The minute the media outlets announced the Iowa Caucus for John Kerry in 2004, I knew what was in store for us that November -- another lofty Democrat would go on to lose the general election to the more approachable Republican.
Since its rise to prominence in 1972, Iowa has done *nothing* to promote success for Democrats in November. The closest the Iowa Caucus has ever come to getting it right was in 1976, when Jimmy Carter came in a distant second to "Uncommitted" -- and, even then, it's not as if Jimmy Carter went on to demonstrate the best that the Democratic Party had to offer in the way of executives.
Let's examine: 1972, Edward Muskie? 1976, Jimmy Carter? 1984, Walter Mondale? 1988, Dick Gephardt? 1992, Tom Harkin? 2004, John Kerry? And, yes... 2008, Barack Obama? And how did our most successful Democratic president since FDR fair? Bill Clinton, 4th place, at 3% (behind even "Uncommitted") in 1992. And yet every four years, both parties bend over backwards to ensure Iowa's primacy in choosing our presidential candidates. Iowan Democrats seem to prefer failure, and the Democratic Party seems to prefer Iowa.
So when I witnessed Barack Obama get an upper hand on the more competent and electable Hillary Clinton in Iowa this past January, I asked myself "How can we free ourselves from this failed process?" So I drafted my "Proposal for the 2012 Primaries"... which is how I came to write for The Huffington Post.
In fact, many of my articles here provide a glimpse into my own evolutionary process this political season -- a process shared by many others -- a collective process that would ultimately break forth virally as the PUMA Movement.
The best example of such an article is the one I wrote about the now infamous DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Hearing on Florida and Michigan, and, of course, my evening with the ever-provocative Harriet Christian.
A few days after these gut-wrenching events, two of my FaceBook cohorts presented to me an image born out of their own indignation of the DNC's rulings -- a picture of a snarling puma, on which were written the words "Party Unity My Ass."
It was from that moment that we began our FaceBook crusade. I was one of the administrators of the FaceBook group "Hillary Clinton for President." We asked our like-minded peers in the Hillary group to change their profile photos to pictures of pumas, and to change their "Political Affiliation" to "PUMA"... and, within days, three individual FaceBook PUMA groups had already spun off from the original Hillary group.
Erika Niedowski, a journalist for "The National", noticed all this FaceBook activity and, on June 7th, decided we were worth an introduction to the press.
Little did I know that there was already a hotbed of PUMA activity elsewhere in the blogosphere. Over at Riverdaughter's "The Confluence" -- inspired by the very same RBC ruling -- a commenter known as "SM" (now "SM77") had shouted out that very acronym, and Riverdaughter leapt into action with "The PUMA Unparty." Soon thereafter, their fellow 'Conflucian', Darragh Murphy, would set "PUMA Pac" into motion.
We were soon able to come together and join forces -- along with several other like-minded groups -- as members of a united front. Diane Mantouvalos, co-founder of HireHeels.com, had noticed the backlash amongst disaffected Democrats within the blogosphere and, on the eve of Hillary Clinton's suspension speech, decided to plan a conference call to unite the many disparate factions under one umbrella. It was during this call that the "Just Say NO DEAL" coalition was born.
Within 24 hours, Thuc Nguyen and I were on FOX News to announce the birth of this coalition. Granted, it was the first time either of us had ever appeared on a major news network, and we were a little bit green at it. However, we weren't so green as to stop the movement in its tracks.
Many interviews soon followed, as did blog talk radio stations devoted to the PUMA cause, and documentaries on caucus fraud (such as GiGi Gaston's "We Will Not Be Silenced" and Lorenda Starfelt and Brad Mays' "The Audacity of Democracy"). An explosion of new PUMA-related web sites within the "Just Say NO DEAL" coalition emerged and within weeks, PUMA had been mentioned and/or featured on all the major networks and news networks, even getting the attention of "Meet the Press".
Since those early days, one of our greatest successes has been to help get Hillary Clinton's name placed into nomination at the Democratic Convention. Back in early June, Sue Castner and other brave delegates -- with the help of a few non-delegate activists -- launched an initiative to form the 300-delegate petition required to place a candidate's name into nomination.
For most Democratic conventions in recent history, candidates' names have been placed into nomination at the discretion of the Party chair. This group of Clinton delegates knew, however, that Howard Dean would be doing no such thing for Hillary Clinton. There is, however, a provision which allows *delegates* to place a candidate's name into nomination via the aforementioned petition.
We PUMAs did our best to promote this petition for these delegates and to educate the public as to how Howard Dean and the DNC were attempting to thwart all efforts to have Hillary's name placed on the nominating ballot. The media, too, was complicit in this, putting forth stories that Hillary did not *want* to have her name placed into nomination.
Then two PUMAs in San Francisco, "SimoFish" and "Puma-SF", captured and released a video that would turn the media's narrative on its head.
Delegates who had been unsure whether or not to participate in the petition now had the encouragement they needed. As the convention approached, Barack Obama knew that these delegates would indeed have the 300 signatures needed to place Hillary Clinton's name into nomination... at which point he made his announcement that this was what he had wanted all along. It wasn't. The delegates had forced his hand.
Of course, Nancy Pelosi would then go on to thwart this effort for a fair roll-call vote by evoking yet another petition -- one requiring *800* signatures. Being that she did so at the last minute, this was something that the delegates were not able to accomplish in time. Pelosi's maneuver brought to an end any possibility for redemption to this political season... and is something we PUMAs shan't soon forget.
And now? One of our primary goals (if not *the* primary goal) is to unite those millions of us disaffected Democrats, and to hold the DNC and its leadership accountable this November and beyond.
In 2000, Democratic leaders went to the pulpits to preach "Popular Vote" and to tell us of how anti-democratic the Electoral College is. Yet, in 2008, they put forth a nominating system that makes the Electoral College look like one of the most democratic systems we have going.
On June 3rd, Barack Obama's Holy Grail was that he had won more delegates than had Hillary Clinton. However, what the media and America didn't seem to realize is that that delegate count itself is representative of next-to-nothing. Barack Obama won more delegates by winning the state of Idaho than Hillary Clinton won by winning the states of Ohio and Texas combined... all based on a mangled and socially-engineered allocation system currently employed by the DNC. If we were to look at something more truly representational -- Congressional districts, for example -- we would see that Hillary Clinton won over 40 more Congressional districts than did Barack Obama. Good enough for Congress, but not for Democratic primaries?
Everything that is wrong with the system favored Barack Obama. Everything that is right about the system favored Hillary Clinton.
Many of us PUMAs feel that the DNC did to us in 2008 what the RNC and the Supreme Court did to us in 2000. Barack Obama represents the will of the DNC -- He does *not* represent the will of the Democratic voter. It is this betrayal and hypocrisy that have led us to a place where we cannot fathom validating Obama with our votes this November.
There are, of course, a great number of other grievances we PUMAs share -- the disenfranchisement of Michigan and Florida; the anti-democratic nature of caucuses (and the abuses and fraud there within); misuse of power by such Party leaders as Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and Donna Brazile; a corrupt super delegate system, in which votes can be bought and sold; and unchecked misogyny within the media being a few of the most prominent.
So what's next? PUMAs are as committed as ever *not* to vote for Barack Obama in November. Some of us will be voting for John McCain. Some of us will be voting for a third-party candidate. Some of us will be writing-in Hillary Clinton's name. And some of us will be abstaining altogether.
Beyond this, many PUMAs want to salvage the Democratic Party itself... if we still can. Still supporting most down-ticket Democrats, PUMAs want to see drastic changes in Party *leadership*. Many of us want Hillary Clinton to be Senate Majority Leader in 2009 (http://hrcforsenatemajorityleader09.com), and many of us want Nancy Pelosi to lose her Congressional seat this November (http://cindyforcongress.com). There are several other faces that need to be changed as well -- with Howard Dean and Donna Brazile leading the list.
And beyond the personalities involved, the *process* must be changed. Regardless of who becomes the 44th President of the United States, the PUMA Movement will push forward with its goals for fairer elections.
In a statement addressing PUMA, Pennsylvanian Governor Ed Rendell himself stated:
We agree with many of your grievances. For example, we, too, believe that the Democratic Party's nominating process is unfair and undemocratic. We must change the policy where some votes are more important than others and some areas receive more delegates than their number of voters would justify - it violates the spirit of "one person, one vote." We must eliminate caucuses that are inherently undemocratic and disenfranchise seniors (no absentee voting for those who can't go to the polls), shift workers and our military. Forcing people to declare their preference in public also violates another cherished principle that undermines our democracy.
Or, as I have been known to state:
If the Democratic Party won't uphold Democratic principles, who will?
If the voters don't hold the Democratic Party accountable, who will?
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