[ Posted Thursday, August 14th, 2008 – 15:38 UTC ]

What you want
Baby, I got
What you need
Do you know I got it?
All I'm askin'
Is for a little respect

--Aretha Franklin, "Respect"


So it's official -- Hillary Clinton's name will be formally introduced for a roll-call vote at the Democratic Convention. She will be given her due respect, as will her supporters. Will this be enough for her voters to (finally) come around to supporting Barack Obama, or will the all-but-admitted fact that she's not going to be the vice presidential nominee further embitter the Hillary die-hards? In other words, is this going to be a good thing or a bad thing for Obama? Only time will tell, unfortunately.

My guess is that it's going to turn out fine for Barack Obama. The stage-managed nature of modern political conventions means that it will likely be handled about as well as it could be. The media, of course, will be beating the drums of "Oh, look how disorganized Democrats are," as usual, but by the end of the convention it's going to be pretty hard to reconcile that with 80,000 people cheering their heads off for Obama's acceptance speech. That's a video image that a lot of people are going to see, and they'll see a party united behind their candidate.

Of course, I could be wrong about all of that. Maybe the view that it's going to be "1968 all over again" will turn out to be correct. But I doubt it, for a couple reasons.

The first is that it is hard for anyone to deny that Barack Obama has been bending over backwards to include the Clintons in the convention hall itself. This roll-call vote is just the latest in a string of decisions which show how he is reaching out to the Clinton camp to have a convention everyone can be proud of, and enjoy. That goes a long way with average voters -- being magnanimous in victory.

The second is that Obama has now effectively split the Hillary camp into "inside the hall" and "outside the hall." The day Hillary speaks, there will be a rally and a march by Hillary supporters, but if Obama is as smart as he appears to be, he will hold the roll call at exactly the same moment as the rally outdoors. This will present a contrast for the media to draw: Hillary delegates being given what they asked for -- an official recognition of how close Hillary came to winning -- versus the street theater of people shouting anti-Obama slogans and venting their anger in public.

The history of protesting, and the history of the media's coverage of it, all but dictates that the people outside the convention are going to be portrayed as angry and irrational (and possibly even violent), while the people inside are going to be portrayed as staunch and rational people standing up in support of their candidate, standing up for their ideals, but ultimately accepting their candidate's plea to switch their support to Barack Obama, so he can defeat John McCain and become our next president.

Now, I'm not knocking the protestors. They have every right to be out there, and I have even come out strongly for their rights not to be incarcerated in an Orwellian-named "Free Speech Zone," but rather be allowed to be seen and heard by people entering the convention. I firmly believe they have every right to do so, and I'm a strong believer in the First Amendment anyway, so I stand for their right to be seen and heard.

But I also think that they're going to look (to many Americans watching on television) as sore losers. And one thing America is not fond of is sore losers. I don't think their protests will turn violent, which is a good thing because violence in the streets turns American voters off even more. I say this because I can't see anybody infiltrating them in order to set off violence to make them look bad (the only person this would help is Barack Obama, and I don't think he needs or wants that sort of thing). And also because the ones who usually get hot enough during a rally to start trashing things are the youth. Young males, mostly (but not always). And Hillary's die-hards seem mostly to be older women. So it's hard to see them flipping over cop cars and lighting them on fire or anything.

What Obama is doing by allowing a roll call with Clinton's name is to co-opt and invite into the fold all the positive feelings Hillary generated among her supporters, leaving the negative outside. So America will see a clear difference: Hillary supporters happy for her inside the hall, while ultimately supporting Obama; or people screaming in the streets things like "No coronation!!" By doing this, Obama will be sending a clear message: Now is the time for all good women to come to the aid of their party. By being respectful to Hillary inside, he is showing Hillary supporters across the country that they can either join in with him, or instead be associated with angry people screaming in the streets who are sore because their candidate lost -- and unable to listen to that candidate when she tells them who she's supporting.

Like I said, I think it could be a real plus for Obama in the end. But the question remains: will it work? Will Hillary supporters listen to him (and Hillary, for that matter), or will their ears be more receptive to the shouts from outside?

Since Hillary supporters are by no means monolithic in their support for her, we need to break them down into a few groups to answer that question. My spectrum includes five basic groups:

  • Those who have already switched their support to Barack Obama.
  • Those who could be convinced to vote for Obama, if he shows Hillary the respect she deserves during the convention, even if he stops short of offering her the VP slot.
  • Those who could only be convinced to vote for Obama on an Obama/Clinton ticket.
  • Those who have made up their mind never to support Obama, no matter what.
  • Those who are actively working for, supporting, and will vote for John McCain.

The other question, which would break these five groups down into sub-groups is: Will these voters actually vote, or will they stay home? Staying at home is better than voting for McCain, but obviously voting for Obama is the best scenario. The first two groups (assuming Obama convinces the second group) will likely go out and vote. The third group may stay home. The last two groups will either stay home or vote for McCain.

But the key question is currently unanswerable (unless the opinion polls get a heck of a lot better than they are) -- how big is each respective group? My gut feeling is that the first two groups are going to be much larger than the last three. Meaning the relative weight of Hillary supporters deserting to McCain is going to be pretty small in the general election itself. That's just a guess, I should point out, based on no actual facts... so once again, I could be wildly wrong about that. And I'm aware that even a small shift in demographics can throw states, or an entire election.

But personally, I think the entire PUMA ("Party Unity My Ass") effect is going to be about as effective as the Yippies were in nominating Pigasus (an actual pig) to the 1968 Democratic ticket. Which is to say, not very. And I think the demonstrations outside are going to be similarly ineffective. Because I think most Democratic voters (and anyone else thinking of voting for Obama) are going to see a stark contrast between a group of sore losers, and a graceful and magnanimous winner. And I think they'll wind up supporting Obama no matter what the protestors say or do. Because, ironically, the louder and more shrill their protest, the less serious anyone's going to take them. Especially now that Obama has given Clinton just about everything she's asked for at his nominating convention.

That's not to say the media won't try to run with the "splintered Democratic Party" story, but I'm thinking it's going to be a one-day story. Because it's going to be ultimately trumped by 80,000 excited people in a stadium.


-- Chris Weigant


8 Comments on “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

  1. [1] 
    fstanley wrote:

    I always think it is interesting that the government and the public while supportive of free speech don't seem to respect those who exercise that right and thus dismiss the issue/complaint as not justified.

    I do agree with your assessment of the outcome. Though I am sure some will label Sen. Obama as a "celebrity" again when we see him in the stadium in front of 80,000 "fans" cheering his every word.


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:

    This is a HUGE mistake for Obama..

    The ONLY thing that can come from this is to emphasize how close Clinton is to being the Nominee.

    Does anyone HONESTLY believe that such a gesture will placate the PUMA types???

    This very would could be the beginning of the end of Obama's campaign.. :(


  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    This very would could be the beginning of the end of Obama's campaign.. :(


    This very well could be the beginning of the end of Obama's campaign.. :(

    One tee meeny martoonies.....


  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I have come to the conclusion that all sides in this tragicomedy, which threatens to become a complete farce, need to seriously seek professional help with extra time on the couch.

    One thing can be said for all of this nonsense...there is no doubt about what was motivating the top contenders for the highest office in the land and it damn sure wasn't about providing the best possible leadership for the American people and world at large. If it were really about that, then Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would have been among the first to endorse Joe Biden.

    How's that for snarkiness...just letting off a little steam...feel much better now...thank-you very much...

  5. [5] 
    loslobo wrote:


    Now that there seems to be some reconciliation, I'll back off my statement thinking most die hards want Hillary as VP or they will stay home. Knowing (or maybe hoping) most are somewhat political savvy, there should be know way they could vote for a Repug.(whatever Michale thinks)

    Actually I'm rather hopeful for the Dems lately, especially if Keith was right about Joe getting VP. But logic doesn't mean chit if country fully of distracted lemmings can't see WTC7 and 9/11 for false flag (sorry too soft, treasonous mass murder) that it was. Even books like "The Dark Side" and "The Prosecution of GW for Murder" promote the MYTH.

  6. [6] 
    BLaws wrote:


    What choice did he have? This was the lesser of two evils. If he didn't allow a roll call vote, then the media would be running with the story that Obama silenced the voices of "18 million people that voted for Hillary". They'd trot out bitter PUMA after bitter PUMA who'd scream and rant about how Clinton and woman have been silenced blah blah blah. They'd say the only reason he was the nominee was because he cut her out of the roll call. He'd just be giving them something to bitch about and you know the media would run with it.

    With a roll call he takes that off the table. Sure, they'll still whine, but they will have almost nothing to stand on. David Shuster completely skewered two PUMA's on Hardball last night, showing them to be nothing but petty, bitter people. One of whom he outed as being a donor to McCain in 2000!

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:


    Yea, you are correct, of course..

    Just rubs me the wrong way that Obama has to kiss Clinton's ass so often...


  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:
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