victories up and down the Eastern Seaboard last night.
Indeed, much of Clinton's speech tonight at the Convention Center last night seemed a pivot to a November showdown against the Manhattan billionaire. She urged Americans to show that "love trumps hate" — a chant that was adopted by hundreds of cheering fans waving American flags and placards depicting the Liberty Bell.
She got biggest roar when she said that Trump had accused her of "playing the woman card" but if that meant fighting for women's health care and equal pay, "then deal me in!!"
Still, tonight's results also demonstrated that the so-called Obama coalition of non-whites, urban professionals and young voters that produced Democratic presidential election wins in 2008 and 2012 is now deeply split between its centrist wing and its left wing.
Despite Clinton's virtually insurmountable delegate lead, the Sanders-led left wing is clearly the party's rising faction. In earlier states, the 74-year-old senator who cut his teeth in the 1960s civil-rights movement was getting 70 percent or more of the under-30 vote, and there was no evidence that last night was any different.
Speaking to supporters in Huntington, W.V., tonight, Sanders sounded almost nostalgic as he spoke about how far his campaign had come since the summer of 2015 when he was dismissed as "a protest candidate."
"They said, 'Bernie is a nice guy, he combs his hair really well, he's a top-notch dresser'" — pausing to chuckle along with the crowd at his sarcasm — "but he really is a fringe candidate, and the campaign is a fringe campaign..."
Instead, he won primaries or caucuses in 16 states and even raised more money than Clinton in recent months — but it doesn't seem to be enough, not in 2016, not in places where life-long Democratic regulars are showing up to vote.
"I want all of you to get up to Vermont to visit our beautiful state," Sanders told West Virginians tonight, sounding a bit wistful, as if he might be there this fall to greet them personally.
Clinton, on the other hand, according to a report on CNN, was making plans to spend a lot of the fall foliage season right here in Pennsylvania — on the notion that the Keystone State would prove to be a "laboratory" on whether the Democrats could keep Trump from poaching white blue-collar votes in the general election.