The Big Lie About Clinton Delegates

Jeff Alworth

Although I won’t be able to post this until later, I write at about seven, just as Kathleen Sebelius is taking the stage.  I’ve spent the past couple hours investigating The Big Story, in some cases the only story we’re hearing during this convention.  Marc Abrams reprised a variant of it here on BlueOregon earlier today.  Hillary_3 It goes like this (you know the tune, dance with me): Hillary delegates/voters are bitter and insufficiently loyal to the not-quite-yet nominee.  Twenty-seven percent may vote for McCain.  The Democrats, so close to victory, are now poised to snatch defeat, all thanks to Hillary voters.  (And the sotto voce addendum: it’s probably because she hopes Obama will lose, opening up 2012 for a second run.)

Based on the delegates I’ve spoken to today, this is almost wholly a fiction.  No doubt there are delegates and voters who will forsake Obama—statistics dictate that you can always find an anecdote out in the tail.  But this has really been exaggerated, both by panicked Democrats and a media that delights in stories with this kind of juicy rivalry.  But when I talked to delegates from Florida, Washington, and Mississippi, and they all had pretty much the same feeling: they’re Hillary delegates, and they are looking forward to voting for Hillary tomorrow, but come Friday, they're ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work for Obama.

(It’s worth remembering that conventions are when delegates wrangle.  In years past, there was literally blood on the floor.  But after the convention, the party came together and worked to defeat the Republicans, Whigs, Dixiecrats ... whatever.  These are passionate activists, but they don't lose sight of the big picture.) 

More illustrative, though, was when I talked to some members the Oregon delegation—Sara Gelser, Paddy McGuire, Joan Demarest, Mary Demarest, and Moses Ross.  As with the other Clinton delegates, they felt this was a bogus issue, and that their enthusiasm has been more or less exploited (a word Gelser used).   Mainly, I think it's an issue of improper framing.  Instead of asking Clinton voters why they won't support Obama, ask them why they supported Hillary--then you get the story.

One piece is the role the Clintons played in rejuvenating the Democratic Party.  There was a generation who came to politics in the 1990s with Bill Clinton. As Paddy said, it feels like end of an era. 

(Okay, as I’m writing this, Craig Robinson just appeared by the Oregon delegation and created a massive stir.  Photos to come.)

And then there’s the biggie, of course: a woman almost became the nominee. And president.  The significance of this as a galvanizing force can’t be overestimated.  This fact is especially potent in Oregon, where women are now falling minorities in elective office.  All of the Oregon Clinton delegates mentioned this.  Everyone knows Obama is a transformational figure.  Just getting the nomination will make him a transformational figure, and the dynamic of race in America may well never be the same.  Hillary voters were so close to a similar watershed moment.  (Though Gelser thinks Clinton will reignite a wave of women leaders.)

It’s not that they are anti-Obama.  Voters, and to a much greater extent delegates, have been deeply invested in the election of Hillary Clinton.  Here we are, together as a party, at a historic moment in a historic time, but it’s not the historic moment these delegates envisioned.  It’s a bittersweet time. The same would be true if Hillary had just edged Obama at the wire, instead of vice versa. 

We’re about a half hour from Hillary’s arrival, and the hall is packed. It’s standing room only, and everyone is buzzing with excitement.  It’s not the agitation of a fight, it’s the same feeling the place had yesterday during Kennedy’s appearance--though the volume's up to 11.  There seems to be a shared sense of anticipation to see old friend Hillary, and it’s impossible to miss how much she means to the people here.

The MSM has a killer storyline: dissent is so much more interesting than harmony.  I really believe it's a ginned-up story, though--the actual divisiveness is way overstated.  I expect the story will persist as long as it sells papers, especially as media places constant focus on the horse race between Obama and McCain.  But seriously, I've done some digging, and the party's united. 

[Epilogue.  I've made it back to the hotel now, after the huge Hillary speech.  Based on the twitter feed and Kari's report back, it was received as well outside the room as it was inside.  From in there, it felt historic.  The party really feels united now.]

  • (Show?)

    I hate to say I told you so, but I did tell you it sure seemed like the press was looking for drama and would find it even if they had to make it up. I wish we'd celebrate this historic convention for what it is, the first viable African American and first viable female candidate either party has had to offer - and we've got them both! We should be proud. Hillary was amazing tonight.

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    Nice constructive post, Jeff.

    It's somewhat amazing that this close to the end of Dubya's second term that so many Dems still seem unable or unwilling to critically examine even the most obvious surface motives of the press on these sorts of meta party issues.

    We don't have to be able to surgically dissect the media talking head's motives. We just need to remember the last time things turned out to be other than they were couched. And the time before that. And the time before that. And the time before that... which gets us back to this most recent weekend.

    The media isn't a monolithic evil. But neither are they all saints.

    Remember: If it bleeds, it leads.

    Caveat Emptor!

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    The anti-Obama Clintonista myth is just that, a myth because all but a very small minority of former Hillary supporters are on board with getting Obama elected. Those of us that respected Hillary's judgement and leadership in the primary enough to support her presidential bid support her judgement and leadership enough to trust when she says that the best thing that we can do is to support Obama's bid for the Whitehouse. I don't see that there is a choice given all that is at stake over the next 4 years.

    And really, can you trust the same media that has spent more time getting the Republican response to the Democratic convention than to actual Democrats. Left wing media my arse!

  • Garrett (unverified)

    I personally don't think that these Clinton supporters out there that swear they won't vote for Obama are much of a factor. I'm sure there are an equal amount of independent voters out there who would have nothing to do with Hillary as our nominee. Hillary is loved or hated. I love her and know plenty that hate her. She's hated unfairly but that's the truth.

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    Thanks for a really terrific post. Thanks for getting how tough this loss has been for many of us.

  • Rulial (unverified)

    It's amazing, really, that after having only white men as president for centuries, we just had to make a decision between a woman and an African American. Both candidates made history and both should be proud of it. Sen. Obama talks about how Sen. Clinton's campaign has changed the world in which his daughters live--and that's great--but something tells me we won't have to wait for his daughters to reach their thirties before we see a female nominee. At least, I hope not. Overall, I look forward to a world in which a presidential candidate being a woman or black is unremarkable.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Let's hope that the Party Unity My Ass crowd is small, self-referential, and destined to a future as an obscure band of bitter old men and women.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    From the beginning it was clear that the policy positions between the Clinton and Obama candidacies were minimal.So the PUMA story always puzzled me. And for even the most bitter feminist the downside of a McCain victory and the catastrophic consequences for women's issues in federal policy and in court appointments have to bring unity behind an Obama presidency as a reality orientation.

  • iggir (unverified)

    even in the middle of praising her speech, the MSM can't help but put a negative spin on it:

    "And yet, reality intrudes: many of her top fund-raisers said this week that they were still refusing to work for Mr. Obama and were angered by their treatment at the convention."

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    There was also a nice bit of graciousness from Barack's camp, too. So far, every sign we've held up on cue for the camera (brilliantly distributed and coordinated by sign whips hollering from the aisles) has been the same style of Obama's entire campaign--same blues, same fonts (the red McCain sign last night an exception to prove the point). They all have Barack's website on them.

    Last night's Hillary posters were Hillary posters--the signature she used throughout her campaign, and her website address at the bottom. As regular readers know, I've been in the Obama camp forever (May 07 for those keeping track), but I think I may cruise over to her site and chip some money into the coffers. The speech and the feeling in the room made me feel like the intramural crap is done. Time to treat her like one of OUR candidates now, too.

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    This is one of the better posts I've read reporting on the Convention so far. Thank you, Jeff.

    More like this...and photos!!

  • lambert strether (unverified)

    Thanks, Joel. I'll take mature as a compliment* -- come enjoy another gardening post.

    • Of course, calling the site a PUMA site is just a lie -- although some PUMAs comment, because, unlike other sites, we didn't purge them. But then you knew that. Thanks for the link!
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    Clinton got it exactly right--we're voting for the party ticket to put our coalition into power, to get things done that matter. It's not about her; it's not about Obama; it's about the agenda.

    Clinton's performance should also put to rest any worries on the part of long-time Obama supporters about her being a team player. Look for her in the next cabinet line up.

    Katy, Kevin, et al are totally right--the story about infighting is one the media wrote and got ready for print weeks or even months ago, not what's happening in the party for real. The reality is that voters really do care about issues, like say, privacy, and will vote the ticket most likely to shape the world to match their hopes and dreams.

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    "America will never be free until the last pundit is strangled with the entrails of the last pollster!"

    by Flint (dKos) on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 09:36:05 AM PST

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    Re PUMA PAC: As one of their favorite targets, I get 10-20 emails a day from PUMA folks. It seems like a lot, until I order them by From instead of Date Received. The same people write over and over again, sometimes multiple times per day. I think it's a relatively small, but very vocal, group.

    I used to try to respond to them, being respectful of Hillary, and telling them that McCain is NOT what she stands for, but they really don't want to listen. They don't seem to want to listen to Hillary either.

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    Wondering around the floor and the concession stands one sees endless media interviews and far too many are interviews of Hillary delegates. I think the issue of disunity is a fabrication of the media, at least making it a newsworthy issue.

    Hillary's speech to this crowd of admirers was incredibly emotional and the response was not just from Hillary supporters.

    Of course, we all have stories of someone making an inappropriate comment. My visisble Obama support has been attacked three times but it was always outside and by people I'd judge as being sick.

    However, we did have one report of hissing behind the Oregon delegation during Hillary's speech and I would have hoped we'd have left that behavior outside.

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    The so-called "Hillary supporters" who are supporting McCain in the polls is something of a misnomer. Many of them are white, male, blue collar voters who may have voted for Hillary in the primary but who voted for Bush twice and were likely to vote Republican this year in any event.

    A lot of the blue collar support for Hillary in Pennsylvania and Ohio came from these supporters, who have no particular loyalty to Clinton and aren't going to follow her lead now. They are the voters McCain is counting on to make the difference in several swing states. They are not disaffected Hillary loyalists.

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    I thought her speech last night was great. Probably her best yet. Great job Hillary and thank you.

    Some of her advisers are still the problem though. McAullife not sticking around to hear Obama speak, Carville and Begala finding anything to criticize in their punditry etc etc. They seem to be pushing this stupid disunity story with a wink and a nod.

    I still think it is pretty obvious that Hillary would have won the nomination if she hadn't surrounded herself with these ineffective gasbags.

    But that's all in the past now. Hopefully everyone will actually listen to what she said last night. I personally can understand an ardent Hillary supporter not getting out and walking door to door for Obama or raising tons of cash because that is hard, but for a things good and holy at least vote for the man and not McSame.

  • LT (unverified)

    Yea Jeremy!

    I still think it is pretty obvious that Hillary would have won the nomination if she hadn't surrounded herself with these ineffective gasbags.

    But that's all in the past now.

    When this election goes down in history, it will be recorded that in both parties the insurgent won in Iowa. Score one for grass roots campaigns over consultant-driven "we know best" operations.

    If Hillary had campaigned from the beginning as she spoke last night, votes could have been changed to "she's got the experience, he can run later". A lesson for future candidates!

    But now, as it was in all previous elections, it is time for those not representing the nomination winner to "first, do no harm". Anyone who doesn't want to campaign for Obama can find some federal, statewide, or legislative candidates to campaign for. But for Pete's sake, vote Obama in November like all good delegates in the past voted for the nominee.

    Don't forget that when Trent Lott got into trouble because he said of Thurmond, "if we had listened to you all those years ago...", he was talking about a group walking out of the Democratic convention. The newspaper headline got it wrong--Dewey did not beat Truman in 1948, Truman won the election without them.

  • ORDem (unverified)

    If Obama doesn't get elected, it's all on him and the DNC for anointing the wrong candidate. It's not on Hillary or her supporters. But, I don't expect you Obamacrats to assume responsibility for your actions.

  • Yawner (unverified)

    Jeff, you're clueless about what is really going on.

    Just goes to show you can lead a Blue Oregonian to politics, but all they can do is party and drink.

    Second paragraph has the take on how Clinton once again proved she's not worthy.

    Fourth paragraph has in an nutshell just why a lot of pathetic Democrats cause us to loose:

  • LT (unverified)

    Jack, you may be right, "A lot of the blue collar support for Hillary in Pennsylvania and Ohio came from these supporters, who have no particular loyalty to Clinton and aren't going to follow her lead now. They are the voters McCain is counting on to make the difference in several swing states. They are not disaffected Hillary loyalists."

    Saw some commentary last night where the question was raised about Obama visiting small town VFW halls. Comment was made that Obama with Bill Clinton in small town VFW halls, campaigning might be more effective than Obama alone.

    But it needs saying that if there are VFW members in their 60s or younger, they might be veterans who know the voting record of the 2 candidates. Gordon Smith voted for the most recent GI Bill, McCain didn't support it. Might set up an interesting dynamic in Oregon if McCain were to visit here in the fall.

  • Chuck (unverified)

    I did have to laugh when I read one southern female supporter of Clinton write in a commentary this week, "We're not all angry post-menopausal women supporting Hillary." Yet, I personally haven't met many Clinton supporters who did not fit that description.

    Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate in my opinion because people felt sympathy and empathy for her due to the marital indiscretions of her husband, and I can't help but think that it is this same pity that has driven her campaign this far for President.

  • inbf (unverified)

    Jeff, thanks for some very interesting reporting! It must be exciting to be there.

    LT - you probably did not go to hear Hillary when she was in Portland. I did and she was the same as last night. But the MSM and the 'liberal' (fauxgressive) blogs demonized her. Seems you fell for it.

    The issue of Clinton voters who will not support Obama and/or will support McCain is as Yawner says (without the insults). Clinton worked VERY HARD to get those 'Regan democrats' and crossover voters. Obama cannot expect to get any crossover voters as freebie gifts. He has to work for them - like he is doing with the evangelicals. Most likely the delegates are basically party loyalists. The crossovers are not party loyalists and it is probably why you are not meeting them. Also, after the DNC took delegates from Hillary and gave them to Barack many long time democrats left the party. They are most likely the PUMAs and I doubt that most of them are at the convention - maybe a few tho.

    Is it true that voting is taking place in hotel rooms? Why is that? Is that not (another) direct violation of dem rules by the DNC?

    In an election as this small, even tiny, numbers will count, so it is best for dems not to get overconfident. The DNC is selecting a candidate, historic - yes - (and that is fantastic) but who is weak and very vulnerable to republican attacks. Just wait for it to start after the nomination. This is the "electabiliy issue". Remember that one?

    I thought Hillary's speech was brilliant. Am looking forward to Bill's and Barack's also. I'll check back to your updates, Jeff. Thanks again!

  • inbf (unverified)

    Chuck - you might want to check out They are 30 something gay men living in Chicago and very familiar with the Obamas, his south side district and many of Obama's associates in Chicago. There are many in the GLBT community who do not support Obama. Part of the problem is that the DNC is currently being sued for resisting fair inclusion of GLBT (this suit was brought by a gay man). Donna Brazile said increasing GLBT numbers in the DNC would be offensive to "the civil rights movement".

    There are other young women and men of all ages, and folks of all ethnicities and races who are PUMAs. You might want to do some deeper research. If you could get your nose out of the stratosphere, then you will also see that even IF you were right about PUMAs (and you are wrong) that means trouble for the dem party in November.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    Re: "The Democrats, so close to victory, are now poised to snatch defeat, all thanks to Hillary voters."

    Of course this is absurd.

    The Democrats, so close to victory, are now poised to snatch defeat, all thanks to caging, rigged machines, and other election-stealing tactics, not to mention the selection of two regressive corporatist/militarists.

  • RichW (unverified)

    The GLBT community (like progressive feminists)should do their homework and deduce which party, which candidate, will be more in tune with their issues. (hint: recent SCOTUS appointments).

    I know one log-cabin republican who tells me he is voting for Obama and Merkley this time around.


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