DNC Nomination Process


This post has been edited and extended below

The final delegate vote was as follows:

  • 1549.5 delegates to Obama
  • 342.5 delegates to Clinton

Several states cast unanimous votes for Obama before the end of roll call with Clinton averaging around 6-10 votes per state. (She won in the high 20s from some states and as low as 1 vote from others)


Clinton’s Nomination

Clinton’s name was put forward by Delores Huerta who, during the Spanish portion of her speech, invoked Chavez. As you may recall, the UFW gave its support to Obama. Both women who gave speeches on Clinton’s behalf quoted Michelle Obama’s speech while speaking about Clinton though neither credited her. You can read the transcript of Huerta’s nominating speech as submitted here, it does not include the Spanish text in which she said Chavez would have supported Clinton.

The nomination makes Clinton the 4th woman to be nominated at the DNC. Among the other 3 women nominated was former Senator of NY Shirley Chisholm who Clinton has never acknowledged as a predecessor during her historic campaign. In fact, discussions of Clinton’s historic place in inspiring young women to believe they could be president at the DNC continues to erase the long history of women running for president, beginning with Gloria T. Hull, and the success of these 3 other nominees at the DNC. As I said before, I remain concerned that H. Clinton will find her name in the history books while these other women remain absent. The rhetoric surrounding her campaign will continue to erase their important contribution not only to this nation and to the hopes and dreams of women, who in the case of Shirley Chisholm are still around and still remember, but also the pathways they opened for Clinton herself. While the erasure of the contribution of working class women and women of color on the political stage and in mainstream feminism is nothing new, the failure at the DNC is profound given how deeply and how incessantly we have all struggled with race AND gender during this campaign season.

As I look at the absence of recognition for these 3 women and the appropriation of Michelle Obama’s words, I cannot help but wonder about the state of feminism and the efficacy of intersectional feminist coalition. While Clinton was sure to have a Chicana, an African American, and white person nominate her as well as ensuring both women were women of color, the nomination visual remains unaligned with the spoken word.

As a historian I worry about how many of the visual moments in this nomination process will undermine our ability to talk about the oppressions present in this campaign and about the power of women who worked in concert to make space for Hillary Clinton and who will work in concert again in the future. I worry that one day my girls will be laughed at by their peers in a middle school history class when they answer questions about the dream ticket by referring to Gloria T. Hull or when they respond to “who was the first female Senator from New York to be nominated at the DNC” with Shirley Chisholm. I worry that they will learn to be silent about the myriad of women who have sacrificed for this historic moment, Clinton’s moment, or to doubt its truth value because we as a society have allowed a single white woman to put herself at the center of a journey that has been multi-cultural and crossed economic and political lines, and to do so at the eclipse of those other women’s contributions. Clinton is not alone in this rhetoric, her supporters, including those women of color who spoke for her today (one of whom keeps me treading very softly in my critique out of respect for her own historic place in our history), have all mobilized this rhetoric and thus we are all ultimately implicated in erasure.

How many students will I have to correct about the history of women’s involvement in politics and presidential elections, to their shock and cries of “reverse discrimination,” in the coming years because of this rhetoric? And how many of my colleagues, like those at the DNC, will simply let the erasure stand either b/c they themselves do not know our history or for other, more questionable, reasons?

Obama’s Nomination

Obama’s name was put forward by Michael Wilson, a Republican veteran of the Iraq war from Tennessee. Here are his comments:

Wilson Speech text here

While I found his nomination speech inspiring, and I think the DNC needs to continue to highlight veterans against the war as a counter to McCain’s hawkish campaign ads (the latest of which is already promoting war in Iran), I am concerned about the meaning of a democratic nominee who is nominated by a republican. I know that Obama’s platform is one of bi-partisanship and I agree that unless we get a majority in Congress, compromise is inevitable, but I am not sure that we as a party need to continue to put forward a face of moderate conservativism to sway crossover voters. If we could simply put forward a platform that represented the radical change we need in this country, we would not need crossover voters. (That does not mean they are not welcome, I just question why they are being courted as part of a democrat national congress.)

My other concern about the Obama nomination was that only one woman spoke out of 4 people and no real radicals (Clinton had both). However, that woman was Debbi Wasserman Schulz the co-chair of the Clinton election campaign and rep from Florida. More than anyone, her call for unity and support behind Barack Obama should have resonated with the voters because of FL’s initial disenfranchisement and her active media and political presence in the Clinton campaign.

Wasserman Schulz was eloquent about the fact that internal divisions surrounding the Clintons could cost us this election and in so doing could cost us the N. America we desperately need, a nation with equal access to education and health care without family crushing debt, to housing and jobs, to global security that decreases the threat against our nation and the insistence on perpetual war. Like Clinton yesterday, Wasserman Schulz reminded us that we are at a crossroads and the insistence on supporting a candidate who is not running could cost us everything.

Perhaps most powerful, was when Wasserman Schulz said her children’s entire lives had been under Bush-Cheney and that if McCain wins, their entire childhoods would have unfolded under the reign of people who believe in perpetual war, cut benefits to soldiers and do not ensure proper health care to them, have allowed the mortgage crisis, the health care crisis, the oil crisis, and the recession to go on unchecked, and have denied the environmental crisis in the face of ever increasing dead spots in the sea, global warming, pollution, resulting famines, and have lifted no finger to aid the many nations experiencing ethnic cleansing while starting wars in the name of freedom and women in nations who all reports show had nothing to do with 9/11. What kind of world will we live in if our nation’s children all grow up with that kind of leadership shadowing over them? Who will they grow up to be?

Instead of a candidate who voted against giving women equal pay for equal work and who says Roe v. Wade should be overturned, we need a president, Barack Obama, who will fight to end the gender wage gap and who wil
l protect a woman’s right to choose.

Instead of a candidate who votes against funds for education, against Head Start for children, against Pell Grants for college, we need a president, Barack Obama, who will invest in early childhood education, recruit new teachers, and make college more affordable with tax credits in exchange for community service. (read whole speech here)

As agreed upon in advance of the convention, Clinton arrived just before Obama won the necessary amount of votes and asked that the roll call end to nominated Obama.

Again, this grandstanding and the praise it received, failed to recognize that Clinton made this proposition as part of an agreement with the DNC that ensured both she and Bill Clinton were featured speakers during the Congress and that she could speak on the 88th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Moreover, the move ensures her import by casting her as a ameliorating force in the party despite the Clinton domination of the DNC and the ways in which this process has failed to be cathartic for many on all sides. For those who do not know about, or will willingly erase, the compromise, it also repairs the antagonistic image of the Clintons and paves the way for a future bid. As someone watching the nomination process with me said, “Now she can say she had nothing to do with it if he does not win;” meaning, that the sense that she has permanently tarnished Obama’s bid for the White House with her 3 am statements, her criticism of his speeches without substance b/c he has no “credentials,” and her praise of McCain as a better candidate, (all of which the Republicans are now using to their advantage) can now be countered by the example of her speech last night, her early morning release of delegates (also part of the agreement), and her showy roll call intervention.

Concluding Thoughts

I realize that the DNC is all about marketing and that everyone involved is crafting a version of the self in order to retain power in the nation. The Clintons are no different in this respect than anyone else. Nor do I believe that Hillary Clinton has any less right to run in the future than anyone else. When I saw her speak last night, I was deeply moved by her speech and proud of the way she mobilized Tubman’s powerful words to inspire our party. We do have a fight on our hands for this nation and it is one that is as important as the fights for freedom that have come before it.

What I take exception to is the ways in which the DNC has literally become the Clinton show for those who are not on the floor and able to see the myriad of other panels, caucuses, discussions, etc. going on daily. I take exception with the mobilization of dead heroes for things I am not sure they would support, even if they are mobilized by a woman I profoundly respect. I take exception with the crafting of an image of a woman as a healing force in the party when her “healing actions” were extracted from her not freely given. And yes, most of all, I take exception with any woman who would continue to erase so many other women who came before her in order to craft herself as something greater than the sacrifice those women made to make space for her historic run. Any feminist who is not concerned with the way that women’s involvement in politics and particularly the history of women running for president is being actively rewritten here should ask themselves why? To quote Hillary “Were you in it just for her” or do you actually care about all women’s accomplishments in this arena?

Today, I walk into my intro course with the strategy that I think all of us have, to sit back and let my students hash out how they feel and what they know about the women who have spoken at the DNC so far without coloring their perception of those events with my own cynicism and concern. While I and my TA will provide information about historic figures – we’ve been projecting the women’s presidential campaigns list on the side boards during discussion – we will likely leave the discussion largely up to them. I have a few questions that I intend to ask them: 1. what have we learned about female leadership from Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Delores Huerta, and Debbie Wasserman Schulz? 2. how are these women’s political activism influenced by history and/or impactful on the future? and 3. what are the class’ general perceptions of women and politics as a result of the DNC? I will ask them the same set of questions next week during the RNC with the women who are represented there.

Either today or before the congresses end we will have a larger conversation introducing the stats of participants from various marginalized groups and whether that has any impact on the discourse of “inspiration” that has run through the DNC. We will also compare them to exit poll numbers broken down by group membership. Having seen these numbers, and place many of them on the blog throughout this season, I know there is hard data that contradicts the idea that Obama inspires black people and H Clinton inspires women, in fact both groups are represented in both camps and age and education were much greater factors as was race (not just white and black, but all races represented in this nation). It will be interesting to see if numbers counter the rhetoric of the media and the campaigns who claimed to speak for an entire identity group or if people in the course will remain wedded to these myths and why.


image: unattributed.


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