Last night, Hillary Rodham Clinton laid claim to her party's nomination for president in the upcoming November election. This came after the last six American states held their primary elections (these are the elections that the two major political parties — Democrats and Republicans — use to choose their presidential nominees). The biggest prize of the night was California, which has the largest state population in the country. The end result is that Clinton is now essentially the first female presidential candidate in United States history.
But what about Sanders?
We say "essentially" because other remaining Democratic choice, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders still has yet to concede, or accept the loss and agree that Clinton is the winner. How can he do that? Did she win enough votes, or not? We hear you, it's complicated. But we'll try and boil it down for you. The Democrats run a sort of funny series of primaries.
First off, each state has a certain number of delegates based on their state's population. Each delegate counts as one vote for the party's nominee. Super populous California has 546 delegates. Lower population North Dakota has only 23. A Democrat nominee needs at least 2,383 of them to win. After all of these primaries, Clinton has around 400 more delegates than Sanders...but still has only 2,184 delegates. So where do the extra delegates come from?
It's a bird, it's a plane...
Superdelegates! (That's not a typo, that's what they're really called.) You see, the party also has superdelegates, party insiders (think loyal VIPs) that are allowed to vote for any candidate they want. There are 715 of them. And they don't vote until the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on July 25-28 in Philadelphia. Sanders argues that he still has time to convince enough of these superdelegates that he's the right man for the job. Technically, he's correct. But in truth, it's next to impossible. Why?
For one, over 500 of those 715 delegates have pledged, or promised, that they will vote for Clinton at the DNC in July. Yes, they could still be swayed. But not only is Clinton already the one in the lead in terms of public voting, she also has the advantage of being a major part of the Democratic party for the last 20 years. Though Sanders has been a senator for over 40 years, he was an independent (meaning he didn't belong to either major party). In other words, not only is Sanders's task highly unlikely, in the world of politics, it's pretty much impossible. (As an aside, at this point in 2008, Clinton was actually closer to Barack Obama in delegate numbers than Sanders is to her right now, but she still conceded defeat to him believing she could not win.)
On the other side, an unexpected challenger
So when July comes around (or before that if Sanders decides to concede), Hillary Clinton will officially make history. She will be the first woman to be her party's nominee for president, where business tycoon Donald Trump will be her opponent. He already won the Republican nomination back in early May, surprising many who felt that his harsh rhetoric (that's a style of public speaking) and habit of offending minorities and women would prevent him from getting enough votes. Instead, he has become a phenomenon and is rewriting the rules for how presidential candidates speak and act. Expect a very tense clash all the way to November, where an even greater trophy may await Clinton: the first female president of the United States.