Hillary Clinton gave an eloquent speech calling for Democratic Party unity, but some of her supporters are making clear that they so hate Barack Obama that they would prefer that John McCain extend neoconservative rule in the United States rather than let Obama into the White House.

Some of these die-hard Clinton backers claim they have suffered various slights, such as receiving inferior hotel rooms in Denver or finding the Obama campaign insufficient in its ardor courting their support. Others blame Obama for examples of sexism and unfairness that arose in the long primary campaign.

Some pro-Hillary activists even have behaved as if their perceived grievances give them the right to engage in crude attacks on Obama, the first African-American to have a serious shot at the presidency.

For instance, Clinton backer Carolyn Kay has turned what once was a media-criticism Web site called MakeThemAccountable.com into a daily compendium of Obama hate, which continued on Wednesday after Sen. Clinton speech.

Kay’s product reached what had to be its low point on July 31 when she forwarded to her mailing list a cartoon of Obama sitting on a toilet with his pants down, masturbating, as he gazed at himself in the mirror while thinking, “I have become the symbol of America returning to our best traditions.”

The masturbation cartoon (which was entitled “Where will you be when the Messiah comes?”) originally appeared at a Web site called Cannonfire.

Beyond the tastelessness of the cartoon, the supposed Obama quote – about him being “the symbol of America” – came from a discredited Washington Post article by Dana Milbank, who later was chastised by the newspaper’s ombudsman for not checking out the quote’s accuracy or its context. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “WPost Admits Bungling Obama Quote.”]

Yet, while some angry Clinton supporters apparently see nothing wrong with producing and distributing demeaning material about Obama, they have long bristled at any perceived disrespect for Hillary Clinton or her campaign.

For months any criticism of Clinton's campaign tactics – such as her decision to “throw the kitchen sink” of negative attacks at Obama – was greeted with accusations of “sexism” or “misogyny.”
 
And, even as some Clinton supporters hurled charges of “sexism” freely, they complained when some Obama supporters attacked them as “racist.”

What’s at Stake

While Hillary Clinton’s powerful speech on Tuesday night may have persuaded some of her backers to understand what’s at stake in the presidential election, others told reporters afterwards that they were unmoved.

One hard-line Clinton group, which calls itself PUMA (for the acronym Party Unity Means Authority or the more colorful Party Unity My Ass), made clear it won’t follow Clinton’s call to rally behind Obama and end eight years of Republican control of the White House.

Darragh Murphy, a PUMA founder, called Clinton’s plea for unity “tepid” and – as she headed for the Denver airport on Wednesday – told a New York Times reporter, “The only thing I know is that I won’t vote for Obama.”

Another pro-Hillary group, 18 Million Voices, distanced itself from the extreme “Nobama” views of PUMA, but some members reportedly were focusing on organizational plans for another Clinton campaign in 2012.

Individual Clinton Democrats cited alleged disrespect for Hillary Clinton as a chief reason they would now support McCain.

"I hate Obama so much that I'm going to devote as much time to McCain as I did to Hillary," Adita Blanco, a Democrat from Edward, Oklahoma, told the Washington Post. “The Democratic Party doesn't care about us. You couldn't treat [Clinton] any worse."

Ironically, however, McCain, the chief beneficiary of this anger toward Obama, was personally responsible for one of the ugliest and most sexist comments ever directed toward Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea.

A decade ago, when Chelsea was a teen-ager at an awkward age, McCain made her the butt of a tasteless joke.

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?” McCain asked a group of Republicans at a fund-raiser. “Because her father is Janet Reno."

Besides holding a young women up to ridicule, the joke also demeaned Attorney General Reno and played off a favorite right-wing rumor about Hillary Clinton being a Lesbian.

McCain later apologized, while his friends in the national news media literally hid the joke from public view, supposedly to spare Chelsea’s feelings but also protecting McCain’s reputation as a fair-minded politician. [See David Corn’s contemporaneous account in Salon.com.]

But the larger point about this November's election is the one that Hillary Clinton made Tuesday night, when she declared: “Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance.”

Given the cascading crises facing the United States – from an exploding budget deficit and open-ended, bloody wars to the fast-approaching right-wing takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court and the looming catastrophe of global warming – Clinton’s statement cannot be dismissed as mere hyperbole.

Still, a significant number of Clinton’s supporters apparently intend to reject her plea. They would rather nurse their personal and political grievances than do what their champion says is necessary to save the country and the planet.

As McCain continues to rise in the polls and many Americans recoil at the continuing display of angry “identity politics” at the Democratic National Convention, historians might look back at this moment and say, “so this is how a great Republic dies.”

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

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