Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Spectacle in Washington DC

Do you have any free time in August?

Do you have $200 to blow?

Are you committed to defeating Barack Obama?

That $200 you could have donated to Hillary Clinton's debt relief or to other female candidates can instead be used for the first ever PUMA Civil War conference. On the weekend of August 8-10, while most of us--even the political junkies here at Clintonistas for Obama--will watching the Beijing Olympics, the PUMAs will be meeting in Washington, DC at the Pre-Convention PUMA Conference (PCPC). Today, Riverdaughter called upon all her "Conflucians" to join:

The purpose of PCPC will be to organize PUMA for the purposes of the Denver convention and to define our role going forward. We see great potential in PUMA as being an organization that keeps an eye on the major parties. Right now, there is no particular entity whose responsibility it is to make sure that the parties play by the rules. There is no group that holds the party players accountable to the voters for the decisions they make and the propaganda they generate. PUMAs are now to assume the mantle of responsibility that others have abandoned. We will become the referees. We hope to represent the voice of the voters who will give democracy back to the electorate. We want to make sure that our votes are counted, our primary results are respected, and what is important to us is recognized and included in party platforms. And unlike more ideologically motivated groups that have sprung up in the last several years, it is our desire to find that place where most Americans are and base our positions on principle, and to survey the political landscape from those principles, in order to resist the cults of personality and fad movements which have siphoned our strength and diminished our role as voters.
I think that I have made my sypathies and affection for the PUMAs quite clear. I absolutely do not agree with them, but I understand their anger and I have defended them when they are called "turncoats" or "dead-enders." I believe that casting a protest vote at the ballot box is a fair use of one's constitutional right to vote and I don't begrudge anybody for this. As far as I'm concerned, one needn't be a straight-ticket voter to be a good Democrat.

That said, this conference is a huge mistake. It has the potential to become a spectacle of the highest order because the PUMAs themselves, are quite divided on goals, strategy, and motivation.

Goals--Some PUMAs want to teach the party lessons. Others want to defeat Barack Obama. Others want Hillary to be on the ticket. Still others want her to run third party.

Strategy--Some PUMAs are supporting McCain. Some will stay home. Some will vote third party. Others will vote, but leave president section blank. And that changes if Hillary on the ticket. Fewer will support McCain, and some will still say home. But many will vote for Obama.

Motivation--Some PUMAs are motivated by angry emotions. Others want revenge. But many others--and I know this because I've calmly and rationally discussed this with them--are motivated by a since of principle. They believe that the process was unfair (as do I). They believe that the DNC should have defended Hillary against the sexism as forcefully as they stood up against Fox News Channel's smears on Obama. They feel that the only way to reform the party is to fight party unity. They are good progressive who believe that they are acting in the best long-term interest of the party.

When If PUMA meets in Washington, DC, all of these divisions will be on full display. When you have that many angry people in a room at one time, people who have different agendas but believe that theirs is the most morally justified,consensus and co-ordination is impossible. If the divisions do not end in chaos, infighting, and backstabbing, it will be because nobody showed up in the first place. The media will be more than happy to replay on a continuous loop video of angry PUMAs denouncing our nominee and the Democratic Party alongside video of largely empty conference rooms.

If the PUMAs want to support Hillary Clinton, they should donate their $200 to helping pay down her debt. Or they could spend their money donating to the superdelegates who supported her in the primaries. As I wrote two weeks ago, a number of Hillary's supporters in the House are facing primary challenges and will need the financial support for the general election. They can also donate to Emily's List, an organizaiton that proudly stood beside Hillary throughout the process.

If the PUMAs want to reform the party, they should begin organizing themselves as a pro-reform movement within the party. There are a lot of Democrats, many of them wealthy, prominent supporters of Hillary Clinton, who believe that the process was flawed and in need of reform. If Obama is elected, he is likely to install people at the DNC who will protect that process that elected him. In that event, a strong reform movement will be needed to hold the DNC's feet to the fire.

This conference is a bad idea. It could be the undoing of the PUMA movement, rendering it more irrelevant than it is now, but it also has the potential to embarrass the participants, the nominee, and the party. Images of more Harriet Christian moments only benefit the Republicans. Don't waste your money on a trip to DC. Donate to Hillary. Empower her by donating to HillPAC, her political action comittee. Donate to progressive causes and progressive candidates. Build up, don't tear down.


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