Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Notes from "Maxed-out Women of Washington DC", or why John Murtha gave me a kiss on the top of my head

This morning I was fortunate enough to attend an event for "maxed-out" women supporters of Senator Clinton's candidacy. Just to set the scene, let me note that, knowing all sorts of major strategists and politicians would be there I had planned on wearing a zippy outfit. Then, the water company mistakenly turned off our water supply last night, we decamped to a hotel, and when I went to the house this morning to dress, I realized I had locked myself out! So, off to the meeting of the bigshots in jeans and an oversized men's white shirt... but, as I think Senator Clinton herself would say, showing up and participating is what really counts.

We had been told that Maria Cantwell would address the group of about 20 - 30 women in attendance, but apparently Senator Cantwell was unable to attend. The good news was that her stand-ins were Representative Murtha and Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, both of whom just electrified the audience. Senator Lincoln was a real blast.

Before I turn to the serious stuff, a few personal notes. Literally, the first person I walked into was John Murtha, whose fierce and brave commitment to Senator Clinton has impressed me from the moment he endorsed her. As I shook his hand, I told him that while we all always knew he had guts, boy did we appreciate his putting them to work for Senator Clinton. Next thing I know, I was receiving a bear hug from Mr. Murtha with the addition of the aforementioned kiss on the head!

Turning to get coffee, I bumped into Patricia Schroeder. When I was the age of the young girls turning out for Hillary now, Pat Schroeder was an absolute inspiration to me - and today I had the chance to tell her so. Really, the opportunity to thank people - famous, not famous; strangers, friends, or family - for their contributions to my own professional, personal, and political development and for their support of Senator Clinton has been one of the unforeseen highlights of my involvement in this primary season.

Here's a quick summary of the recommendations from Murtha and Lincoln, as well as the senior Clinton advisers who led a group discussion (these included Ann Lewis and Minyon Moore, both of whose comments really impressed me).

The uniform message: the race is entirely winnable for Senator Clinton, and that while there is no need to go out of the way to attack Democratic Party officials, it is crucial to show support for those officials who seem to understand - or to be coming to understand - that the primary season is NOT over, that millions of votes remain to be counted, and that because it is quite likely that Senator Clinton will lead in the popular vote, the superdelegates are going to need to think long and hard about the best strategy and candidate for winning the general election against John McCain.

I'll post separately about superdelegates, but Ann Lewis had the best take, and the best line, regarding them. Lewis said that we need to explain that "superdelegate" is just another word for elected officials, people elected to political office or to positions within the DNC. They are not an elite. They answer to constituencies and their responsibility is to do the work of the Party, day in and day out. They care more about what they hear from the people who elect them and the rank and file of the Party than anything Howard Dean says, because they depend on the former for their positions. So, if you want to help Senator Clinton, contact superdelegates and let them know you support her bid for the nomination and that you want Florida and Michigan counted with no deals cut. As for Ann's line (paraphrased): Before this election nobody ever thought that being a superdelegate meant you weren't supposed to vote!

Congressman Murtha emphasized the importance of substance: what Hillary Rodham Clinton actually did to support the Dayton accords, what she did to ensure military funding for women vets (for example, Hillary made sure that the Pentagon received and allocated $200 million - not $50 million, as originally proposed, for preventative care for breast cancer for women veterans and women relatives of veterans). Congressman Murtha talked about Senator Clinton's concrete plans to stabilize the home foreclosure situation for individual homeowners. Senator Clinton is all over this, and the bigger economic picture.

Senator Lincoln's main message was short and sweet - although delivered with a wonderful bubbling verve - and it was this: don't let anybody tell you that "the math" says Senator Clinton does not deserve or cannot win the nomination. She also cited Senator Clinton's tireless efforts as a Senator on behalf of families and children, particularly poor and disadvantaged mothers.

But Minyon Moore really took the cake, in my view. Moore is an African American political strategist who cut her teeth on Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. She decided to back Senator Clinton, she said, because she believed at the outset, as she does now, that the country needs Senator Clinton as president this fall, because Senator Clinton is uniquely ready to deal with the major woes that confront us: exiting Iraq wisely and improving the economy.

Then Moore turned to the issue of race head-on, making the best remarks I've heard yet about the issue as it figures in this Democratic primary. Here are the highlights:
  • Don't let anybody, ANYBODY, think that the Clinton campaign introduced race into the campaign; there was a decision from the beginning that the campaign would NOT engage in race-baiting.
  • Anybody who listened to President Bill Clinton in South Carolina would have realized that when he used the word "fairy-tale" he was applying it to Senator Obama's policy about Iraq NOT to Senator Obama's campaign.
  • There is plenty of support for Senator Clinton among African-Americans, especially African-American women [note from HLF, about a quarter to a third of the women at the meeting were, by the way, African-American].
  • White liberal guilt is not a good reason to vote for Senator Obama.
  • The problem with race isn't race, it is institutionalized racism, and Senator Clinton has spent her life transforming institutions to rid them of racisim and other forms of bias and prejudice.
  • When Minyon Moore is asked by ANYBODY, including anybody in the African American community, who she supports for President, she looks them straight in the eye and tells them: "I support Hillary Clinton, unapologetically and proudly." And that is what every supporter of Senator Clinton should be doing now.
Finally, Ms. Moore and others in the room urged us all to ask people to call in to progressive talk radio and voice our support for Senator Clinton. This has been an underutilized channel for rank and file supporters of the Senator. For a list of phone numbers and shows, as well as contact information for DNC officials, check here.


I support Hillary Clinton, without apology, without reservation, and with tremendous pride.


A total pleasure to write - thanks, Minyon Moore, for the suggestion.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Taylor Marsh said...

Terrific post. So glad you posted it in Hot Topics.

April 3, 2008 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Heidi Li Feldman, J.D., Ph.D. said...

Thank you, Taylor. I'm trying not to abuse that portion of your site!

April 3, 2008 at 12:17 AM  
Anonymous ann said...

Great post. My favorite Hillary button says, "I'm for Hillary ask me why."

We will win, we must.

April 3, 2008 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger Lyn said...

Heidi, What a great post and sounds like a wonderful day, well Once you got there anyway :)Thank you for sharing what you learned. I'm jealous of your hug, Lyn

April 3, 2008 at 12:41 AM  
Blogger creativebeadz said...

I found you through Taylor Marsh.

What a great post! I know it sounds trite; but thanks for sharing! It was wonderful to hear what you were part of and it keeps us phone-callers going!

I still believe Hillary will be our President!

April 3, 2008 at 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome. Thank you!

April 3, 2008 at 1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this wonderful information, HLF. Am getting close to maxing out so will look for alternative things to do, including getting donations from others... Joy to read, really.

April 3, 2008 at 1:16 AM  

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