Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good news, bad news: an op-ed from The New York Times, annotated

Today, August 10, 2008 The New York Times published an op-ed by a senior editor from The New Republic, Michelle Cottle. The good news is that somebody in the mainstream press is publishing an op-ed pointing out reasons for the DNC to acknowledge that it does not yet have a candidate. The bad news is that Ms. Cottle's piece seems rather misleading in a number of respects. I am attempting to reach The New Republic, The New York Times, and Ms. Cottle to gain clarification on Ms. Cottle's position, but for now I want to point out the spots where the op-ed goes wrong, in my opinion. Below is the piece, with my annotations in bold.

As an aside, in my hat as co-founder of The Denver Group, it is because of the problems of confusions potentially created by stories like this that we are working hard to run ads that make clear the facts and the best reasons we have for why the DNC should not simply place Senator Clinton's name on a symbolic roll call ballot, but should make sure her name is in nomination giving the delegates to the convention a genuine opportunity to elect her the Party's nominee. For more information about The Denver Group go here; to donate go here.

August 10, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor

Calling All Votes


NEARLY everyone in the Democratic Party seems to think that officially entering Hillary Clinton’s name into a roll-call vote for the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention would be a dangerous show of disunity. [I know of hundreds of Democrats who have contributed to The Denver Group and hundreds more who have written in support of our efforts, either directly communicating to me or via blogging. So saying "nearly everyone" in the Democratic Party holds the view stated here is misleading. The Denver Group specifically argues and has been arguing since June 24th that the only route to "unity" would be by placing Senator Clinton's name in nomination and then holding a roll call ballot that is not just symbolic.] It’s true that having America watch as some portion of Mrs. Clinton’s 1,640 pledged delegates thumb their noses at Barack Obama would disrupt the party’s vision of a carefully scripted Denver love-in. [It is insulting to all involved to suggest that delegates voting their constituents' preferences and superdelegates voting their consciences would be "thumb[ing] their noses at Barack Obama". Delegates would simply be exercising their responsibilities and rights according to rules and procedures promulgated by The Democratic Party itself. I do not see how that can be construed as an insult to any Democrat, including Senator Obama.] But finding a constructive way for Mrs. Clinton’s seriously aggrieved loyalists to channel their anger and disappointment could wind up being the path of less destruction for Mr. Obama’s campaign. [Framing the situation this way is both misleading and insulting. Characterizing Clinton delegates as "aggrieved loyalists" misses the point. Delegates are people who go to great effort to secure a place at the convention. This year delegates followed the rules in the Call to the Convention in order to serve their Party. Wanting the Democratic Party to abide by the rules in that same document has nothing to with loyalties to one candidate or another, or with being aggrieved, angry or disappointed. It has to do with a demand for integrity from the Party's leadership, which has done so much already to damage the integrity of the Party they purport to advance.] Plus, it’s the right thing to do. [True. And that should be the beginning and the end of the argument.]

You don’t have to be a die-hard Clintonite, or even much of a feminist, to be moved by the significance of her presidential campaign. In 1972, the Democratic presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm made history by having her 151.95 delegates entered into the convention record. Mrs. Clinton amassed more than 10 times that number. Her achievement deserves an official salute. ["Her achievement" deserves more than a "salute". The Democratic Party and the country as a whole deserve an opportunity to see Senator Clinton emerge as the head of the ticket for The Democratic Party. This means nominating speeches on behalf of Senator Clinton, her name in nomination alongside Senator Obama's, and a real roll call vote.]

Symbolic gestures and signs of respect always hold a larger meaning for the campaign that came in second. [Define "second". Neither candidate reached the end of the primary season with enough pledged delegates to automatically become The Democratic Party nominee. Senator Obama arrives with 49 more pledged delegates, Senator Clinton arrives ahead in the popular vote and having won more states with more electoral votes in November.] More than a few of Mrs. Clinton’s devotees, including plenty headed to Denver this month, are in need of catharsis and a bit of closure. They remain convinced that their gal got a raw deal, that she was treated unfairly by the news media, that she was cheated out of her Florida and Michigan delegates by hostile power brokers like Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi, that she was a victim of sexism, that the historic nature of her candidacy was callously dismissed in all the hullabaloo over the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s, and on and on and on. [This entire passage is insulting to all Democrats whether they support Senator Clinton or not, and it is irrelevant to the alleged point of this op-ed. If the point is that it is "the right thing to do" to take Senator Clinton's candidacy seriously, then it makes no sense to paint her supporters as anything other than loyal Democrats with good reason to want the DNC to provide equal opportunity to both candidates who reached the end of the primary and caucus rounds with real claims to the ultimate nomination.]

Some of these allegations ring truer than others. But many of Mrs. Clinton’s supporters believe them intensely enough to want to make trouble for Mr. Obama. [This is not at all about Senator Obama. This is about producing an electable candidate in November and in preserving the legitimacy of The Democratic Party.] Discouraging Mrs. Clinton’s name from being entered into a roll-call vote would give her legions yet one more opportunity to feel that their candidate had been snubbed.

Giving them the chance to see their beloved candidate honored in a highly public forum could, just maybe, help release a little steam from the pressure cooker. Beyond that, there could be other, more direct benefits for Mr. Obama’s candidacy. [Again, the point of seeking a serious roll call vote is not Senator Obama, his candidacy, helping or hindering it.]

A roll-call vote for Mrs. Clinton could help Mr. Obama look magnanimous instead of messianic. [While I think how Senator Obama looks is irrelevant to the question of whether a meaningful roll call vote would be good for The Democratic Party, I can assure you that unless the roll call vote is meaningful, with Senator Clinton's name in nomination and a real opportunity for her to become the Party's candidate, the Party and Senator Obama will appear crooked.] Fair or not, the man has earned himself a reputation as arrogant. These days, John McCain’s campaign spends much of its time watching for the tiniest show of self-importance by Mr. Obama to exploit. By making a grand gesture, inviting (even publicly urging) Mrs. Clinton to sign the (already circulating) petition to have her name submitted for nomination would help Mr. Obama look like a swell guy.

Yes, we would all be reminded of how close the Democratic race for president was when, on the convention floor, delegation after delegation rose to cast its votes. (A few die-hards for Mrs. Clinton might even get mouthy.) But in the end, the tally would indicate that Mr. Obama won. He beat Mrs. Clinton, the inevitable nominee who drove far-more-experienced politicians than Mr. Obama from the race before it even began, and who beat every other guy in the race. [No, neither Senator Obama nor Senator Clinton beat anybody for the nomination during the primary and caucuses. The only way to legitimately win the nomination now is to have the delegates and superdelegates actually elect a candidate to head the Democratic ticket for the general election. Whoever wins a genuine convention vote will be the person who legitimately will have won that opportunity and honor.]

He did it. [No. Wrong. See above.] And he could demonstrate that he is now so comfortable with his victory that he is willing to let Mrs. Clinton tout her achievement as well. (Better still, the delegate total for Mr. Obama would almost certainly be higher than it stood at the end of the primaries, because many of Mrs. Clinton’s superdelegates — and probably even a few of her pledged delegates — would decide to cast ballots for Mr. Obama.) [In the alternative, many of Senator Obama's superdelegates and probably even a few of his pledged delegates might well decide to cast ballots for Senator Clinton.] Sure, some portion of Mrs. Clinton’s delegates will never be satisfied with any gesture. They are determined to sink Mr. Obama in the hopes that their candidate can come back and win this thing in 2012. [This is not about 2012, this is about electing a Democrat to the White House as soon as possible, which cannot be soon enough, in my opinion, given the utter failure of the current two-term Republican administration.]

But the kamikaze cohort is just one, admittedly very noisy, subset of a larger pool of wounded supporters. The trick is to find a big, public way to separate the zealots from those who just want a concerted effort by the party and its candidate to show a scrupulous commitment to respecting every vote cast. [One might start by contacting Marc Rubin or me who have been working gangbusters with the help of those hundreds of supporters of The Denver Group in the name of protecting every vote cast, both during the primaries and caucuses and at the Convention itself.]

Is this desire reasonable? Sensible? Logical? Maybe not. But in presidential campaigns, reason and logic rarely carry the day. [Agreed. If it did, the DNC would have long ago announced that the primary and caucus results were inconclusive and planned for a genuine, authentic, meaningful roll call vote in Denver.]

Michelle Cottle is a senior editor at The New Republic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right on the mark Heidi. Couldn't have been said better. I wish Hillary would just come forward now and stand up for those of us who have been deserted by our party...

August 10, 2008 at 5:08 PM  
OpenID roofingbird said...

Thank you.

August 10, 2008 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger CognitiveDissonance said...

Sometimes I just feel like banging my head against the wall at the press' total obtuseness at how democracy is accomplished. None of them seem to have any awareness of history either. Which really says it all as to the quality of our modern pundits and press corps. Even when they think they are being fair, they are so off the mark that it is truly laughable.

August 10, 2008 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger democraticjack said...

Great analysis, Heidi. This really should be cross-posted elsewhere as it enhances understanding of what we actually want to happen and why at the so-called convention.

August 10, 2008 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Aeneas said...

Perfect rebuttal/annotation.

It is this kind of condenscending op-eds, echoing some of the statemetns made by DNC and Obama that only further offends and alianates voters.

Quite frankly, I don't trust anything that happens from this point on.

But, through your great and corageous effort, at least there is a discussion, even if it is bizarre at times.

Thank you.

August 10, 2008 at 6:37 PM  
Anonymous diana said...

Hope you are successful at reaching the author.
There are some minor typos that should be proof-read if you intend to forward this piece. Excellent, by the way. thank you so much, Heidi. We've got your back.

August 10, 2008 at 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Ricki Lieberman said...


The only job of the delegates in Denver is to select the electable Democrat, and she is HRC. As Heidi Li points out, the primary and caucus results were inconclusive and the DNC should be planning for a genuine, authentic, meaningful roll call vote in Denver.

To remind the Super Delegates of their job, and to alert them that we will hold them accountable for selecting the electable Democrat, please join the ELECTABILITY WATCH (EW). Please write me at for background, sample letters and lists of SDs.


August 10, 2008 at 7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you are successful in your efforts. Had the super delegates not interveaned, Hillary would have been the nominee. Every other candidate at past conventions has had their name entered, regardless of how their tally of delegates was and Hillary should not be an exception. The DNC's carefully crafted illusion of "unity" may explode in November when HRC supporters vote in mass for McCain.

August 10, 2008 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are with you Heidi

August 10, 2008 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger PUMA POWER said...

Thanks Heidi for another right on the mark post.


Hillary 08

August 10, 2008 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger sandipuma said...

We are on it Heidi Thank you

August 10, 2008 at 8:02 PM  
Anonymous minty said...

When did lessons on the democratic process stop being taught in schools?

If I wanted a coronation process and everything to be a neat and tidy group think, I would have joined the Republican Party.

I am getting very tired of these bloviators who have no sense of history. Thank you Heidi for all that you do

August 10, 2008 at 8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great disection of this piece. I thought the whole tone of this article was insulting, by implying Obama would be doing her a favor by "allowing" this, when it is her right. No one in the press questions why she has to "negotiate" for what has been standard procedure since the eighteen hundreds. Oh, but that's right, the previous candidates were all men! hopeful

August 10, 2008 at 9:24 PM  
Anonymous BAJ said...

Well said! And, as a slight modification of your last sentence, here's the editorial the Times should write:

"The DNC should have long ago announced that the primary and caucus results were inconclusive and planned for a genuine, authentic, meaningful roll call vote in Denver."

That's it in a nutshell!

PS What does it take for nomination? Simple majority? 60%? Some other figure?

THanks for your good work

August 10, 2008 at 9:36 PM  
Anonymous ginny roemer said...

Heidi - Ho!

I think that Heidi's comments are right on for clearing thinking and better articulation, but I also think that this Cottle article, in it's own jaded way, makes some sense.

I don't know if I am one of the Hillary "zealots," OR "someone who just wants a concerted effort by the party and its candidate to show a scrupulous commitment to respecting every vote cast" OR both. If Obama (and his Zealots) would only DO this one thing RIGHT, I could find out.

Thanks Heidi! --Ginny

August 10, 2008 at 10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


So often the very idea of voting altogether is looked down upon by these people, that I sometimes think this effort to squash the vote by the DNC and media is not just to stop Hillary from having a vote, but to stop the practice of delegates voting altogether.

They act like we all are talking about a mere political norm's mystique being" honored". But we are speaking of voting. And voting is the fundamental , bedrock right we have . The idea of delegates not voting is a knife point aimed at the Democratic party's throat. Because the next step , indeed one they are planning on already, is to simply make a convention a rally for the leaders' choice.There can be no retreat.

Thank you so much for your and The Denver Group's efforts. Whatever happenes , you'll know you did your best to defend the right to vote.

August 11, 2008 at 8:58 AM  
Anonymous delanotruthisgold said...

There is hardly any way--or any need--to expand upon Heidi's sage annotations here, which cover each of Cottle's points brilliantly and, more importantly, factually.

However, in addition to stating that I am in complete agreement with Heidi on this, I would also like to note that I was disappointed at the general tone of Cottle's piece. It indicated not only a facile acquaintance with the facts about both the primary campaign and our political system, but a presumed ignorance and thus patronization of anyone whose concerns lie with the integrity of our political process and the truth of the underlying facts. While this might be understandable from someone whose sole source of information lies in main stream media, I would expect higher standards and deeper analysis of the fact patterns from an editor of any sort, especially one at The New Republic. To do any less is to erode credibility of both editor and publication.

August 11, 2008 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger Rose of Tralee said...

From minty: "If I wanted a coronation process and everything to be a neat and tidy group think, I would have joined the Republican Party."

Actually, if we wanted a coronation, we'd never have broken from Britain. And even THEY have real elections. This is so bad that we should have international observers watching. Paging Jimmy Carter!

I lived for 10 years under President for Life, Jean-Claude Duvalier. I went there to get away from Nixon. It's easier to accept this kind of authoritarian rule when it's somebody else's. But back then I'd never have dreamed of this kind of behavior from this party. The GOP - well, 2000 was beyond what I expected from them, but the Dems? Never! It's shocking and frankly makes me sick to my stomach. I've seen posts here and at other blogs by people who are also nauseated. Physically sick about this manipulation. Totally UnAmerican: paging Joe McCarthy?

August 11, 2008 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger Rose of Tralee said...

Ginny R.: "If Obama (and his Zealots) would only DO this one thing RIGHT...."

WHOA! You just crystallized, in that one little conditional clause, two things:
1- What's wrong: zealots. Cottle asserts that there are zealots in HRC's camp but never concedes the zealotry on the other side. And IF there are zealots in HRC's camp, they are zealots for democracy and the American way - as HRC herself is. Obama's zealots, I fear, are zealots for Obama making that camp something of a personality cult.
2-What's scary: this one thing RIGHT. If he can't do this one democratic thing right, what will he do to this poor country that's already been through seven and a half years of having the balance of power shifted heavily to the executive branch?

We're on very dangerous ground.

August 11, 2008 at 10:59 PM  
Blogger Rose of Tralee said...

Anonymous from 8:58 a.m. makes an excellent point that I hope everybody takes very seriously: that this may be the beginning of the end of voting. After FL and SCOTUS played the 2000 votes so close to the chest, we, the Dems, should be super-vigilant about counting the votes. So how is it THIS party that makes this move? Even worse - no votes to count! Not to be tolerated.

Excellent analysis, Heidi.
I read that op ed yesterday and winced here and there at some of the verbiage, but you flayed it like a salmon. Great work that led to some very pithy posts!!

I hope somebody somewhere is archiving what I've been seeing here and at other pro-Hillary blogs. There are important cautions for the future. It's an historical record. Whatever happens in November, this is a big part of how we got there.

When Obama claimed victory in May, I told my friends that the sisterhood would close ranks behind Hillary. I was wrong - it's much larger than the sisterhood. I reminded them that we already know how to make trouble at the convention because we're the same ones who did it in 1968. Wrong there, too, it's much bigger than the aging yippees. All ages are here - and THIS time we are doing it within the system. THIS time we are the ones demanding the rules be followed. (So why do I feel like I should take out my pierced earrings and wear running shoes?)

August 11, 2008 at 11:25 PM  

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