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Posted by on Aug 26, 2008 in Politics | 19 comments

On the media-whipped PUMA phenom & a one-word directive: CHILL

I like Rebecca Traister’s piece on the Party Unity My Ass loyalists in Salon very much but I love this woman.

The setting:

Whether they knew it or not, the PUMAs who had congregated next to the MSNBC stage were making the night of the man who has done everything in his power to destroy their purported heroine. They held aloft Clinton signs and hand-markered cards reading “Stop Delegate Intimidation!” and “South Jersey PUMA.” At one point, three women and three men holding “McCain” signs started a melodic chorus of “Clintons for McCain, sweetie, Clintons for McCain, sweetie,” in reference to Barack Obama’s bad habit of referring to women by that diminutive. Next to them, a man in an Obama hat shouted, “You’re all irrelevant! Jesus!”

But irrelevant is not how the protesters will be portrayed by a media that has been salivating over the possible disruption of the Democratic convention — by angry, broom-riding succubi! — for weeks. Never mind that there were probably no more than 50 shouting PUMAs. Never mind that every national political convention in modern history becomes a locus for vocal agitators. Never mind that over the weekend, antiwar protests had been larger. Never mind that in three days in Denver I had not spotted a single PUMA or Hillary protester until I found where Chris Matthews was broadcasting. Never mind the guy in the toilet outfit. To hear Matthews, and the talking heads at CNN tell it, these demonstrators were “ground zero” in a rift that could potentially destroy the Democratic Party and ruin its national convention.

And from the woman I love, Marie Wilson, founder of The White House Project:

“There is such a fear of women coming into power, that when they protest, they are given more weight,” said Marie Wilson, head of the White House Project, before speaking as part of the Unconventional Women’s programming, acknowledging the likelihood of protest. “Just the fact of women saying they support their candidate and want to make their voices heard sounds more scary than it would be if it were guys. That’s just part of backlash. But come on. When women gather around a water fountain, men get scared. People oughta just chill.”

Wilson acknowledges that there will be residual tension at the convention. But she sees the discord as a positive thing, a perhaps painful step in the right direction. “Putting issues on the table” — as opposed to keeping political frustrations pent up — “is what is going to bring people together.” Wilson believes that in the wake of Hillary’s run, “we are in the middle of a revolution. Women are stepping up and taking power.” She said her organization, which encourages women to seek elected office, has seen a 61 percent increase in participation in the past year. [emphasis mine]

Count 29 year old Hough resident, Stephanie Howse, Cleveland’s newest city council member, as part of that 61%.

Much of my online day yesterday was spent saying much of the same thing, which is that the number of voters who continue to act as though they can threaten the democracy that kept this country together in 2000 after Antonin Scalia made George Bush president is most likely statistically comparable to the usual number of voters in a presidential election year who don’t “get in line” – and maybe even smaller. We don’t know because no one is measuring that – hmm, why do you think that might be?

If you don’t believe me, you can hear Markos of Daily Kos and John Podesta, among others, say it on NPR. And although I can’t remember specifically, I know Dan Moulthrop and his guests went over this point too yesterday morning with at least one caller. (I have to add – neither of those shows had a single woman on the panel, but that’s another post.)

The difference this year, when it comes to those who don’t want to support the nominee?

Chris Matthews forgetting he is or ever was a journalist – and that men get scared thing Wilson references. But Matthews is only the most obvious example of this media-ready explosion of expression, and the netroots have plenty of upshoots in the same vein.

The voters who are defiant in their depression and anger over Hillary Clinton not being on the ticket come by it organically, unquestionably. These voters are unlikely to be the ones who are so much in the center that they can come to see John McCain as the moderate maverick he presented as in 2000 and vote for him now. The problem is, they are being fed and used and portrayed by opportunists of all stripes, not only Carly Fiorina and John McCain, as if they are those voters who could be swayed (and Fiorina is a squirrel banging her head against the cage – these voters, especially the women, are never going to vote for McCain – he simply is not what they want – all they want it Clinton, end of story).

Yet, what confounds me most in the continuation and choice of actions determined by defiance is understanding how voters who are otherwise intelligent and rational in choosing an excellent candidate in Hillary Clinton can now become individuals who will ignore the illogic behind their continued push toward goals that are not, even in a Dennis Kucinich world, achievable.

And I’m someone who wrote, repeatedly, about letting these voters have their say, get it out, be listened to and learned from. Even as the reality became then and is now that Hillary Clinton is not going to be president this year.


And now, disruption, protests and stunts, especially in the face of strong statements from Clinton herself, project nothing but pure narcissism. Listen to Clinton:

I consider Bill Clinton to be one of the most narcissistic people on the face of the Earth, but not Hillary. Whatever inner glee voters (especially those who never before would have voted for McCain and insist that they will refuse to vote for Obama) think Clinton may find in the PUMA protests, how do you think she’s going to feel as a sitting senator who has to work under a McCain administration delivered to her by…her own supporters?

Again – if people were smart enough to vote for Clinton in the primary – and I did – then they should be smart enough now to realize that, as Marie Wilson says, they need to chill.

And go attend a White House Project Go Run! training so that they can be the next female presidential candidate.

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  • DLS

    The frenzy is not in the media, Jill. Maybe some sensationalism to create more of a story than there actually is, but there is a threat by many Clinton voters to defect to McCain because “their” candidate didn’t get the nomination, and in many cases it smacks of a sense of entitlement and a temper tantrum. There is no “need” for and no “right” to a Catharsis in this Democratic Feel-Good Convention that we have seen so far. (Shouldn’t it instead be a bashing of Republicans and a “war party” rally to follow through all the way to the White House, while pledging to boasting about what the Democrats can accomplish once they have the White House and the Congress?)

    Clinton ran too late and lost the Feel-Good contest to another, younger PC darling and better marketer this year. Admittedly neither she nor any other Dem would have been likely to have beaten Bush in 2004. (2004 was not 2006 — or 2008.)

    That’s just the way it goes. It’s no different than Teddy Kennedy losing to Carter in 1980.

  • DLS

    Clinton voters have the ability if they defect to McCain to be much more powerful than Nader (but less than Perot) voters in past elections. That is, they could constitute the difference in vote totals that propels McCain into the White House.

    Proceed with care.

  • “…it smacks of a sense of entitlement and a temper tantrum.”

    I tend to agree with you above statement DLS. I’ve wondered since the end of the Dem primary season would black folks who supported Obama 93+% would have had a “temper tantum” (as you say), if Hillary Clinton would have won. Personally I feel they would have just moved over to the Clinton side because of historic party loyalty.

    Nevertheless, my respect for Hillary Clinton has grown because she is doing the right thing. An Obama Presidency is a Democratic Party presidency. Which means that party plans and bills won’t face the veto. It makes no sense for a Clinton supporter to vote for McCain when he is SO opposite of their views.

  • I stand by my assertion that this segment of people who are unhappy with the outcome of the primary is no larger than and no more dangerous than any previous time the primaries have resulted in people seeing their horse lose – which is, last I checked, every four years.

    I stand by my assertion that journalists like Matthews who seem to relish aggressive inquiry into such phenoms suffer precisely from Marie Wilson’s observation about men getting scared when women congregate.

    The behavior of these voters may be founded in genuine and organic anger and upsetment. But the choices they are making are illogical, to quote Doctor Spock – the Leonard Nimoy one. 🙂

  • DLS

    I think Clinton is going to do the right thing, since if she attempted a “coup” at the convention (which I don’t believe she will do), the Obama voters would, in many cases, likely vote for McCain or stay away from the polls in protest and she doesn’t want to see that happen, I’m sure.

    What role for her, I wonder, in an Obama administration other than remaining a Senator? Secretary of State, perhaps, or some other Cabinet position? If she chooses to remain a Senator, it may indicate she’s hopeful for a 2012 run, though she’d be even more “past history” by then and wouldn’t be accepted by most Dems if Obama were seeking re-election.

    Her best earlier chance was in 2004, but she likely didn’t run because she knew it was a poor chance for any Dem that year.

  • What do the right thing – she already has, DLS. Did you watch that clip of her? Please – you are sounding almost as delusional as some of her supporters – she is not going to attempt a coup.

    As for the future, I hope the first thing she does once Obama is elected is divorce Bill. Seriously.

  • DLS

    I didn’t watch that clip of her, Jill. I have followed the news and encountered one story after another indicating she wants party unity and wants her supporters to support Obama, not McCain (and GOP perpetuation). What I was doing was to explain the consequences if she _were_ to attempt that “coup” at the convention.

    I’m actually looking forward to her speech tonight. (This convention is worth it.)

    She’s achieved a lot. Even those of us who didn’t like her farther-left early-1990s behavior (and other behavior to rival or surpass that of Nixon or Cheney) respect her competence and were ready to be saying “President Clinton” again. (Cracks in the glass ceiling, indeed. And maybe she can say that McCain’s view of working women is Hooters. [grin])

    And yes, she should jettison non-booster, largely-dead-weight-and-toxic-baggage Bill. (Note it’s been argued, though I don’t believe conclusively, that he may have made her campaign falter.)

  • Wow – we agree. 🙂

    Seriously though – watch HER say what you are reading others write about – I’ve written before that I don’t find her very convincing at times and I think it’s a real problem for her – people do not know when she is being real and when she isn’t – but one of the biggest skeptics I know thought Clinton was very serious and sincere in this clip – and I agree.

  • Lynx

    Jill, I agree with you that the PUMA movement is being blown way out of proportion by a press eager to extract drama out of the scripted convention (they naturally could give a damn that their behavior has actual real-world influence on the elections). The worst mistake is that they conflate the lunatic PUMAS (Obama is a Kenyan, Obama is a murderer, and all those lovely things Darragh is inclined to claim) with the Clinton voters who are not yet sold on Obama. All indications are that there IS an issue with NORMAL people who can’t quite bring themselves to trust Obama though they trusted Clinton (and she has reiterated that she trusts him). But PUMAS, also by all indications, are a small but very rabid group of wide-eyed conspiracy theorists.

    The media is being very irresponsible by highlighting the ill-behaved PUMAS while basically ignoring the others. I in fact do see a sexism involved in this, an attempt to portray all Clinton supporters (especially female ones) as hysterical and bitter (like the PUMAS) and generally personifying the worst of the stereotypical female traits. This has the (unintended?) effect of perhaps offending actual reasonable people who are simply not sure yet, driving them away entirely.

  • Kathryn

    If Hillary dumped Bill, that would work wonders for her politically.

  • Lynx – yes yes yes yes yes – I completely agree! I apologize for not saying it more simply and clearly but yes- that is exactly the problem – maybe because the media doesn’t want to help Obama find the solution with the voters in that normal people group (and I definitely was one of those for a while – and I know several voters in that category now).
    Thank you so much for the comment.

  • Kathryn – couldn’t agree with you more.

  • pacatrue

    Three different women posted in a row together here so I’m now frightened.

    Apparently, this is my silly day.

  • DLS

    Hillary Clinton can play dirty, but she’s not a Madonna. Obama is Madonna’s choice.

  • Ok – getting the funky comment box inside the comment box but here goes – don’t worry Pacatrue – there’s no water cooler -you are safe.

  • DLS – what are you talking about?

  • DLS

    Awww — Madonna was playing the stupid Hollywood-musician lefty-playpen game (outdoing the Dixie Chicks). As she started her tour, she played one song, which I believe was called something like “Get Stupid,” and she jutaxposed Hitler, Mugabe, and McCain, then later on jutaxposed Gandhi, John Lennon, Gore, and Obama.

    It’s trivial and merely irritating, but it is leftie playpen idiocy. I hope McCain uses it in campaign ads or exploits it in the GOP convention. (“OK, he’s not the Britney Spears or Paris Hilton candidate, but the Dixie Chicks and Madonna candidate — that’s my opponent”…though I doubt McCain would do this)

    Representative news article with reader remarks:

  • First, don’t get me started on Madonna. She’s promoting herself, not Obama, as she endeavors to stay relevant. That said, I wonder what your thoughts are on Daddy Yankee’s lyrical content, since he just endorsed McCain (let’s just say it’s lucky for him that so many Republicans don’t speak Spanish).

    As to what Obama needs to do, I’ll restate what I’ve said in past threads. I don’t think that a direct appeal would work or be trusted. There’s nothing he can say to put these voters at ease with him as a person that won’t sound like snake oil. What he needs is to re-present, in detail, his policy positions. He’s got to tell them not only what he stands for but gain trust by saying how he’s going to do it. McCain’s appeals to that block will be necessarily vague and focused on the past primary rather than his policy positions because he has promises to make to the evangelicals re: Choice and to big business re: equal pay and family/work issues.

    What we need to do is leave the Primary behind. I understand that people are still hurting over it, but the only way to fix it is to build a time machine and deliver a memo to the Clinton camp about caucuses. At this point, there is nothing but negativity coming from that place and what we need to somehow do (and this won’t be possible for all 18 million) is share what’s exciting about this moment and our opportunity to get a Dem back in the White House. Again, this won’t work for all 18 million, but Americans are optimistic as a people, and I believe that the majority of Clinton’s voters would love to be part of a movement (with a chance of getting into thew White House).

  • Kathryn

    janiedm, I think your comments are very wise and reasonable. I know as Jill is saying there are many passionate Hillary supporters who are not happy she lost and still have some doubts about Barack mainly because there are some blank spaces that either haven’t been filled in or have been filled in by those who wish him ill.

    I am speaking to these supporters, please, please, check out his website and positions and then check out John McCain’s. If you come to the conclusion that McCain will better represent you than, fine, I bear no ill will.

    I do bear a great deal of ill will toward those who would rather wallow in their anger, shoving that anger in people’s faces then complaining about the anger and emotionalism that comes back at them. I bear ill will towards people who want to hurt not just Obama, but want Hillary to kill her own career just to give that irrational anger a “catharsis” and then get ticked off when people think they are being irrational.

    Hillary supporters, the Democratic party is a big tent, there is a very important place for you. If Barack loses but the party is unified, then I think Hillary has a good shot at 2012, I might even be persuaded to join you in that support. If her supporters continue to take Bill Clinton’s lead and Obama loses, she is finished.

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