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This isn’t politics… it’s personal: The Hillary ‘supporters’ who, when all is said and done, support themselves. August 27, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.

Okay, that might well have done it. Clinton is regarded as giving a ‘powerful plea for party unity, and an ‘unequivocal endorsement‘ of Barack Obama, and here she’s given not merely a powerful plea, but an ’emphatic’ one, no less. Still, I’m intrigued by this and these analyses which may point to continuing issues (John Dickerson notes that she didn’t make any show of support for Obama’s foreign policy credentials – that said perhapsshe felt that in the absence of the initials HRC on the ticket and the arrival of a certain J. Biden that was a bridge too far). For those as do want them, as the saying goes.

Still, in fairness she came out did the deal and tonight… well, it’s Clinton redux. It’s like a never-ending time tunnel that opens onto 1993. Very strange.

Another interesting piece by John Dickerson in Slate about the continuing disconnect between a significant, albeit small, portion of Clinton’s base and the Democratic Party.

As he notes:

In the two and a half months since Barack Obama won the nomination, he’s been trying to convince Hillary’s supporters—but his standing with them has gotten only worse. Roughly 30 percent of Clinton voters say they won’t vote for him, and this is not a one-poll anomaly. The number is the same in the Pew, ABC, and CNN polls. That’s as bad as it was during the heat of the Democratic primary.

And it’s not improving despite Clinton throwing at least a fair portion of her political strength behind Obama. Indeed every protestation of loyalty Clinton makes paradoxically raises the ire of her supposed supporters.

This is exemplified by the following from the PUMA (“Party Unity My Ass”) [or as they prefer: People United Means Action] site.

As a very avid Hillary supporter, I am becoming increasingly disillusioned with her stance especially after viewing the tape of her speaking to the New York delegates. During the campaign, she said a lot of things and made a lot of promises. I really think that she is putting her career before her constituents and all of us who supported her. If she truly is the fighter that we thought she was, she would not cave into this party. It really breaks my heart.


I unfortunately am wondering the same thing about Hillary. She DID make promises to us. I still support her.

But if she does not fight for the nomination, then I have to wonder – just what on earth is going on. This is no typical election. This is what makes it so very easy for me to switch to McCain should that time come – and with NO reservations. I believe we are fighting for our country this time – there is no doubt of that in my mind.


That is exactly why I’m here, and why I’ll be marching for Hillary in Denver tomorrow. I’m an independent conservative, and I’ll be voting McCain. But I have more admiration for Hillary than I can express, and more absolute disgust and fury than I can express for what they did to her in May, and since. It truly is about the validity of the political process, and about the rights of women to equal respect in politics.


I wouldn’t want to be in Hillary’s shoes right now. She has two choices: either she caves in to the DNC and gives Obama the nomination or she stands up for her supporters and fights for it. Either way, her career will probably be destroyed. If she goes with the DNC she risks alienating her supporters. If she fights and doesn’t win the DNC will destroy her. I have very mixed feelings about it. I don’t know if I will be able to support her in 2012 if she doesn’t take a stand for all of us now. Also, there’s the possibility that when Obama loses in Nov., she will be blamed and the DNC will destroy her career anyway. Like I said, I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes.


The sad thing is she is doing this to keep her standing in the party; but if they treat her this way now, just what does she think they will do in the future? I don’t even think the DNC will be a credible or viable party after this fiasco. Why should she worry about how they will treat her for standing up for her supporters?

They’re all aware that no matter who does what, we’ll never support Obama.

Here the dynamic is entirely inverted. The ‘supporters’ are key, not the candidate who is meant to represent their viewpoint and definitely not the political programme.

There is a problem though. If one goes through the comments at length, or even better the comments on Slate’s “The Fray” on the original Dickerson article one will see a most unlikely frequency of the words socialist and communist in reference to the DNC. At least unlikely in the context of supposed Democrat supporters/members. So, is all this being exaggerated by a disinformation campaign perhaps emanating closer to the Republican base? Certainly some seem to think so. And it’s hard not to put some credence in that theory. The idea that Obama is, as some of his critics make out, a ‘socialist’ and an extreme leftwinger make a mockery of the analysis which was made of his and Clinton’s individual political positions over the past year or so when she was, on a number of issues (and health-care most obviously) the candidate further to the left. Indeed that’s something that I found myself in greater agreement with her candidacy than Obama’s.

But that said, and putting PUMA and all its works to one side, it is clear there is at least a constituency which believes that Clinton was the superior candidate and that Obama ‘stole’ the nomination. Whether these are ‘moderates’ who would always have found McCain a congenial candidate this year (and in previous ones) is not quite a moot point.

I’m not even sure if this is personality politics although we are seeing chickens coming home to roost as regards the over emphasis on ‘candidate’ politics as against party programmes. It seems to me to be something else again, “personal politics”, the over-identification of self with candidate to the point that when the candidate disrupts that identification (or political circumstance, as with Obama’s victory in the nomination process) the only direction left is to tack towards the antithesis of what the candidate believes in and vote for their actual political opponent (and in the pieces above from the PUMA site I’ve avoided quoting those who will vote for McCain in November).

This is perhaps more a factor of the US political context, but it is not unknown in either Ireland or the UK. Indeed I’ve always been a little bit entertained at those who placed their trust in a political figure only to see it dashed. Well, them’s the breaks. It may sound cynical, but everyone in politics will let one down sooner or later. Only those who do relatively little manage to evade that fate. But it is an argument for programmes, or at least ideology. And there is a certain irony in the way that some Clinton supporters appear now to see in McCain a less existential threat to their own self-regard than Obama. Another telling indictment of the ‘moderate’ centrism of US politics.

And is this campaign latching onto a real but not quite as exaggerated political dynamic. Those are no doubt the sort of questions that keep Obama and his advisors awake at night, and if she has any sense I’d imagine that the same thoughts might exercise Clinton. Because while Dickerson makes the fair point that:

Whatever role these PUMAs ultimately play, we are learning that Barack Obama’s ability to persuade is limited. This has obvious implications for the coalition he needs to build to win, but it also raises questions about the way he intends to govern. He’s promised he can rally the nation to change, but it may be that he can rally only a certain constituency (and boy can he rally them) rather than being able to sway opinions and emotions across several constituencies.

The same holds true of Clinton. Her ability to retain her nominal supporters is perhaps less than she might imagine. And this has very real implications for any effort she might make in 2012 should Obama falter.

Whatever else, though, it is it is not progressive and I fear that there will be much time to repent at leisure if the admittedly watery moderation of an Obama Democratic Presidency is beaten by McCain to the White House.


1. dazey - August 27, 2008

snide, snide, snide– you can insult us all you want. But “ya see”….
We just do not like this inexperienced used car salesman. Get it. I have been voting for 40 years. Stop underestmating us. No matter how much you insult, WE WILL NOT VOTE OBAMA. GET IT?

one proud PUMA


2. Dan Sullivan - August 27, 2008

In part this provides a backdrop to Hillary’s emphasis last night in her speech on issues and on whether people were in it for her or for the country.


3. WorldbyStorm - August 27, 2008

Well dazey, I’m not trying to persuade you one way or another. Indeed as stated in the piece if anything I found Clinton’s health policies more compelling. But snide or insulting? Hardly, merely an observation about people who appear unable to distinguish between their own feelings and the importance of policy which lies at the heart of serious political activity. To an interested outsider like myself, an ocean away, and one who would when push came to shove support a Democrat over a Republican for policy matters every time, it’s near impossible to put a sliver of paper between Clinton’s policy programme and that of Obama taken as a totality. That is simply not true as regards McCain. So the logical proposition is that given the choice of Clinton/Obama or McCain I’d go with either Clinton or Obama. And it is impossible if one is using a coherent political programme to suddenly shift to McCain.

As for underestimating… well, surely the piece sought to make the point that at this moment the effects and scale of people like yourself is unknowable. For better or for worse.

And pride is great and even essential, but feeling good about oneself is only half the battle. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have the luxury of that and might quite reasonably ask how your self-esteem is going to see the sorts of programmes and policies implemented that will assist them. Nor do they have the further luxury of waiting another four years until the best possible candidate – in your opinion – rolls around again.

Very true Dan.


4. Bakunin - August 27, 2008

Wow, that was interesting. I like the “inexperienced used car salesman” reference, but how would Hillary be described? What has she ever done?

What does — “Stop underestimating us” refer too?.

This election is about a distinction without a difference. Do you like Pepsi or Coke — blue or red? In the end, they both rot your teeth.

WBS — are you implying that there is a real difference between Dems and Reps? If so, you need to really explore and take note of the horror that was the Clinton administration. New Deal democrats don’t exist anymore.

We are all neoliberals now…


5. WorldbyStorm - August 27, 2008

In a way no Bakunin, just that in contrast to McCain or worse again Bush there would a marginal benefit to the Dems. I’d also hope that there is an extension of health coverage, which I’ve referred to previously, under the Democrats which is important if only because it would underline however tenuously some aspect of collective societal engagement.


6. crocodile - August 27, 2008

The word ‘charisma’ is inexact and overused,but I’ll employ it as shorthand.
Obama has the kind of charisma that raises funds, attracts young voters, powers bandwagons. It is also a light that shines so brightly that it blurs the edges of policy definitions and makes analysis seem begrudging and cynical. I think he represents a better future for America than Clinton can offer – and certainly than McCain – but I would wish him a little less charismatic. Because voters who put trust in a star politician are doomed to disappointment. Because cynics can use one human’s weaknesses to imply that his entire programme is weak. Because star quality is transient and when the star has gone it’s tempting to look for another star rather than work slowly and methodically towards electoral success.
So yes, I’d vote for Obama – but part of me would rather see the presidency won by some balding, earnest, mid-western Democrat who could persuade rather than inspire.


7. WorldbyStorm - August 28, 2008

Well it does come down to incremental change, doesn’t it? Gore Vidal once said IIRC that the distinction between the Dems and the Republicans was about an inch wide but that that inch made all the difference. I paraphrase. I think that’s a good working approach. I have little hope about the Democrats, but as noted earlier, there is an opportunity this time around for some semi-progressive approaches that might further down the line open up the debate about their society.


8. Bakunin - August 28, 2008

O’Bama represents a better future for America? And what would that be? O’Bama throws the word change around all the time — it’s all words, he is very thin when it comes to policy. His own history makes this all seem dubious — he hasn’t built or created anything. He is a talker (and a good one) who has blazed through a number of gigs (law school, community organizer, state senator, US senator). We hope for the best, expect the worst.

WBS — microscopic differences between reps and dems are not the point. And, a shift away from Bush’s madness should not be interpreted as “…an opportunity this time ..for semi-progressive approaches…” Today, Business Week reads like a liberal publication — segments of American capital want a change.

Crocodile is right — although I cannot bring myself to vote for a rep or a dem, we have to continue working locally to set a foundation for independent political action, so some balding, earnest, mid-western worker can make some decisions that matter.


9. WorldbyStorm - August 28, 2008

Well, they’re not entirely microscopic. Compare and contrast health plans. Or consider their view of societal intervention. Or indeed consider the impact both domestically and globally of an Obama presidency simply in terms of the message that it sends out. I think there’s a fair amount of balding, eastern and southern workers who happen to be African American who might feel that that was a useful change, small as it might be. And not just limited to them.

I agree though completely that local work to generate a genuine independent political structure/organisation(s) is essential and that’s a case of not putting all the eggs in one basket. And it’s entirely fair enough if you’re don’t support Democrat or Republican. There are other options. Just, even a change of tone from the US would be no small thing.


10. splinteredsunrise - August 28, 2008

I think you’re onto something as far as projection goes. I get the sense a lot of the black population are projecting their aspirations onto Obama out of all proportion to his actual record. And it goes beyond the black community of course. Remember his vote against the Iraq war was in the Illinois state senate, not the actual US senate where it might have mattered. Had he made the Hill a little earlier, would he have that record? Maybe, maybe not.

And you do get something of this with the women who’ve rallied to Clinton and stuck with her through the incredible misogyny of the campaign. It isn’t that Hillary is any kind of great feminist. It’s all about what she represents to them.


11. crocodile - August 28, 2008

What I meant is that a victory for Obama or Hillary would be trumpeted as a great step forward for African-Americans or women. But the converse might be true. A McCain victory might be quite wrongly presented as proof that the US isn’t ‘ready’ for a black or female president.


12. ejh - August 28, 2008

Gore Vidal once said IIRC that the distinction between the Dems and the Republicans was about an inch wide but that that inch made all the difference.

I thought it was Richard Neville.


13. Bakunin - August 28, 2008

WBS, I’ve looked at the plans, neither will be implemented. And remember when O’Bama was a state senator, he didn’t say a word about unemployment rates in black ghettos in Chicago, but he had no problem talking about the importance of family values. We can’t have it both ways: there is either a difference between reps and dems or there is not. And one must act accordingly. If there is a difference, one is almost obligated to work within the Dems and push them to the left. Again, for me, independent political action is the only way forward. I will vote for a cartoon character this Nov.

In reading what WBS, Sunrise, and Croc have written, it is amazing that politics in America have been reduced to identity, representation and the symbolic. I think women, African Americans, and the rest of the world deserve a little more credit. They know that tone and message is not a policy agenda.

But maybe Jean Baudrillard was right.


14. WorldbyStorm - August 28, 2008

It could be ejh. Hence my IIRC.

Bakunin, I genuinely don’t envy you the decision you make. I think I’d – for fear of the Republicans getting another four years – go for the Democrats, but it is an individual argument and the converse is that 12 years of uninterrupted Republican rule and a failing Democratic party might spark off a left alternative. I’m not hopeful though.

I think, and not to contradict what you say about people deserving a little more credit, that you are right in the local context, but that the messages that are put out across the US do lead to a simplification of political activity. Consider if you will Slates map of the electoral map and what is most striking is that contrary to the supposed message of the ‘national’ polls Obama more or less should be a shoe in if one goes state by state. Yet that’s not we hear from the media because that might lead to a sense that there was no contest rather than their exaggerated pouncing on the small number of polls that put McCain in the lead nationally. My point isn’t the right or wrongs of the polls but of a media (and political class that colludes in this) which deliberately goes for the simplified wrong interpretation rather than the more complex correct one – which isn’t that Obama is ‘winning’ but that the contest is fought through the electoral college and that, as proven in 2000, the national vote may well be irrelevant.

And in that context I’m profoundly dubious about a genuine left alternative evolving any time soon. There isn’t space in a transcontinental media to allow its voice to be heard beyond the 2 party system, or at least so it seems to me. Which brings us back to your very crucial point about working within or without the Democrats. I don’t know and it therefore it would be presumptuous of me to say my views are correct.


15. Bakunin - August 28, 2008

Fair enough. But please grant me a nod of the head when I argue that it is not about 12 years of republican rule. In fact, since Reagan the US has been run by a long line of neoliberal thugs. The Clinton years do not represent a break, but a continuation of that trend. We have had twenty-eight years of right-wing, conservative psychos.

Again WBS, not to flog a dead horse, O’Bama will win in Nov., but what will that victory mean in material gains for working people?

And your point about a left alternative and the media is well taken. The greens only get attention when they are being used and abused by the Nader types. And, of course, he is not interested in building anything only in hearing himself talk.


16. WorldbyStorm - August 28, 2008

Absolutely. Can I also add that for those who have tried the Democrats and found them wanting in policy terms I have complete respect or those who have a worked through view of such things and want to remain on the inside. But it’s those who tie themselves to the personality politics mast that I find reprehensible. And that is, as you and crocodile note as true of many Obama fans as it is of Clinton’s ‘supporters’.


17. Wednesday - August 29, 2008

I will vote for a cartoon character this Nov.

Why not Cynthia McKinney?


18. WorldbyStorm - August 29, 2008

That’s a good question.


19. Wednesday - August 29, 2008

Yeah, I mean I totally understand Bakunin’s arguments; I’ve made them myself here and elsewhere. It just seems to me that there are three rational options for leftist Americans in presidential elections (all elections, really):

1 – Hold your nose and vote for the Democrat, because realistically it’s only they who can prevent a Republican victory which would, on balance, be at least marginally worse;
2 – Vote for a left (or even quasi-left) third party candidate, even if you hate them, because at least you’re making a statement as to what kind of alternative you want; or
3 – Stay home, because at the end of the day neither of the above options is really going to make a blind bit of difference.

“Voting for a cartoon character” or spoiling your ballot or the like just strikes me as the worst of all worlds (unless, of course, you mean a real-life cartoon character like Nader, which would fall into Option 2).


20. Bakunin - August 29, 2008

Cynthia McKinney is one politician I have a great deal of respect for. I like her a lot. My refusal to go down that path is due to my dislike about what the national greens have been doing in the US. I work for and support the tiny Labor Party.

Wed. — my voting for a cartoon character is an attempt to get college students to think about our electoral system, its parties, and the corporate agenda that drives it. I’m trying to get young people to think about what is in front of them, the false choices that they have to confront. I’m a political professor.

I do vote though and again it is about having a conversation. If I’m going to talk up mass action and social movements (which I do), I feel that I have to engage in what most students think is politics — the act of voting. My mantra is that social change in the US has only come through the movements. However, it takes some effort to get kids to see that. I can’t just say that I stay home (so I spoil my ballot).

It is like using the name Bakunin — his politics were a joke (Marx is more my cup of tea). I get all these young GJM, black bloc types in my office talking up anarchism, yet they have never read Bak, Kropotkin or Goldman. I try to push them to take their own tradition seriously.

As you all know, the US is probably the most depoliticized nation on the planet. We love American Idol though.


21. WorldbyStorm - August 29, 2008

Still Bakunin, in light of what Wednesday suggests, there must be another option for you on the day beyond Democrats and Republicans or indeed the Green party. My worry is that a vote for a cartoon character may not make the connections you hope. Oddly enough I’ve a similar experience with students over the past six or so years and trust me where the US is leading Ireland and elsewhere is following. It’s not that they know nothing, just that its so atomised. Splintered sunrise and others were discussing this on Splintered Sunrise recently, the differences between those of us in our 30s and 40s and those who’re a bit younger… it’s enormous.


22. Wednesday - August 29, 2008

My refusal to go down that path is due to my dislike about what the national greens have been doing in the US. I work for and support the tiny Labor Party.

Understood. My California registration is with the Peace and Freedom Party. Problem is, they nominated Nader. I don’t think of my (intended) vote for McKinney as a vote for the Greens, but as a vote for a genuinely left alternative, and I think that’s how it would be taken by .. er .. anyone who notices it. A vote for a cartoon character could mean anything. It just strikes me as a complete waste of effort.


23. WorldbyStorm - August 29, 2008

Yeah, on reflection I’d agree with you Wednesday on that. It’s just too big a disconnect to spoil a vote. Either vote for someone or don’t vote at all.


24. Bakunin - August 29, 2008

Wed and WBS — I’m not concerned at all about how my vote is interpreted by those counting it. A left alternative needs to be built from the ground up — a vote for the SWP or the greens in Nov. doesn’t matter.

It is all about talking to students, and whether the electoral process should be taken seriously. I vote because if I’m going to ask students to join me at a demo then I feel that I can’t stay home on election day.

So I spoil mine.


25. Wednesday - August 29, 2008

My refusal to go down that path is due to my dislike about what the national greens have been doing in the US.

I’m not concerned at all about how my vote is interpreted by those counting it.



26. WorldbyStorm - August 30, 2008

Yeah, but aren’t you narrowing your options too much? It is, naturally, your choice at the end of the day. But, and I’d differ from Wednesday in that firstly I don’t have a vote (!) and secondly if I did I’d probably hold my nose and go for the Democrat, there are options beyond the D/Rs and indeed the Green Party. And after all, students fine, but I don’t let mine determine my response, although granted I don’t lecture in politics though there is direct relationship with politics.


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