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Urgent Message to Obama Supporters

06/11/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Listen up, Obama supporters.

You need to stop this hysterical Clinton-bashing.

Barack Obama has captured your hearts and minds with his positive message of hope, and his promise of a new kind of politics.

The trouble is, I'm not seeing much of that spirit among his supporters.

Donald Sutherland, with whom I have worked, and who is both a wonderful actor and a true gentleman, wrote about Hillary here on the Huffington Post. His anger and moral indignation were sincerely felt, and typical:

"How much mendacity do we have to suffer, how much brazenness do we have to swallow before someone, anyone, has the decency, the common sense, to relieve us of this terrible trifle, this pathetic madness?"

To Hillary's supporters (more than 17 million of them), this tone is upsetting and genuinely inexplicable. They literally don't recognize the portrait. They don't see a "trifle" in universal health care, or see as "pathetic" her credentials as a progressive champion of women's rights. They don't find her fiscal blueprint "crazy" or see her vision for the country as a sure sign of her "venal personal ambition".

What's more, they are completely turned off by this kind of attack. They are likely to think that linguistically it feels misogynistic: "trifle" looks a little bit dismissive, they think. "Ambition" is hurled as an insult only at the female candidate; "crazy" has a faint whiff of hysteria in its implications; "pathetic" looks unnecessarily mean spirited in describing a woman who just won a state by more than 100,000 votes yesterday.

They get upset because (and I know that seems completely incomprehensible to you Obama supporters) they actually like Hillary Clinton, and they like her policy positions. They think she has a sure path to victory in November, and they think she'd make a great Democratic President.

Above all, they literally don't understand the ferocity with which Obama supporters feel her very presence in this primary is morally reprehensible. Yes, they recognize that Obama has won more pledged delegates, and they acknowledge that he is now more likely to win the nomination. But they also see that after more than 30 million people have gone to the polls, there is a difference of 30,000 or so votes between them, and that both candidates have a legitimate argument to make to the superdelegates.

So her supporters see the hatred for their candidate and to them it looks irrational. It seems more than a little ironic that she is criticized for her divisiveness with such aggression. It undermines the claim of "unity" around which Obama's campaign has been built. It pushes them away.

Every vicious and ill-informed comment on the web that demonizes Hillary Clinton as a lying, destructive Republican merely entrenches their support for someone they see as a champion of Democratic values. Every blog that casts her supporters as stupid, or racist merely turns them further off Obama.

And that's a dangerous situation. Because however much you scoff at it, and see it as irrelevant, it is an unarguable truth that more people have voted for Hillary Clinton than any other candidate in this Primary, or in any Democratic Primary ever.

Yes - I know that you'll be angry reading that, and that you feel it's meaningless, but try to see it dispassionately for a moment: all those people who voted for her, even if they live in Michigan, still exist. They may not "count", but they are flesh and blood, living, breathing Democrats who voted for Hillary. And they will count in November.

That's why, if Obama does become the nominee, Hillary Clinton has promised to "work her heart out" for him in the general election, and to do everything in her power to unify the party.

But it is you - his supporters - who currently represent perhaps the biggest barrier to that party unity. It is the vitriol you splutter forth into the comments section of the Huffington Post, and elsewhere that must stop if Clinton supporters are to feel part of an Obama-led party.

So, stop your Clinton-Bashing. Stop the hatred. And, whoever ends up being the nominee, remember what Barack Obama said back in Iowa:

"The time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that's consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that's been all about division and instead make it about addition - to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that's how we'll win in November, and that's how we'll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation."

UPDATE:

I should absolutely have acknowledged that Clinton supporters can be as vitriolic and unpleasant as Obama supporters. Apologies. My point was merely that your candidate looks set to be the nominee, and as such, it's you lot who are going to have to be as magnanimous in victory as Barack Obama is surely going to be. It's kind of funny that a post designed to suggest how alienating your vitriol is should have provoked such a flurry of, well, vitriol. I was not making an argument here that the popular vote tally was a reason for Hillary to win the nomination, merely that those people who have voted for her need to be won round, and you're not going to help that to happen by abusing their candidate. I see from the responses I have got that I obviously didn't make my argument very well.

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