Will Bower is spokesperson for P.U.M.A., which stands for "party unity my ass," an organization he founded and launched on Facebook and that is made up largely of Hillary Clinton supporters. P.U.M.A. is now part of the larger Just Say No Deal coalition of groups that coalesced after Clinton officially suspended her campaign and that are united in their opposition to the candidacy of Barack Obama.
Bower is a contributor to OffTheBus and was an administrator for the main Hillary Clinton Facebook group, "Hillary Clinton for President; One Million Strong." In February, Bower, who says he is "obsessive-compulsive" about how the "mathematics of election systems reflect democracy," wrote a brief opinion piece at Newsvine on the "seriously flawed [Democratic Party primary] system, which is just not proportional," arguing that the superdelegates should right the process by declaring for Clinton.
In the weeks since he founded PUMA and became one of the Just Say No Deal coalition spokespeople, Bower has become an intermittent guest on the major cable news networks, talking on the anger felt by the people he represents and on the coalition's motivations and plans. Together with a group of roughly 70 P.U.M.A. voters, Bower met last week with Senator John McCain, which he characterized on Fox News as very "reassuring." OffTheBus spoke with Bower this past week.
So how did you come to be spokesperson for P.U.M.A. and Just Say No Deal?
It was series of things... I was the administrator for the Clinton Facebook page, and it was a very popular group. It had 27,000 members when I was there -- and, you know, that's a lot of people for a Facebook group, even now. So people knew me from that....
Then I went to the DNC Rules and Bylaws meeting. I met Harriet Christian there and met people from [the pro-Hillary group] HireHeels.com. Of course I wrote about that night for the Huffington Post, on Harriet, basically, and that was huge. The piece garnered a lot of readers. The Hillary supporters who read it knew I understood what they were feeling. Diane Mantouvalos from HireHeels was one of them, now a fellow spokesperson of the Just Say No Deal coalition.
I also started The P.U.M.A. Facebook group. The puma icon and the slogan -- "party unity my ass" -- I just loved it. It was the shot heard around Facebook. I remember thinking, yes, absolutely. This is our call to arms. This is our mascot.
Then came the article in The National and then we launched the coalition.... It's amazing. Now I'm basically -- I don't sleep anymore; it's been wild. My phone is just attached to me. I'm up always. It's been the most invigorating time of my life.
But Ok... What's the goal, exactly? The main objective? Is it to get Clinton the nomination or to defeat Obama or...
Well the coalition is diverse. I can't speak for everyone. Some will certainly be voting for McCain and are advocating that route. Others will write-in Hillary. Some will vote for third party candidates. But all the groups are very much united in not voting for Obama. The diverse groups are getting along. The number one rule is that no P.U.M.A. voter will cast a ballot for Obama, presently. If he has Hillary as vice president, well then each P.U.M.A. voter, of course, will make that decision.
Many, like myself, want to see a McCain-Clinton ticket, which would be as politically radical as F.D.R.-- It would be a true crack in the system, real change...
So wait. Let's backtrack. Hillary is an incredibly strong Democrat. To many, she's a symbol even, a representation of the Democratic Party, or at least a certain Democratic Party platform... Were you an official member of her campaign?
No, I wasn't. But, as I said, I was the administrator of the main Hillary Clinton Facebook group. That's a major contribution, I think.... It's such a powerful medium. There are so many intelligent and politically minded young people [who use it] and they come together around the candidate or around a cause. It builds person by person... It's an incredible organizing and support-building tool. [The group members] all saw the Harriet Christian video, for instance. They admired her ferocity -- and I was part of that and that gave me credibility with a lot of people in no time.
But you're a Democrat...
Oh absolutely. People have been trying to paint this as a Trojan horse, you know, as though I'm a Republican, that this is a Republican strategy... No, that's not it at all. From dog-catcher to president, I've voted Democrat. I'm all Democrat. I was a youth volunteer for Dukakis. I protested in 2000 -- was absolutely out on the streets in L.A. for the Bush-Gore decision. I was a volunteer for Wesley Clark.
Yes, but then wasn't being a Hillary supporter mostly about endorsing her political philosophy and her policy agenda, which was nearly identical to Obama's? Wouldn't supporting McCain be the worst thing that could come of this, if you were to ask Hillary Clinton? I mean, after all the work on the trail and in the senate, her whole adult life?
You know, we're talking about policy, that's the question, but the biggest policy is the democratic process itself. The election of 2000 was a travesty.... Who will hold the Democratic Party responsible, this time, for this deeply flawed primary process? If we vote for Obama, that anti-democratic process -- where party officials decided early in the process, based on rules and exceptions to the rules, who they wanted to win -- then that anti-democratic process will be validated, which is, to my mind, the worst thing that can happen. I believe that if I were a Republican in 2000, I would have felt the same way: better Bush is defeated than the democratic process itself in the U.S. is defeated. We've reached a turning point.
Hillary had the fighting spirit. That's what we were in support of more than any one policy. We admired that and we're taking that forward...
More than any policy...
You know, she was a fighter in this campaign. That's what inspired so many people. And we're taking up the fight. We're not going to quit. We're going to fight. That's the message, for us, of her campaign.
But now it's weeks later, after the endorsement, the Clinton-Obama plans to campaign together and so on -- is there any change in the coalition, would you say, in the feelings of the group or its membership...?
The first P.U.M.A.s were solidly Democrats and solidly against Obama. But now we're definitely starting to pull Ron Paul supporters, for example. It's only the second-week of P.U.M.A.'s existence and it's gathering new momentum... Much depends on Denver.
The soil is just so fertile for political realignment. So if anything could happen, now is the time. Look at where we are at: the Republicans have spent eight years ruining their party. It doesn't stand for anything anymore... I can see the P.U.M.A. voting bloc becoming a watchdog party keeping both sides honest. We can become a significant force.
I'll tell you this. This has been an explosion. Change comes from anger. There has been anger building for months. Where does all that energy from her campaign go? The Clinton supporter-community of thousands and thousands of people, they no longer feel a part of the DNC. They feel betrayed. The P.U.M.A. voters, the coalition voters, are a splinter party. This is how that happens. Ralph Nader? Ross Perot? Where was the anger? No political movement has ever had any sway without anger. Call it what you want. Sour grapes, sore losers... but I can tell you it's real and it's valid and it's the kind of anger that makes change.
John Kerry didn't win the last election. I knew he would lose. I worked for Wesley Clark because I will go to my grave believing he would have defeated Bush, that he was the stronger nominee. But Kerry won the nomination fair and square. I didn't agree but I went with it. This is different. This was an unfair process, anti-democratic.
Bower On MSNBC
Interview "conducted, condensed and edited" by John Tomasic.