Because all the smart, hip, young "progressives" were enthralled by Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic Party elite were able to convince themselves that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had no real supporters -- or, at least, no supporters with the kind of passionate intensity that Obama's acolytes could bring to the campaign.
Wrong. Hillary's most ardent supporters tend to be women of a certain age, but their intensity shouldn't be underestimated just because they belong to a post-menopausal demographic.
As they've watched their girl get shoved aside by the brash Obama and his youthful cohorts, Hillary's army of liberal crones has become increasingly embittered toward the Democrats.
That bitterness erupted like a volcano of venom Saturday, when some of Hillary's supporters were manhandled out of the ballroom at the Washington, D.C., hotel where the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) was meeting.
One of the ejectees, an elderly Manhattanite who identified herself as Harriet Christian, stormed up to a phalanx of TV cameras and began ranting that, by denying Michigan and Florida the full representation that Clinton had demanded, the committee was rejecting "the best nominee that's possible." She continued:
"And the Democrats are throwing the election away! For what? An inadequate black male who would not have been running had it not been a white woman that was running for president! And I'm not going to shut my mouth anymore!...I'm no second-class citizen -- and g--damn the Democrats!"
Incoherent and irrational -- and perhaps, in some sense, racist -- as her rant may have been, Ms. Christian's sentiments were echoed by other pro-Hillary protesters who were tossed out of Saturday's RBC meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.
"I've been voting for 40 years," said Deborah Foster, a gray-haired gym teacher from Long Island, N.Y., after she was ejected. "Those idiot bosses in there have given me two winners in 40 years. And now they're going to tell us how people are voting and take votes away? The party elite sucks."
Displaying a bruise on her arm she said had been inflicted by DNC goons, Foster described how she'd been among a pro-Clinton contingent that started chanting "Denver! Denver!" when security "swarmed down" and told her, "Let's go. You've had your last chance."
WHETHER FOSTER and her comrades have truly had their last chance is a question that may remain unanswered long after the "inadequate black male" stakes his claim to the Democratic nomination.
The RBC's decision Saturday to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations -- but to count their votes at only 50 percent -- put Obama within shouting distance of a convention majority. He's now got 2,051 delegates to Hillary's 1,876, according to RealClearPolitics.com, which calculates 2,118 as the magic number needed to win in August when the Democrats convene in Denver.
Obama's August gain may be less than what Democrats lost for November, namely the goodwill of many thousands of hard-core Hillary fans.
These women have volunteered for her and cheered for her and sent her their money. On a deeper level, to many liberal women, Hillary's been a heroine since 1992. To see their candidate beat down by the Democratic elite is a sort of personal rejection of them, and who can blame them for feeling bitter?
Where that bitterness goes from here is unknown. The shouts of "Denver!" that got the pro-Hillary protesters ejected from Saturday's meeting at the Marriott found an echo in an official statement issued afterward by the Clinton campaign.
"We reserve the right to challenge this decision before the Credentials Committee" at the convention, senior adviser Harold Ickes and campaign manager Tina Flournoy wrote.
TEAM OBAMA IS reportedly seeking a "negotiated surrender" from Hillary, but if that fails, Clinton could spend the next 12 weeks in guerrilla-warfare mode, spreading the message that she's been ripped off by the DNC, and rallying her troops for an Armageddon in August.
Being a sore loser would hurt Hillary's future viability -- 2012 is still a very real option, should Obama fail this fall -- so it's more likely she'll grudgingly hoist the white flag in a couple of weeks.
Whether she'll be able to salve her supporters' bruised feelings is less certain, and perhaps irrelevant. By Nov. 4, the battle lines may be drawn so starkly, with such powerful appeals to partisan loyalty, that even Hillary's most bitter backers will feel obliged to vote for Obama.
Or maybe not. As Harriet Christian shouted at the TV cameras Saturday, "Our Democratic Party threw us down the tubes!...And they think we won't turn and vote for McCain? Well, I got news for all of you: McCain will be the next president of the United States!"
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