PITTSBURGH – Hillary Rodham Clinton loyalists tried Saturday to kill off the caucus system that proved so damaging to her presidential bid, but were beaten back by a Democratic Party leadership firmly under the command of Barack Obama.
Democrats who supported Clinton’s candidacy pushed to amend the new party platform so caucuses would be banned in future presidential nominating contests.
But the party’s platform committee refused to allow the amendment to come up for a vote or even a discussion. Co-chairwoman Patricia Madrid, a former New Mexico attorney general, said the matter would instead be taken up at later date by the party’s Rules Committee.
That left Clinton supporters disappointed. They contend that if the party were serious about enfranchising more voters, it would take a clear position against a caucus system that discourages participation by shift workers, the disabled and overseas members of the military. In traditional primaries, people have all day to vote. But a caucus might last just a few hours.
During the Democratic race, Obama outmaneuvered Clinton in Iowa and many other states that held caucuses, turning out far more supporters and racking up enough delegates to give him an insurmountable lead.
“My feeling is the issue should have been aired and people should have had the opportunity to speak and vote it up or down,” Bob Remer, a delegate for Clinton from Chicago and member of the platform committee, said in an interview Saturday. Remer had put forward the amendment that was shelved. “The caucus system is the exact opposite of everything I’ve been fighting for in terms of maximizing democratic input.”
The 186-member committee voted to recommend adoption of a new Democratic platform – the party’s formal statement of policies and principles. Final approval will come when the party’s presidential convention meets in Denver on Aug. 25-28.
Clinton supporters were hoping to influence the draft in ways that reflect her interests. For its own sake, the Obama campaign would like to accommodate the Clinton forces where it can.
So the platform is a mixed bag. In a section devoted to expanding opportunity for women, the document says that Democrats are proud “that we have put 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling,” a respectful reference to Clinton’s vote total in the primary.
But Obama, now in control of the Democratic Party machinery, clearly enjoys the greatest influence over the document. The platform reflects many of his policy goals and even borrows language from his stump speech. “Our planet is in peril,” reads the preamble.
One of the defining policy differences he had with Clinton involved health care. Clinton wanted a requirement that people carry health insurance; Obama did not.
The platform includes no mention of a health insurance mandate. But as a concession to Clinton supporters, it does include language that acknowledges, “There are different approaches within the Democratic Party about how best to achieve the commitment of universal coverage.”