The Striking Disconnect of Clinton Democrats

Salena Zito
|
Posted: Aug 06, 2012 10:47 AM
The Striking Disconnect of Clinton Democrats

For a striking number of Democrats, May 31, 2008, is a day that lives in infamy.

It marked the moment that the national party’s rules committee dealt a deathblow to Hillary Clinton’s bid to win the presidential nomination over Barack Obama.

The committee, weighted with Obama loyalists, issued a unanimous decision amid whispered back-door deals.

The date “will not be forgotten,” according to Gayle Allegro, a Democrat from Pine Island, Fla. – which is why Allegro was frosted by last week’s announcement that Bill Clinton will be the keynote speaker at the Democrats’ national convention next month.

“If Obama and his crew think that having Bill Clinton give a speech is going to sway all the Democrats that left the party in 2010 or just slipped into the shadows, they are mistaken,” she said.

“Do they really think we are that stupid, that we don't see what is going on?”

Allegro, 60, is one of those women who break glass ceilings. She has lived in Europe, North Africa and Israel, and she was one of the first women to work as a laborer on the Alaska oil pipeline while earning a master’s degree in economic geology.

In 2008, most Democrats sucked up their sense of personal loss regarding Hillary and voted for Obama because the idea of handing Republicans another four years in the White House was just too awful to bear, said Lara Brown, an electoral-college expert at Villanova University.

"Nevertheless, they had reservations about Obama's leadership skills and experience," Brown said.

By 2010, that allegiance waned and Clinton Democrats were the deciding factor that removed Democrats from power in the U.S. House, closed the margin in the U.S. Senate, and flipped state legislatures and governor’s mansions to Republicans across the country.

Now, on the threshold of the 2012 election, many are still angry with their party – anger that mirrors how conservatives felt in the 2006 Bush midterm election and the 2008 general election. It is anger enough to not vote, or to vote for the opposing team.

To understand why, you must understand their roots.

In 2004, Bill Clinton loyalists, distraught over Democrat John Kerry's defeat, hunkered down and planned for the next presidential election.

They fortified themselves with a few thoughts: Hillary would be the nominee in 2008, and Barack Obama's 2004 convention speech proved the party had a bright centrist future because both Hillary and Obama were pragmatists.

They didn't plan on Howard Dean supporters (including the "Netroots" and ideological progressives) believing that Kerry lost because he wasn't liberal enough.

They also didn't plan on this faction starting a revolution in the party.

With Dean in charge of the Democratic National Committee, progressives worked to convince rank-and-file Democrats that victory required pursuing a 50-state strategy and dismissing people in "fly-over" states as not knowing what was good for them.

They believed that government led by coastal (elitist) Democrats would be a force for good for those people; they would educate them on environmental issues and help the "guns- and God-clinging" crowd to vote on economic self-interest, not on cultural issues.

Moderates always have been skeptical of such arguments, Brown said. "They believed in trying to bridge cultural differences between the coastal and the interior Democrats.”

Angry Clinton Democrats not only lost the 2008 nomination, but Obama did not become the president they had expected based on his 2004 convention speech. They felt their party betrayed them by installing the progressive wing and kicking out the centrists.

These voters, sometimes called Reagan Democrats, hold traditional values. Based on job (blue-collar), religion (Catholic), location (rural) or region (Appalachia and Midwest), they prefer moderate government regulation of the economy.

In 2008, they supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. They also gave Obama, the most liberal U.S. senator, the benefit of the doubt and chose him over Republican John McCain.

Today, Floridian Gayle Allegro has no more benefit-of-doubt to give Obama.

Nor does Jo Ann Nardelli, the Democrats’ former vice-chairman in Pennsylvania … or Richard Furillo and his son, Matthew, two Youngstown Democrats.

Theirs are the voices that usually remain unheard, the views that typically are not considered, in much national political analysis.

Yet they all insist that they are not alone.