Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Hillary supporters and PUMA

The media is going crazy over the Hillary Clinton supporters vs. reality -- meaning that Barack Obama is going to be nominated. Here's my take on it.

I was at a Denver event celebrating the 88 years since women won the vote. The place was packed with older and younger women either in Denver for the DNC or supporters who live in Colorado. I talked to staunch Hillary supporters but the overwhelming majority of the hundreds and hundreds of women who were there were behind Barack Obama.

Yet the women I did talk to who were Hillary delegates -- from Ohio and Kentucky, both Clinton states -- were pretty adamant: They weren't happy about the pending Obama nomination and they weren't going out of their way to work for him.

All these women were white.

In one conversation the women from Ohio claimed that Hillary had brought out the Republicans and Independents in their rock red county and now these voters are going to McCain.

A former New Yorker, turned Coloradan who was a member of the Colorado State Assembly overhearing this conversation, interjected with a New York-Western attitude, "I don't believe it."

This shook these Buckeyes up and they said they were really going to work for Obama but they didn't think he'd win Ohio. "I don't believe it" this seasoned Coloradan elected official said.

Then a boisterous group of women from Kentucky wearing "Pitch Mitch" paraphanalia walked in. Knowing that Republican Mitch McConnell is in trouble for his Senate seat, I wanted to talk to them.

Well I got an earful. "Obama missed a great opportunity when he didn't pick Hillary for vice president. It could have united the party." On and on they told me how upset they still are. How unappreciated they felt. How they weren't into working for an Obama election. "Now don't get me wrong. I've been a Democrat all my life." But they were putting their all into "Pitching Mitch."

"Do you know anything about this lawsuit to prevent Obama from becoming the nominee?" I asked. The woman's face lit up. "Yeah," she blurted out. "The lawsuit was filed for a temporary restraining order but the judge denied it." Then her face changed. And she said, "No, I'm not a part of it." And our animated conversation came to an end.

I was really pondering this phenomena. Could there be women that felt so strongly about a woman president, and Hillary herself, that they are so hurt that they can't really "move on?"

I was feeling a bit foreign from these Hillary feminists. How could they not be worried about a John McCain election? How could they not be working their butts off to prevent McCain, who has a terrible record for women's rights -- declaring himself against pay equity and reproductive rights?

Then another woman came up to me and whispered: They are PUMAs.

"What is PUMA?" I asked.

"Party Unity My Ass" she said.

Hmmm, I thought. Then afterwards it dawned on me. It was history repeating. When the women's rights and abolitionist movement clashed in the 1800s it was ugly. What I read was lots of ugly, racist opinions trying to bolster the women's rights cause. The movement was too young and immature to realize you can't use racism, or be influenced by racism, to bolster another struggle for rights. It just doesn't work.

There are all sorts of people in the Democratic Party, including those influenced by racism, or those who don't want to struggle with their friends and neighbors on the issue. So instead of coming to grip with reality and fighting, these women have chosen to drop out or complain. And objectively that means McCain could win and set back women's rights 100 years. Racism does not advance women's rights.

As I heard a progressive congresswoman say to those who weren't happy about John Kerry: Just get over it!

These women are -- I'm estimating -- no more than 20 percent of the Democratic electorate. But in a tight race that's a lot! What could drive the thinking of such voters. I don't think it can be sugar-coated. It's racism. That's what distorts people from voting for their self-interest. I'm so grateful for the labor movement which has decided to take on the issue head on.

There will always be those who look for the easy way out. The non-struggle path. But as Frederick Douglass once said, Power cedes nothing without struggle, it never has and it never will.

So PUMAs -- do you really want four more years of Bush? If not, then struggle.

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