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A breakthrough 240 years in the making

The road ahead won't be easy, but Clinton starts the general-election phase with a modest lead and an opportunity to make history. Game on.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to supporters during a presidential primary election night rally, June 7, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Julie Jacobson/AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves to supporters during a presidential primary election night rally, June 7, 2016, in New York.
Exactly 100 years ago, in 1916, a Montana Republican named Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress. She was the first woman ever to earn the honor -- four years before the U.S. Constitution gave women the right to vote.

Hillary Clinton shattered an elusive glass ceiling Tuesday night, making history by clinching the Democratic nomination and becoming the first woman to lead a national ticket of a major political party. Noting that she was standing under a literal "glass ceiling" inside of a greenhouse, Clinton called tonight's achievement "a milestone." [...] "Tonight's victory is not about one person. It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible," Clinton said.

While there's still one primary remaining -- Democrats in D.C. will vote on Tuesday, June 14 -- Clinton excelled in the last in a series of Super Tuesdays. Bernie Sanders hoped to win a majority of yesterday's six contests, which he believed would give him some fresh "momentum" while making a pitch to party super-delegates, but he ended up winning just two states: Montana and North Dakota.
Clinton, meanwhile, scored narrow victories in New Mexico and South Dakota, while also winning by double digits in yesterday's two biggest contests: California and New Jersey. The results ensure that Clinton, no matter what happens in D.C., has earned the most pledged delegates, the most popular votes, and the most state victories. That was true going into this week, but her victories yesterday have pushed her advantages to new, insurmountable heights.
A month ago, the Sanders campaign said a victory in California, where the senator invested an enormous amount of time, effort, and resources, would have a "psychological impact" on Democrats, causing party insiders to appreciate the potency of his candidacy in a new light. Given his double-digit defeat in the Golden State, California will apparently have the opposite effect, stripping Sanders of the one talking point he was most eager to make.
The Vermonter, at least for now, says he intends to keep fighting, though his own campaign aides have conceded for a while that winning the nomination after a second-place finish is "practically impossible."
As for Clinton's approach as she crosses the finishing line, the former Secretary of State spent a fair amount of time honoring the historic significance of the occasion, right before turning her attention to her general-election foe.

"Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander-in-chief. And he's not just trying to build a wall between America and Mexico -- he's trying to wall off Americans from each other. When he says, 'Let's make America great again,' that is code for, 'Let's take America backwards.' Back to a time when opportunity and dignity were reserved for some, not all, promising his supporters an economy he cannot recreate. "We, however, we want to write the next chapter in American greatness, with a 21st century prosperity that lifts everyone who's been left out and left behind, including those who may not vote for us but who deserve their chance to make a new beginning. "When Donald Trump says a distinguished judge born in Indiana can't do his job because of his Mexican heritage -- or he mocks a reporter with disabilities -- or calls women 'pigs' -- it goes against everything we stand for. Because we want an America where everyone is treated with respect and where their work is valued. "It's clear that Donald Trump doesn't believe we are stronger together. He has abused his primary opponents and their families, attacked the press for asking tough questions, denigrated Muslims and immigrants. He wants to win by stoking fear and rubbing salt in wounds. And reminding us daily just how great he is. "Well, we believe we should lift each other up, not tear each other down. We believe we need to give Americans a raise – not complain that hardworking people's wages are too high. We believe we need to help young people struggling with student debt -- not pile more on to our national debt with giveaways to the super-wealthy. We believe we need to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century -- not insist that climate change is a hoax. "To be great, we can't be small. We have to be as big as the values that define America. And we are a big-hearted, fair-minded country. We teach our children that this is one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Not just for people who look a certain way or worship a certain way or love a certain way. For all. Indivisible. "This election is not, however, about the same old fights between Democrats and Republicans. This election is different. It really is about who we are as a nation. It's about millions of Americans coming together to say: We are better than this. We won't let this happen in America. And if you agree -- whether you're a Democrat, Republican or independent -- I hope you'll join us."

The road ahead won't be easy, and bringing progressive voters together after a primary process that was at times ugly will be a challenge. But Clinton starts the general-election phase with a modest lead, a popular platform, and an opportunity to make history.
Game on.