"You're not going to write that we're a bunch of hysterical women trying to create havoc, are you?"
The tone is part weary, part sarcastic, and a little bit plaintive. The words themselves -- spoken by one organizer of this weekend's planned demonstration outside the hotel where the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee is set to (maybe) decide the fate of Michigan and Florida's much-disputed delegates -- reflect the widespread sense of persecution that is currently felt among some prominent Democratic activists and fundraisers.
Largely female and supportive of Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, these political actors look upon a contest they view as essentially tied and are dumbfounded by the vitriol being directed not only Clinton's way, but at their own efforts to "count every vote" in all the Democratic primaries.
In a series of interviews with The Huffington Post, key figures connected to the WomenCount PAC -- one of the groups sponsoring this weekend's action -- each described this Saturday's rally (or "protest," depending on whom you ask) as reflective of small-d democratic values, and not as an expression of support for any particular candidate. But with the idea of counting Michigan and Florida's compromised polls at full strength seen by Sen. Barack Obama's supporters as a Trojan horse position that would lead to a continued Clinton campaign through the convention, that's proved to be far from an easy sell.
"We are not exclusive from Obama supporters at all," WomenCount communications director Rosemary Camposano insisted. Noting that while most members of the group are Clinton partisans, and that if the newly formed group had been created at the beginning of the primary process "we probably would have endorsed Clinton," Composano said the focus for now is on "supporting progressive ideas for women."
That, and counting all the votes from the controversial Florida and Michigan primaries. Regardless, Camposano said that the group has invited several prominent Obama backers to co-headline this Saturday's speaking lineup, but admitted they have not had any significant RSVPs on that score.
Still, they say their efforts have been a success, if for no other reason than the outpouring of support they've received from women who feel as intensely about this race as they have about any other in the past.
"When we formed WomenCount PAC, we had been hearing for several weeks a low rumbling of outrage, that it was not understood that women wanted to be heard and recognized in this race as an important voting block," Camposano said. "Instead we're constantly being cast as whining women. The PAC formed exactly two weeks and two days ago during a meeting in an office in New York, and we raised $250,000 in four days. ... It's been a massive viral thing, and I have not slept in two weeks."
But what particularly rankles some of the group's key backers is the sneaking sense that they're getting dissed by the Obama campaign. Earlier this week, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe seemed to characterize the group's efforts as an attempt to "create chaos" around the DNC meeting. For many of these women, his remark seemed of a piece with the systematic denigration of female political participation that inspired them to organize in the first place. Activist Jill Iscol said she found Plouffe's remarks "somewhat insulting," and that the message the group has sent out to demonstrators is that Saturday's event should be "a peaceful, fun day, during which we send a message to the DNC that they need to count every vote."
Sharp criticism of Obama advisers was, tellingly, a common thread among all those connected to this Saturday's rally who spoke to the Huffington Post -- one of whom even went so far as to describe Obama strategist David Axelrod as "Karl Rove on steroids." On ABC's This Week last Sunday, Axelrod predicted that, if for no other reason than to block pro-life Sen. John McCain, Democratic women would vote for the junior senator from Illinois this fall regardless of his choice for VP or how the question of Clinton's campaign is ultimately resolved. Another prominent fundraiser who asked not to be named described that attitude as "not helpful" in terms of getting the Clinton women on Obama's side if he indeed winds up being the nominee.
Not one of this weekend's key organizers sought to criticize Obama directly, however. Several even offered him praise. And paradoxically, given the level of distaste for Axelrod's assumption of their ostensible fall support, all of the WomenCount organizers predicted a fast Democratic healing should Obama emerge victorious -- but not, perhaps, for the same reasons Obama advisers anticipate.
Put simply, according to one activist: "Hillary will force us to back whoever is the nominee."