Politics & Government

Democrats derail effort by Clinton backers to ban caucuses

PITTSBURGH — Devoted Hillary Clinton supporters urged the Democratic party Saturday to get rid of caucuses, the town hall meetings in states such as Iowa where Clinton's presidential campaign stumbled and Barack Obama launched his march to the nomination.

"We need to get rid of caucuses," said Melissa Whitener, a waitress from Conneaut, Pa., who traveled to lobby the Democratic National Committee as it prepared its party platform.

"Caucuses are inherently unfair," she said. "I work in a restaurant. I can't take off a whole shift to go sit in a caucus. We need to all be on the same primary system. Why should 2,000 people in Iowa have the same say as 2 million in Pennsylvania?"

Whitener and a small group of Clinton supporters planned to press the Democratic National Committee's platform committee Saturday to call for an end to caucuses. They attended as guests.

Bob Remer, a Clinton delegate from Illinois, drafted a caucus-banning amendment.

"Caucuses undermine . . . core Democratic values," the amendment said. "Caucuses inherently disenfranchise the elderly, disabled, shift workers, single parents, and others whose circumstance prohibits participation in caucuses. The 2008 primaries illustrated that a caucus vote is worth more than a primary vote because each delegate elected by caucus represents fewer votes than each delegate elected by (a) primary."

The Clinton supporters also urged the committee to amend the party platform to adopt a winner-takes-all system of primaries and an end of the proportional allocation of nominating delegates.

While likely to fail, their proposal underscored the lingering sense that Clinton was treated unfairly in her historic campaign.

It came as Clinton's camp continued to talk with Obama's about whether the Democratic National Convention will include a roll call vote that would allow her delegates will get a chance to formally demonstrate their support.

The draft party platform did acknowledge Clinton's successes and includes a veiled suggestion that she was treated unfairly.

Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, introduced the proposed platform by noting that it salutes Clinton and reflects "the influences not just of the Obama camp but the influences of the campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton."

The draft platform, which was to be approved by the 186-member Committee Saturday and sent to the Democratic National Convention for final approval, praised Clinton for becoming the first woman in history to win presidential primaries.

"Our party is proud that we have put 18 million cracks in the highest glass ceiling," it added, a bow to the total of votes Clinton received in the caucuses and primaries.

It also said, "We believe that standing up for our country means standing up against sexism and all intolerance. Demeaning portrayals of women cheapen our debates, dampen the dreams of our daughters and deny us the contributions of too many. Responsibility lies with us all."

Clinton supporter Gloria Novotny of Wilson, Pa., called it needed recognition.

"They did a really bad thing to her. The bias against her was so bad," she said.

She cited demeaning items such as a Hillary Clinton nutcracker and emails that used profanities to refer to her.

"The bias was so bad," Novotny said. "This is not the way they'd talk about their wife or mother or daughter."

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