In the weeks that have passed since Hillary Clinton suspended her presidential campaign, the Democratic line has been all about unity. Clearly, the Barack Obama campaign needs to bring Senator's Clinton's supporters back into the fold. I think that rumors of mass numbers of Clinton supporters who will now support McCain rather than Obama are, frankly, bullshit created by the McCain campaign.
However, the Democrats need all the support they can get during this race. Frankly, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are nearly indistinguishable in their platforms and either of them would be a substantial improvement over the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Neither the Obama nor the Clinton campaign has been blameless in this primary created division, so why not let bygones be bygones and work on what's important: putting a Democrat in the White House. It really shouldn't be a problem.
Or so I thought until yesterday.
During Virginia's convention yesterday, I roamed the coliseum corridors between sessions, checking out the vendors with t-shirts and buttons, and stopping to talk to people who looked interesting. (Incidentally, my favorite was a toss up between two t-shirts. One said "Vote Republican: Eat tainted meat, breathe poison air, drink nasty water, help only yourself." The other read, "Democratic Women are the Life of the Party!")
I happened to see a knot of 10 or so women about my age who were obvious Hillary Clinton supporters. They all had Hillary campaign materials sticking out of their bags and in their arms. I walked up to introduce myself and said, "I've found some of the Hillary supporters!" Their apparent ring leader said, "Yeah, we don't talk to the press," looking pointedly at my press badge. Floored, I explained that I was a blogger for a DEMOCRATIC blog made up of both Clinton and Obama supporters.
Ms. Ringleader still wasn't buying it, and asked me, "Well who did you vote for in the primary?" I certainly wasn't going to lie, so I told them I voted for Obama. Her response: "Your people haven't treated us well. We aren't going to talk to you." And they all marched away. I managed to give one of my MOMocrats cards to a straggler and asked her to check out our website before passing judgment.
I worked my way through a chain of progressive reactions to that exchange. The first was, "What do you mean you won't talk to me? I'm one of you!" Looking down at my press badge it occurred to me for the first time that I was not one of them. Women who would normally talk to me about politics in the line at the grocery store or if we met at a party were wary of that pass hanging around my neck. They were wary of me and my power to humiliate and scorn.
This was a first for me. As a blogger, I have never really considered myself a journalist. Yes, I am a writer, but I write about politics in a way entirely different from main stream journalists. I give people my reactions to what I hear and observe. I tell you what I think; I don't simply dispassionately report the facts. People read what I write because of the way I write it. If they just want news, they'll go to the New York Times. If they want to be entertained with death match tax throwdowns between Obama and McCain, or a full course of tasty political questions, they come to MOMocrats.
This atypical approach to political "reporting" is what made bloggers struggle for access and legitimacy in the eyes of the political world. Now we have it. So I can't really complain that we're "press." We're in the press section to stay, for better or for worse. (Note to the press covering the convention: get the hell over it!)
My second reaction to the Clinton supporter snub was anger. Anger at being lumped in with those who admittedly have given Hillary Clinton and her supporters a hard time in this election. While few in the MSM will admit it, sexism is rampant in journalism and many in the MSM took aim at her during the primary season. Her supporters were, unfortunately, collateral damage. Then, of course, there was the mud tossed back and forth between Obama and Clinton supporters on the Internet. I certainly never engaged in it, but I saw it happen often enough - on both sides.
Of course I did realize that the Clinton supporters I encountered were not snubbing me. They were snubbing what I stand for in more ways than one: press and Obama supporter. That's when I began to get worried.
During Governor Kaine's speech, I paid attention to the crowd. Kaine talked about his friendship with the Obamas and the Obama presidential campaign quite a bit. Of course, he also worked the Obama theme - change - into his speech quite a bit. As I walked around photographing the delegates and guests, I realized that something problematic was happening. I could easily tell who the Obama and Clinton supporters were in the crowd, simply by watching their reaction to Kaine's sound bites about Obama. Some people in the crowd were less than enthusiastic.
As an idealist, I can understand the reluctance of Clinton supporters to suddenly switch their loyalties. After all, I, and the other original MOMocrats, were in a similar position several months ago when John Edwards dropped out of the race.
As a Democrat, however, I want to tell Senator Clinton's supporters that it's time to put on the big girl panties and support Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Unless you'd prefer to be watching John McCain's inauguration on CNN next February.
Think about it. Republican John McCain as president. Four more years.
That thought scares me to death. So, Clinton supporters, give us a chance and come back to the party. We'll still respect you in the morning. I can guarantee that John McCain won't.
Other posts from the Virginia Democratic Convention:
When Stephanie isn't chasing after Hillary Clinton signs on the convention floor or elbowing her way into a press scrum, she writes non-political stuff at Lawyer Mama. You know, in her "spare" time.