If further evidence was needed, a report by Politico’s Ben Smith confirmed that all is not well within the Democratic Party. It seems that Democratic supporters of Hillary Clinton are attempting to secure her right to a roll call at the Convention by emailing members of the DNC. The hostile and sometimes threatening emails these Democrats have received back from DNC officials have been posted at the blog of Puma PAC.
And they are not alone in feeling the wrath of the Obama contingent. Susan Estrich, life long Democrat and former Michael Dukakis campaign manager, described the vicious hate mail she received when she warned in a recent column of the “hubris” phenomenon in the Obama camp.
As for the Puma PAC, this is a group founded by former Hillary Clinton supporters who declare as their goals:
- support Clinton “throughout this election cycle”
- lobby and organize for changes in leadership in the DNC
- critique and oppose the misogyny, discrimination, and disinformation in the mainstream media, including mainstream blogs and other outlets of new media
- support the efforts of those political figures who have allied themselves with Hillary Clinton and who have demonstrated commitment to our first three goals.
I spoke with the founder of Puma PAC, Darragh Murphy. She’s not, as Obama supporters have claimed, a closet Republican or a John McCain plant. She’s a 39-year-old, mother of three from Massachusetts who was a small Hillary Clinton donor and who knocked on doors for Hillary in Philadelphia with her then 16-year-old daughter. She acknowledges that she did give money to John McCain in the 2000 primary because she “wanted him to beat George Bush.”
She started the blog on June 3, 2008 and got 35,000 hits in eight hours, As of now she has had over 1.2 million hits and 65,500 comments. The PAC raised $23,000 in June and she estimates an equal number in July. The PAC has approximately 5000 members.
What does her group want? She replies: “We have short term goals and long term goals. Our short, short term goal is to do everything we can to make sure the process is respected for Hillary at the Convention.” Murphy explained that just as Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson had the chance, they are making sure Hillary’s supporters get a chance to show their support. She says, “We are phoning and emailing and lobbying to make sure there is an open roll call and vote and her name is placed in nomination.”
One of Murphy’s members, William Kronert, is a Democrat from California. He tells me, “Never in the entire history have any two candidates come to what amounts to a tie in the primaries yet Senator Clinton has been ask over and over to drop out of the race. Surely others have taken their case to the convention and with far less pledged delegates as Senator Clinton.”
Murphy also believes that Hillary’s delegates need to “get a chance to shape the platform. They are being shut out of the process which is run by an official of the Obama campaign.”
On this score, Estrich confirms that the Obama team is playing hardball with supporters of his former rival. She confides:
There are stories kicking around about how African-Americans in at least two states (South Carolina and New York itself) who supported Hillary Clinton ended up with primary opponents in their own races for re-election to punish them for being pro-Clinton. This is not the way to win. There are stories kicking around that the reason (or one of them) that the highly effective Hillraisers are not raising the kind of money for Obama that they raised for Clinton is because they have been told that no matter what they do, they will never be the “equal” of the Obama fundraisers.
And what will the Puma members do after the Convention? Murphy concedes, “We’re realists. … We know the DNC is committed to the path of nominating their chosen candidate.” In November she explains, “We are protesting the election.” Members will sit home, write in Hillary’s name or vote for John McCain. She explains, “That up to them. That’s part of our whole philosophy.”
Kronert says that he won’t be voting for Obama and thinks “Obama is running his campaign on the ‘Change, Hope, a new kind of Politics’ marketing gimmick.” He also is one voter who thinks experience matters (“Obama is a two year senator with one year of that being on the campaign trail.”)
Shanon from Maryland, another Puma member who donated to Hillary and voted Democratic in five straight past elections won’t vote for Obama, listing his lack of experience, qualifications and track record among her concerns. She says, “I will vote McCain, third-party, stay home or write Hillary Clinton in. At this point, Ichabod Crane is looking better than the choices I have. But make no mistake, I have a choice.” Eli, a self-described “Clinton Democrat” from Massachusetts, says he’s not voting for Obama because “Quite simply, he is not qualified.”
Particularly galling to Murphy’s members is the treatment of the Florida and Michigan Democratic primary votes and the conduct of caucuses in Iowa, Texas and Nevada. As for the disputed primaries, Murphy explains, “You expect your vote will be counted. You expect your vote will matter.” And in the caucuses, she contends there are ample instances (documented in the case of Texas caucus for the Dallas election office) of “astonishing” instances of chaos, fraud and intimidation.
Shanon from Maryland reels off a list of complaints about the DNC ranging from “failure to investigate the caucus fraud reports in a timely manner” to reinstating Michigan and Florida votes after the primaries (when the impact of Hillary’s wins and any momentum derived from them was lost) to Obama’s recent gaffe in “forgetting” to solicit money for Hillary at a fundraiser to moving the DNC brain trust to Chicago. Beverly Garrett from Pittsburg, another Hillary donor and volunteer, says the “the undemocratic primary process” (plus the media bias) is what got her upset.
What if Hillary is given the VP slot? Murphy says that it would not “officially” change the PAC’s position although it “doesn’t mean some members” wouldn’t be affected by a “changed landscape.” Murphy is emphatic: “She [Hillary] deserves to be at the top of the ticket.” (In any event, a VP slot for Clinton seems increasingly unlikely and an unrelated group which had been pushing her for the number two spot has shut its doors.)
Beyond November 5 Murphy tells me her group will continue on: “The vast majority, and 40% of us are male by the way, know the Clinton campaign for all intents and purposes is over. This is about the party. This is about reforming the party.”
I asked her about the media’s role. She believes, “It was the perfect storm. There is and continues to be a love affair with this young, charismatic guy.” But she says that’s not all. She continues, “It is my opinion that blatant sexism is much more acceptable than racism. It was okay for Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann and Mike Barnicle to make jokes. No one said anything. It was all completely acceptable and funny [to them].”
Kronert echoes her complaints, saying:
Mainstream media has given Obama a free pass and it is the mainstream media that is picking our next president. Look what it took to get the Rev Wright story out, it was known a year before it finally made it to the mainstream media and places like CNN refused to cover it till it became so engulfed by Fox News.
Eli says that “the action of the media has given me a harsh education on certain facts, and now I am politically active and I will never again let this happen to another woman. Never Again.” He continues, “They are completely ‘in the tank’ for Barack Obama. I cannot even watch television anymore, I walked away from the TV in mid-April due to the sexism that went unchecked, and no one stuck up for Hillary except for Lou Dobbs and some commentators on FOX which I never watch.”
And Obama’s recent trip overseas just made it worse. Murphy calls it the “Ego Trip.” She declares, “It’s embarrassing.” As for the coverage, she believes, “The media is the media. They treat politics like ESPN covering a sporting event. Critiquing the media is a 24-hour job. No one reported that they passed our free beer and bratwurst three hours before the speech [in Berlin] and that local authorities said there were only 75,000 people. But what really makes people scratch their heads is the presumptuousness. Why is he in Europe? Who does he think he is?”
Shanon, is equally scathing in her critique of the media now and during the primary. She points to “the incredible delay by the media in vetting Obama. … The Rev. Wright information was exposed last year but somehow was overlooked by the media until after Super Tuesday.” She also contends that pundits were “obvious” in their pro-Obama bias and that “sexist, misogynistic, sleazy comments” were allowed by the networks and cable news shows.
Kronert reiterates the sense that the media helping Obama attain celebrity status. He contends that “there is the free rock concerts given in Oregon and Berlin to draw the crowds for Obama — the mainstream media doesn’t tell you that they mislead you. Basically the media has given Obama the rock start status, they have made him just like they make any other idol.”
I asked Murphy about the emails posted at her website and whether she surprised at the reaction from DNC officials. She says, “Sure. That’s why I posted them.” She heard of Democrats receiving such emails from Donna Brazile and others, but she says, “I thought they were hoaxes.” Then she saw them and was stunned. “These were to ‘Evie in Florida’. Voters.” She was taken aback by the tone. She says these “get over it” emails came from people “who were elected.” She contends that the letters that provoked the angry responses from DNC officials were all “civil, polite, non-threatening.” What provoked the DNC officials, she contends, is when they “got 300 [of them].”
She and her followers have been dismissed, she explains as a “Republican front.” She says that is nonsense. “We’re all Democrats here,” she declares. She says the attitude of the Obama team is “We have a new base. We have a new coalition.” She says “What a joke. We are the base. We are the people who turn out to vote in Pennsylvania and Ohio and Florida.”
So do the Puma PAC members and others like them matter? Well, if they are right and they are the base — or a key part of it — their lack of support will come back to bite Obama in November. And even before that Estrich warns:
No candidate — in my memory, anyway — has gone into a convention with as many delegates pledged to his one-time opponent as Barack Obama will face in Denver in August. They may not be able to wrest the nomination away from him (I have no reason to believe they would even try), but if they don’t feel included, their exclusion could cost him dearly. It’s time to make nice, on all sides. Otherwise, John McCain will be the victor. And spare me the “heinous” emails for saying that. The truth may hurt, but believe me, losing hurts a whole lot more.
And what’s more, should word get out that Obama’s operation bears an uncanny resemblance to heavy-handed Chicago pols and Democratic insiders of years gone by (or to the vindictive Richard Nixon), people might question whether he really represents the coming of the New Politics.
Instead, they might suspect all the talk of inclusiveness, bottom-up organizing and unity is just that — talk. Hillary Clinton had a phrase her supporters no doubt recall: “just words.”