As was discussed in class a few days ago, the rift in the Democratic party caused by the hard fought primary election hasn’t totally gone away—and in fact, it will be in full display for the whole country to see during the Convention next week. I, for one, was a strong Hillary Clinton supporter and continue to be. Even though I do support Barack Obama, and think it’s time for a Democratic president, I still align myself with those who support her, and I don’t think we could ever support Obama the same way we did Hillary.
One of the main reasons the rift hasn’t smoothed much since June, despite Hillary and Barack’s best efforts is that Obama supporters keep downplaying Hillary’s accomplishments during the primary—I still cannot believe it took until last week to announce that her name would be placed into nomination. I know many of you believe that Obama had won the nomination well before he actually did, but to those of us who poured our time and resources into her campaign, we know that the race was much, much closer than many Obama supporters would like to admit: out of the more than 3,000 pledged delegates, they are only separated by 123 pledged delegates.
The different coalitions that each candidate put together was extraordinary. Tony frequently mentions the importance of the youth vote—the vote that put Obama over the top—and in passing the “older women” that Hillary got. While it is true that Hillary constantly performed well with women voters over 50, it’s also true that Hillary broke barriers with other minority groups as well. She constantly outperformed Obama with Latino voters (even Latino youth, as in the California and Texas primaries), Catholic voters, blue collar workers among others: the fact remains that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each built a strong coalition of diverse electorate that split the Democratic party almost neatly in half.
As a person within Hillaryland (as we call it), I pretty much knew what a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll backs up. There are factions within the faction. Not all disaffected Hillary supporters are united, for or against Obama. There are three basic factions: 1) is the faction that has followed Sen. Clinton’s lead, and have thrown their full support behind Barack Obama, this is the largest faction; 2) is the faction that despite Sen. Clinton’s endorsement of Obama, have not yet decided to support him; and 3) the faction that is so disaffected with the party leadership, they pledge to NOT vote for Obama and/or to vote for John McCain; this is the smallest faction, although this certainly won’t help.
Since bowing out of the race in June, I think Sen. Clinton has made it more than obvious that she strongly backs Sen. Obama, no matter what some of her most fervent supporters say. Someone in class said that actions spoke louder than words, and I would just like to point out that in the past weeks, she has been campaigning for him in three key battleground states, states that she won: Florida, Nevada, and New Mexico. I don’t know where this perception that Sen. Clinton isn’t being as helpful as she could is rooted but I don’t think it’s true. Even today, when she was asked about whether her support for Sen. Obama had been sufficient, Sen. Clinton pointed out the obvious:
“Well, I think, again, that’s perhaps a misperception about both what I’ve done, and the fact that I’ve probably done more for Sen. Obama than anybody in my position has ever done by this time. And maybe it’s because I know what other people have done and the fact that very often these contests went all the way to conventions, they were contested, they were fights, and most people never got around to endorsing the winning candidate until the convention; sometimes even later. So I think it’s a fair assessment that I’ve done more than anybody has done in my position, and I intend to keep doing everything that I can.”
Sen. Clinton obviously made a not-so-subtle dig at perennial rivals and huge Obama supporters Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter, whose rivalry split the 1980 convention, despite Kennedy substantially trailing (i.e a lot more than 123) Carter in delegates. At the convention, during their “unity” moment, Carter had to practically chase after Kennedy onstage for a handshake—Carter went on to lose his re-election campaign. But I digress.
As John Heileman from New York Magazine says, even with Bill and Hillary headlining half of the convention (on Tuesday and Wednesday), nobody should worry because Obama sure-to-be mega-wattage speech in Invesco Field on Thursday is sure to make almost everybody forget anything Bill or Hillary can say. And so, with the convention officially kicking off next week, I plan to join fellow Hillary supporters in honoring her accomplishments, and can only hope that Obama supporters can finally understand.