Why, many ask, can’t the PUMAs get with the program and unite behind Obama?
After all, primary campaigns are often hard-fought, and nasty things are said. Everyone should understand that’s the way the game is played. Afterwards, everybody is supposed to kiss and make up and support the nominee whom just a few days ago they were bashing unmercifully.
So the reasoning goes that those women (and they are mostly women) who remain angry at Obama and his campaign are typical of just the sort of grudge-holders who can’t let bygones be bygones. Sore losers, all.
But those who mount that argument are missing the point. It’s not so much that Hillary lost, or that she lost in a phenomenally close race. It’s not even that Obama and his supporters disagreed with her and criticized her. It’s the form that criticism took.
The PUMAs perceive Obama as having played dirty. And not just in a generic way, but by using the twin evils of sexism and racism to his advantage. If these women had previously bought the idea that the Democratic Party is above that sort of thing, they’ve now experienced a profound shock—and that shock is a very a personal one.
Many of these women have supported the struggle against sexism and racism for decades, and believed their party to be champions of both causes, which were seen as linked rather than opposed. And yet they now perceive themselves to be on the receiving end of sexism, while at the same time they stand accused of racism, and merely for preferring another contender over the African-American candidate Obama. The disillusionment they feel is no doubt profound, and it taps into something far more basic than the usual intra-party policy or personality spat.
All the while, much of the MSM and the Democratic Party is demanding that they be the ones to get over it and jump onto Obama’s bandwagon with alacrity. And this despite the fact that his efforts at rapprochement with them have been less than overwhelming. Not only was Hillary not given a courtesy VP vetting, but:
…[Obama] did not work hard to help her retire [Hillary's] $24 million campaign debt.
He did not make a high-profile statement repudiating any suggestion that Bill Clinton played “the race card” in the nomination contest…
“There is a lot Obama could have done to unify the party, and basically he hasn’t lifted a finger,” said one Democratic operative who is close to the Clinton team.
It is understandable that, despite the obvious advantages Hillary would have offered as a running mate, Obama decided she would not be a good choice for Vice President. As such, she might have overshadowed and even sabotaged him; the contrast between them might have made him look weak. In addition, too much enmity probably lingers on both sides for them to have worked together effectively.
Furthermore, even if he were to have considered asking her to take the VP role, perhaps he knew that she didn’t really want the job. Betting that Obama will lose in 2008, she may have preferred to return to the Senate and then embark on another Presidential run for herself in 2012. She might be in an excellent position to do that because her 2008 campaign has increased her constituency and her base, and even earned the grudging and astonished respect of a few Republicans, who couldn’t help but admire her grit this go-round.
But it is somewhat puzzling that Obama has failed to take most of the fairly simple and basic steps that would have gone quite a way towards soothing the still-festering wounds of many Hillary supporters. After all, doesn’t he need their votes to win? Would it really cost him all that much to do what it takes to try to get them?
My theories on the subject (not mutually exclusive):
(a) He’s just that arrogant; he doesn’t think he needs them.
(b) He’s just that angry.
(c) He’s just that stupid.
(d) He’s getting bad advice.
But whatever the reasons that Obama has failed to reach out effectively to the PUMAs, it doesn’t speak well of his ability (correction: his <i>claim</i>) to have a special knack for bringing people together. If he can’t effectively reach across the aisle to dissenters in his <i>own</i> party, what hope is there of his doing so with Republicans, not to mention leaders of other countries with whom we might have disagreements?
Obama’s attitude towards Hillary supporters is the first real test in this campaign of his actual diplomacy, as opposed to his speeches about it. If so, he gets an F.