By Roberto E. Alejandro, Editor-in-Chief
Party Unity My Ass (PUMA).
Back in 2008, this was the refrain of ‘#HillaryOrBust’ Democrats upset about the nomination of then Sen. Barack Obama. In a Youtube video posted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August 2008, a woman who claims to have traveled to that year’s Democratic National Convention to support then Sen. Hillary Clinton, asserts that she will cast her vote for Sen. John McCain come November.
Her reasons for rejecting the Democratic nominee?
“I feel that Obama was selected not elected. . . . That the primaries were not run fairly. That the DNC (Democratic National Committee) took votes away from Hillary and gave them to Obama. I feel that he’s a fraud, and that he’s totally unqualified to be president of the United States.”
In another video documenting Clinton supporters opposed to Obama’s nomination, and posted to Youtube in June of 2008, a man explains why he is upset at what has happened in the Democratic primary.
“[If] you don’t respect voter rights and count every vote, you’re not the ‘democratic’ party. I have voted Democratic since 1988, I have never voted for a Republican. Right now it is about the DNC. . . . The Democratic Party cannot stand for voter rights and civil rights if it doesn’t count every vote.”
In the next clip from the same video, a woman asserts, “The Democrats are throwing the election away.”
The term PUMA might not ring much of a bell, but the rhetoric cited from these eight-year-old videos should sound strikingly familiar. These are basically the same arguments we hear today from the more die-hard supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), who insist that the nomination of former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton is little more than an act of robbery by the DNC.
Undoubtedly, there are those Sanders supporters who will never bring themselves to cast a vote for Clinton, and whose sense of betrayal by the DNC may never subside. But they are, at best, a vocal minority. By the time November rolls around, there is a good chance that most of today’s Bernie die-hards will have moved past their grief. But right now, they are still in the anger stage.
Former Pres. Bill Clinton was apparently still traversing that same stage when he appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman in September of 2008. Clinton peddled a half-hearted endorsement of Obama, still seemingly stung by his wife’s primary loss. He was followed in Letterman’s guest chair by comedian Chris Rock, who not only called Clinton out for his “endorsement,” but addressed the “Obama stole the primary” argument head on:
“[Clinton] Lost. And it’s not sexism—the reason she lost—she lost to a Black guy nobody heard of, she didn’t lose to ‘the power,'” said Rock.
Comedian Sarah Silverman’s chastisement of vocal Sanders supporters may have a similar long-term effect on the position staked out by the #BernieOrBust crowd, serving to point out, just as she said, that their position is “ridiculous.” (And, at least where those whose #BernieOrBust sentiment is informed by a sense that Clinton and Trump represent a similar danger to the future of America, I agree with Silverman).
That is not to say Sanders supporters do not have legitimate grievances about the primary process or result. It is just to say that it would be unwise to read too much into the reactions of a group of people so upset about the primary result that they traveled all the way to Philadelphia, paid for a hotel, waited in what was probably a significant security line, just so they could get into a convention hall and boo every mention of Sec. Clinton’s name on the first day. People with that sort of energy are rarely a representative sample of any group, even Sanders supporters.
Yesterday, on the second night of the 2016 convention, Democrats allowed Sanders delegates to have their votes counted via roll call, only to have the Vermont senator call the vote to an end and move to have Sec. Clinton nominated by acclamation. This was the same protocol Democrats used to salve the wounds of Hillary supporters back in 2008, with Sec. Clinton playing the unifying role on the floor of the convention, standing with the New York delegation and calling for Obama to be nominated in the same way.
By the time Bill Clinton gave his prime time address last night, little had been heard from the #BernieOrBust contingency that seemed to draw so much attention the first day. Secretary Clinton’s nomination by acclamation will not necessarily heal the rift between the DNC and those who most adamantly insist that #BernieOrBust. At least not overnight. But there are a lot of nights between now and the election in November, plenty of time to be shamed by Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, or some other comedian, and entirely too much time for anyone to read much into the current anger of the #BernieOrBust folks, or to predict they will have much of an electoral impact on Clinton in November.
This column was originally published by OnBckgrnd.com, on July 26, 2016.