What exactly was behind Obama’s purge of delegates in California?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.  Yesterday MyDD reported that the Obama campaign had wiped over nine hundred delegates in California from its list of chosen representatives for the national convention in August.  Ostensibly, this was done to ensure only Obama loyalists would represent the senator from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention.  No big deal, right?  After all, Hillary Clinton’s campaign did a similar purge.

The problem is this: while Clinton trimmed only fifty or so delegates, down from an initial 950, Obama wiped roughly half of 1,700.  Furthermore, whereas Clinton appears to have carefully screened the delegates to be excluded, Obama’s purge list appeared random — activists with solid credentials and who worked tirelessly to campaign for their candidate were eliminated, while those who did little or nothing got to stay on the list to go to Denver.

But here’s where things get more ominous.  As MyDD points out, Obama campaigner Marcy Winograd — a woman with more than a few political credentials to her own name — seems to think the main targets were anti-war progressives.

By dusk on Wednesday, the California Obama campaign had purged almost all progressive anti-war activists from its delegate candidate lists. Names of candidates, people who had filed to run to represent Obama at the August Democratic Party National Convention, disappeared, not one by one, but hundreds at a time, from the Party web site listing the eligibles. The list of Obama delegate hopefuls in one northern California congressional district went from a robust 100 to an anemic 23, while in southern California, the list in Congressman Waxman’s district almost slipped out of sight, plunging from a high of 91 candidates to 17. Gone were strong women with independent political bases.

And the Huffington Post’s Nathaniel Bach wrote:

After completing the application process and finding my name on the official list of registered candidates, I received an email from the California Democratic Party today (Wednesday) at 4:48 p.m. informing me that the final approved lists of delegate candidates had been posted and that I should check the website. (I assume the same email went out to all the delegate candidates.) I clicked over to the website and found that, lo and behold, what had been a list of 90 candidates had been eviscerated down to only 17, and that my name was gone. I immediately checked the Obama candidate list for the 33rd District, where a friend and fellow Obama die-hard was also running for a delegate spot. His name was gone, too, and a list that formerly contained 83 names was down to a mere 20.

The ostensible rationale for the cutting of delegate candidates is to prevent “Trojan horse” delegates from making their way to the Convention floor and then switching allegiances. The vetting and removal of delegate candidates is expressly allowed by party rules. But could the 30th District really have had 73 such turncoats, and was I really one of them? I was a Precinct Captain for the Obama campaign for the California primary; I’ve donated several hundred dollars to Senator Obama’s campaign (the first politician I’ve ever supported financially); and I’ve boosted the campaign in numerous posts on this website…

It’s hard not to be cynical. Remaining on the list of approved candidates is the slate of candidates (longtime campaign volunteers) that the Obama campaign has officially endorsed, as well as several names recognizable from local politics. These delegate candidates aren’t to be faulted for being longtime political activists, but the cynic in me wonders why those names remained while the “nobodies” on the list disappeared. The Obama campaign owes those of us who were cut a fuller explanation of the decision process.

MyDD’s ‘campskunk’ clearly believes that this is not accidental, that the Obama campaign wants “people who will go to the convention and vote for Obama, no matter what.  It’s not about the issues, it’s about the candidate.  If these delegates have strong dedication to particular causes they might be persuadable, so none of those types are allowed.”

But the purge of California delegates, and the fear that anti-war activists among those sent to represent Obama in Denver come August might defect, may run even deeper than anyone suspects.  According to the New York Sun, Obama’s phony anti-occupation position stands a good chance of being exposed for the sham it is.

A key adviser to Senator Obama’s campaign is recommending in a confidential paper that America keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in Iraq as of late 2010, a plan at odds with the public pledge of the Illinois senator to withdraw combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

The paper, obtained by The New York Sun, was written by Colin Kahl for the center-left Center for a New American Security*. In “Stay on Success: A Policy of Conditional Engagement,” Mr. Kahl writes that through negotiations with the Iraqi government “the U.S. should aim to transition to a sustainable over-watch posture (of perhaps 60,000-80,000 forces) by the end of 2010 (although the specific timelines should be the byproduct of negotiations and conditions on the ground).”

Mr. Kahl is the day-to-day coordinator of the Obama campaign’s working group on Iraq. A shorter and less detailed version of this paper appeared on the center’s Web site as a policy brief.

If this is true, if Obama plans to back off from any and all public pledges to withdraw from the quagmire in Iraq by the end of his first term (assuming he gets a first term), then this cynical lack of faith in his own supporters exposes a far more serious crisis.  The senator from Illinois, in spite of his alleged initial opposition to the invasion of Iraq, really does support the policy of American imperialism.  And if he’s worried enough about his true position becoming widely known that it has driven him to purge half his California delegates — thus making the prospect of a brokered convention likelier, what does that say about the worth assigned to the anti-war movement by the Democratic Party?  Not much, apparently.

Fortunately, this latest outrage by the Obama campaign has a somewhat happy ending; all of the delegates purged from California’s bloc seem to have been reinstated.  But if Obama thought these devoted supporters might have harbored plans to defect to Hillary Clinton’s camp, he may have pushed his fear one step closer to realization.

*: Is it me, or does this organization’s name sound ominously similar to Project for the New American Century?

2 comments

    • lezlie on April 13, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    maybe the fact that you could write an essay like this would make one think you might defect at a moments notice, without finding the facts, if there was a glitch. I’m just saying…

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