Healing has begun for Minnesota’s Clinton loyalists

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appear together at the July Women for Obama campaign event in New York.
REUTERS/Mike Segar
Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appear together at the July Women for Obama campaign event in New York.

DENVER — The remaining intrigue at the Democratic National Convention surrounds what the supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton will do in the coming days.  Can they be counted on to line up, with at least some enthusiasm, behind the Obama-Biden ticket?

Sunday night, after a party for all convention delegates in downtown Denver, about 20 of the 29 Clinton supporters in Minnesota’s 88-person delegation met in a closed-door session at the suburban Four Points Sheraton Southeast here to again talk about their feelings and their needs.

“Touchy, touchy, feely, feely,” said Rick Stafford, a superdelegate and a leader of Clinton’s Minnesota campaign, of the purpose of the late-night meeting. “People need to express their feelings one more time.”

Or, more likely, Clinton supporters will be expressing their feelings three or four more times in the coming days.

Rick Stafford
Rick Stafford

State delegations of Clinton supporters confer
Similar meetings to the Minnesota session were held among state delegations throughout the Denver metropolitan area Sunday night. These meetings came after Clinton “whips” from each of the states met Sunday afternoon to talk about what road Clinton supporters should follow in the next few days.

It is assumed that Clinton will release her delegates when she speaks to the convention Tuesday night. And, in fact, Clinton has set the table for party unity by sending out emails to her delegates saying she’s supporting Barack Obama.

“We have been getting communications from Hillary telling us that she is absolutely unreserved in her support for Obama,” said Mohamed Jibrell, a delegate from Minneapolis who worked hard for Clinton during the campaign. “We expect that she will formally release us.”

Jibrell said he is comfortable making the switch to Obama now.

“For many of us, Obama would have been our second choice anyway,” Jibrell said. “I think all Hillary supporters want to regain the White House and what we consider eight years of negligence.”

Still, hundreds of Clinton supporters want to voice their support one more time for their candidate, and there are emotionally compelling events that will almost ensure she’ll get substantial first-ballot support, assuming she is nominated Wednesday night. (Most of her supporters believe she will be nominated, perhaps by her husband.)

The second night of this convention is Women’s Suffrage Day, the 88th anniversary of women winning the right to vote throughout the nation.

Sen. Clinton speaking on that anniversary is a very powerful reminders of what might have been, said Jackie Stevenson, a Minnesota superdelegate and longtime feminist who still is not sure what she will do if there is a roll call vote involving Obama and Clinton.

There will be other emotional times for the Clinton supporters. Sen. Clinton is holding a reception with her supporters on Tuesday afternoon.

State Sen. Tarryl Clark
State Sen. Tarryl Clark

State Sen. Tarryl Clark, a rising star in the DFL, supported Clinton but now is door-knocking on behalf of Obama.

“If Hillary voters aren’t there yet, they’ll get there,” she predicted.

Still, she understands why this has been a long, slow process for many, especially women.

“They ask the question, ‘Will there be another opportunity in our lifetimes?’ ” Clark said. “Letting go is tough.”
State’s Obama supporters express empathy
There appears to be empathy among Obama supporters in the Minnesota delegates for the feelings of their Clinton peers.

“We understand how they feel,” said Bill Davis, an Obama supporter and Minneapolis delegate attending his sixth national convention. “But hopefully we are able to get people to understand that symbolism is one thing, but let’s not appear that there’s a split in this party. There is a worldwide audience, and we need to put our best face forward.”

One of the issues discussed at the Sunday night meeting is that there be no recriminations for Clinton supporters who make that symbolic first-ballot vote.

“So far, there has been no directive that this is what we should do,” said Stevenson. “There may be one, but there hasn’t been yet. We may get a message from her between now and Wednesday night about what she wants us to do.”

But even if Clinton tells her supporters to vote for Obama on the first roll call, Stevenson predicts that there will be some who won’t let go of the dream.

(Time out for a digression: Minnesota shares its headquarters hotel with Rhode Island, Alaska, American Samoa and Puerto Rico, and there’s at least one Puerto Rican delegate who vows that she will cast her vote for Sen. Clinton, while wearing a “Boqueron for Hillary” T-shirt.” (Boqueron is a town of about 3,000 people. As in most of Puerto Rico, Clinton had overwhelming support in Boqueron. )

(“I told her when she was in Puerto Rico that I will vote you every chance I can get,” said Rosalina Ramos. But after the convention, she said, she will be ready to wear an Obama T-shirt. “The one thing we can’t have is four more years of what we’ve had,” Ramos said.)

There even seems to be considerable support for Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate, if the choice couldn’t be Clinton.

“Hillary would have been the first choice (of the Clinton delegates),” said Stafford of the vice presidential spot on the ticket. “But if it couldn’t be her, Joe Biden’s probably the least negative. If he would have named a woman, she wouldn’t have measured up to Hillary.”

The healing is happening. But it’s not finished yet.

What needs to happen?

“More talking,” said Melanie Benjamin, the chief executive officer of the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe and a Clinton supporter.

Has Benjamin decided yet how she’ll vote?

“Not yet,” she said. “There’s still time.”

Doug Grow, who will be in Denver to cover this week’s Democratic National Convention, writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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