DENVER (WOMENSENEWS)–New York Sen. Hillary Clinton ramped up her call for Democratic unity during a prime-time address Tuesday to a cheering and respectful Democratic National Convention.
Convention-goers showed they’re ready to take heed of her call for “No way. No how. No McCain.” Although security personnel in fluorescent vests circulated among the crowd, it seemed that Clinton’s call for unity ruled the day. But it will take more than Clinton’s words to bring some die-hard supporters into the fold and throw full support to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama
“Whether you voted for me, or voted for Barack, the time is now to unite as a single party with a single purpose. We are on the same team, and none of us can sit on the sidelines,” Clinton said to rousing applause. “Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our president.”
Some Clinton loyalists remained dissatisfied. “We love you!” came calls from a delegation in the back of the arena. Others waved their “Hillary” signs, although they were well out-numbered by those waving Obama and Unity signs.
Even Colleen Hanabusa, president of the state Senate and Clinton’s campaign co-chair in Hawaii, Obama’s birthplace, said there’s still a need for “closure.”
Hanabusa is one of 40 floor whips charged by the Clinton campaign with keeping pledged delegates in line during convention proceedings. Hawaii delegates have plenty of aloha for native son Obama, but many love Clinton too. Obama won the state with a 3-to-1 advantage.
The longer Clinton waits to release the delegates, the more the tension builds, Hanabusa said. Clinton is expected to meet with delegates Wednesday before an expected roll-call vote to nominate her for the presidency later that day.
“Unless delegates are released, the pledged delegates will vote for her. They are not our votes. They belong to the voters who braved Super Tuesday for us,” Hanabusa told Women’s eNews.
Symbolic Nod to Supporters
Clinton delivered her speech on the 88th anniversary of female suffrage, when U.S. women gained the right to vote. Her nomination in the roll-call vote is a symbolic nod to her supporters after a tough primary battle.
On the second day of the convention, Clinton followed two other high-profile female politicians, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Gov. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas, who were both considered potential running mates for Obama.
The DNC threw a spotlight on women Tuesday that included eight female senators and Lilly Ledbetter, who lost an equal pay discrimination suit at the Supreme Court last year. Her case became a founding reason for the introduction of the Fair Pay Restoration Act, a bill still pending in Congress that would make it easier for women to sue employers for wage bias.
Women are likely to be a crucial demographic group in determining the outcome of the November general election. Women vote in higher numbers than men and are more likely than men to vote for Democratic candidates.
Regardless of the anticipated release of her delegates by Clinton, two of her pledged delegates grabbing a snack outside the convention floor shortly before her speech Tuesday said they’d cast their roll-call vote for her. They said they’ll support Obama in the general election, however.
Delegate Vincent A. Vicites of Union Town, Pa., said Fayette County, where he’s a county commissioner, had the highest percentage of Clinton votes of any county in his state’s primaries.
“I’ll be for Obama later, but right now I’ve got to complete the exercise for Clinton,” Vicites said.
‘Thank You, Hillary’
Delegate Debbie Hogue-Downing, a retired educator from Oklahoma City, proudly wore her “Thank you, Hillary” T-shirt. She’ll support the Democrats because she thinks an Obama presidency is better than letting the Republicans keep the White House. The election is too important to lose, she said, because a Supreme Court appointment will soon be coming up, and the public education system is at risk.
“Oklahoma delegates did support Clinton, but the majority of superdelegates did not,” Hogue-Downing said. “And many of my friends thought that was wrong.”
Hanabusa sees that sentiment reflected among many Clinton delegates on the convention floor.
“I think the Clinton campaign is looking at it as a major statement that women have come so far. . . We probably won’t see a woman candidate of her caliber for a very long time,” Hanabusa said. “She needs to be shown the respect for the accomplishments that she has made. They just feel she has done so much for women.”
That presumed lack of respect from the Obama campaign especially irks Colorado delegate Awilda Marquez, a Denver attorney and former assistant secretary of the Commerce Department in the President Bill Clinton administration.
“It’s not Hillary’s job; it’s Obama’s job,” Marquez snapped when a reporter asked what Clinton could say to help her make the transition to Obama during a Washington Journal interview televised Tuesday morning on C-SPAN. “The last mile is Obama’s. He’s the one that’s got to make the ask.”
Not Enough for Some Supporters
Even that won’t be enough for members of People United Mean Action, a loosely organized group that has set up a campaign headquarters in downtown Denver. The PUMAs have been marching daily during the convention against Obama.
“We know she’s saying what she has to say. She’s taken it as far as she can, and now it’s our job to take it from here,” PUMA member and Wilmington, Del., preschool teacher Robin Rowlinson told Women’s eNews.
Rowlinson said some of the group’s members will stay home, some will write in Clinton’s name on the ballot and some will vote for GOP presumed presidential nominee John McCain, even though they are aware McCain’s stances on birth control, abortion rights and the war in Iraq is radically different from theirs.
Republicans are exploiting the dissension, running commercials using criticism of Obama that Clinton made on the campaign trail. One commercial has an announcer saying, “She won millions of votes but isn’t on the ticket. Why? For speaking the truth.”
The Obama campaign has tried to smooth ruffled feathers.
“Women play such an important role in our democracy, in our families and in our communities,” Obama said in a statement earlier this week. “We are honored that so many women who play important leadership roles in this country, who broke down barriers and shattered that glass ceiling, will be convening in Denver this week.”
The Obama campaign’s acknowledgement that Clinton’s campaign caused “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling,” is well and good but not good enough, says Hawaii’s Hanabusa. She’s the first elected leader of either house of the state legislature. The first female governor, Republican Linda Lingle, was elected in 2002.
“That just means that glass ceiling still exists,” Hanabusa said. “And it exists in various thicknesses throughout the nation.”
Nancy Cook Lauer is Hawaii capital reporter for Stephens Media.
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