A different view of Saturday's protests

The perception has been that those protesting outside the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting were just disaffected Clinton supporters, but that's not what I saw.


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Mark Benjamin
May 31, 2008 7:57PM (UTC)

When I walked into the crowd of protesters outside the Democrats' rules committee meeting on Saturday, I was ready to jot down some pro-Clinton quotes. I figured that's what I'd get. After all, that's what this protest is about, isn't it? That's what I saw on cable TV.

Make no mistake. A lot of people there voted for Hillary Clinton. There were some Hillary signs held aloft in the crowd. I could wrestle an anti-Obama quote out of a few folks. With a little pushing, I got a middle-aged white woman to go on about the whiff of sexism wafting over the race for the White House.

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But if you just walk up to the protesters and ask them why they are there, the people who traveled from across the country that I talked to said they were angry because the Florida/Michigan debacle gives them sinking feeling that that America democracy is broken. Clinton didn't pay their bus fare, or even tell them to show up, they said.

Either Hillary Clinton has deployed hundreds of disciplined robots in front of the Marrriot Wardman Park Hotel in Washington (a headline I expect to see on Drudge) or cable TV is getting it at least partially wrong.

"We are here because we want every vote counted," said Wesley Taylor, who traveled by bus from Coral Springs, Florida to air his bad feelings. Taylor, who voted for John Edwards in the primary, served 14 years in the Army, including service in Bosnia. "I didn’t fight not to have my vote counted," he said.

"It is not democracy," complained Debbie Kubiak, 52, who traveled from Buffalo, N.Y. "It is worse than what they did back in 2000."

The black limousines passing through the protest crowd on the way to the meeting only contributed to the feeling among the people shouting "count our vote" that, like 2000, the votes of individual citizens are being discarded and American power is being divvied out in smoke-filled back rooms.

A professor of politics will explain over a three-hour lecture why these people just don't understand the brilliance of the American electoral system. But they seem honestly angry with the Supreme Court in 2000. They are angry with the Electoral College. They are angry because they think that the each vote should count and the voters should pick the president.

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Imagine that.

"Superdelegates? All of a sudden we are hearing about them. Who are these people?" asked Sharon Miley, a 66-year old woman who traveled by bus from South Bend Indiana. "I've been voting since I was 22. This is the first time I felt like my vote did not count," she said.

"It is the whole system," added Phyllis Steele, who came along with her. "It is not democracy any more."

The Democrats may have good reason to punish Florida and Michigan for moving up their primaries. Perhaps they think in the long run, it will be better for the primary process and democracy. But they are doing a rotten job of explaining it to people.

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Mark Benjamin

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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