DENVER—WHAT, exactly, are Hillary Clinton's supporters so angry about?
I have to confess, that's a mystery to me.
Thus it was that when I found myself surrounded by a contingent of Clinton backers they marched and protested their way along Denver's 16th Street walking mall, shouting "elected, not selected," I took the opportunity to ask.
"This election was not fair," declared Deborah from New York, who asked that only her first name be used. Growing progressively more animated, she claimed that Clinton's supporters had been pressured not to vote for her, saying that "there are videos of 90-year-old people being intimidated at caucuses."
"It was not a fair primary," said Denise Andersen of San Francisco. And fie on the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee for reducing Clinton's claimed delegates totals from Michigan and Florida.
"This is a hijacked nomination, and we know who hijacked it," said Harriet, of New York. Her list: Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean. "They picked him, they wanted him, and they wanted Hillary out."
How did they hijack it?
"With all the illegalities that went on in the caucuses," she said, adding disbelievingly: "You have to ask?"
A further sampler of the sentiment: The caucuses were undemocratic. In addition to refusing to seat all Clinton's delegates from Florida and Michigan, the DNC hadn't spoken out against the sexism Clinton had faced. Nor, for that matter, had Obama.
Now, it's certainly true that caucuses aren't as open or inclusive as primaries. But the rules are the rules, after all, and the Clinton camp knew them -- and still failed to plan adequately for the caucuses. As for Michigan and Florida, those states were aware of the consequences when they defied the DNC in setting their primary dates.
The rest of it just doesn't scan. Yes, there were incidents of sexism, but the notion that sexism somehow cost Clinton the nomination is way wide of the mark, as any number of careful postmortem's on Clinton's star-crossed campaign should have made obvious by now.
I asked the protesters about the argument that if they supported Clinton, the logical next move is to back Obama, since the two are very similar on the issues, while McCain holds very different positions. And that if they don't, McCain may wind up in the White House.
"That's the intellectual argument for the whole thing," Deborah said dismissively.
So angry is she that, though she has never voted for a Republican before, she said she will vote for John McCain. "At this point, it would be better than Obama," she declared. Harriet, wearing a NObama button, said she would as well.
Nor did Hillary Clinton's Tuesday speech persuade either Deborah or Harriet to rally around the Democratic candidate.
"I just can't support him," Deborah said. "Even though Hillary said to throw our support to him, that is not going to do it."
"She gave a brilliant, brilliant speech," said Harriet. "However, nothing will change my mind."
Those kinds of attitudes have other women shaking their heads in exasperation.
"Some smart, professional women have really drunk the Kool-Aid," says one female Massachusetts politico.
Adds another politically savvy Bay State woman: "It's starting to lose any intellectual credibility, particularly when you consider what is at stake."
Yet no one quite wants to deliver that blunt a message publicly.
But US Representative Richard Neal, a Clinton supporter, was pointed when asked what he would tell other Clinton fans who say they won't now back Obama.
Said Neal: "The same thing I regularly tell the Democrats who went with Ralph Nader instead of Al Gore: It's not the 535 votes in Florida that cost Al Gore, it was the 97,000 votes Nader got there." And if you don't believe it makes any difference who's in the White House, he says, "look at the last seven and a half years."
As for McCain, his camp is more than ready to cry crocodile tears for Clinton and her devotees. After Obama chose Biden, McCain quickly put up an ad asking why Hillary hadn't been chosen.
So yes, unreconciled Clinton supporters can find a sympathetic ear until November. But here's what her alienated backers have to ask themselves: Do they really expect the Republicans to respect their point of view come January?
Scot Lehigh's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.