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Hillary Can't Fix What Her Party Broke

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hillary Clinton just gave the last major speech of her 2008 campaign. Or perhaps was it the first of her 2012 campaign. She said vote-for-Barack enough times and at enough volume to protect her from accusations of trying to sabotage Obama's chances in November, not that she won't be accused.

But the address at the Democrats' convention was a campaign speech -- for her. It was about health care, women's struggles and other signature Hillary issues. To her diehard supporters who have yet to come home to Obama, she said: "I want you to ask yourselves. Were you in the campaign just for me?"

That's the giveaway line, because for Hillary's angry backers, the issue is no longer what was done to her. It was about what was done to them.

Democrats had turned on fellow Democrats, and although the arrows flew in all directions, the nastiest of the invective fell on the ladies who loved Hillary. That these loyal Democrats had been targeted made them nuts.

I spent the morning at the Denver headquarters of PUMA PAC, perhaps the best known of the anti-Obama Democratic groups. PUMA stands for People United Means Action, according to the acronym's polite version. It was founded by Darragh Murphy, a 39-year-old blogger from Boston, who had been flamed once too often while praising Clinton on the left-wing Daily Kos Website.

How strange that anyone writing for a political site would be smeared for backing a candidate of the same party. If the Democratic leadership had any sense of self-preservation, it would have shunned creepy bloggers and those who provided their forum. Instead, it hailed them as voices of the new generation.

"What will your members do when Hillary tells them to vote for Obama?" I asked Murphy.

"They will not vote for Obama," she replied. "I can tell you that."

Whether they will vote for John McCain is another matter. Murphy herself has not decided what she'll do in November.

PUMA spokeswoman Shannon Rains is closer to going over to McCain. "I've been voting for 20 years," the 39-year-old from Salisbury, Md., told me. "I've never ever looked at a Republican candidate. I am now."

The Democrats clearly have a hooligan problem. It was as though their left-wingers suffered a kind of Karl Rove envy. They wanted to go on the attack, demonize a Clinton and hurl abuse at the Clinton's friends. Only a year ago, Vanity Fair ran a cover story on how Clinton hatred had infected much of the right wing. The left seems to have grabbed the baton. And it apparently did not dawn on the Obama shock troops that they were offending the very people their man might someday need.

The Rovian right never made that mistake with non-candidates.

It reserved its thuggery for people who would never vote for a Republican.

No, sexism didn't doom Clinton's campaign. Sexism may have even helped Clinton in the later primaries as the outrages turned her into something of a martyr. But that didn't excuse it.

Hillary is not about to abandon her power base. She ended her speech by exercising her impressive talent for bonding with the women who adore her. And anyone who listened closely could tell that there was no room in that relationship for Barack Obama.

"You allowed me to become part of your lives, and you became part of mine," she said. And: "To my supporters, to my champions, to my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you, because you never gave in, and you never gave up."

Her story continues.

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