It is suggested by some of her more ardent advocates that Hillary Clinton should merely suspend, rather than formally finish, her presidential campaign. Then she could retain the option of having her name put in nomination at this summer’s Democratic National Convention, seek a roll call of the states and record a historic number of votes for a woman.
If that happens, Obama will still be nominated for president. Indeed, after the recording of show of support for Clinton, the Obama selection would likely be approved by acclamation.
The point of counting the Clinton votes at the convention would not be to stop, or even embarrass, Obama. It would be to note the political progress made by women competing in the presidential arena.
So Clinton would not beat Obama.
But she would beat someone — or at least someone’s record.
The record number of votes cast at a national party convention for a woman was recorded in 1972, when New York Congressman Shirley Chisholm secured 151.95 votes from delegates to the Democratic National Convention that nominated George McGovern.
Chisholm ran a sincere and serious, if dramatically under-funded campaign for the nomination that year — competing in primaries, demanding coverage from a reluctant media and teaching more prominent contenders and a party that was still struggling with issues of race and gender a thing or two about empowerment. She actually won a statewide “braging-rights” or “beauty-contest” primary (in which no delegates were awarded) in New Jersey and pulled ten percent of the vote in California’s June primary.
When she announced her candidacy thirty-six years ago, Chisholm said:
I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud.
I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman, and I am equally proud of that.
I am not the candidate of any political bosses or fat cats or special interests.
I stand here now without endorsements from many big name politicians or celebrities or any other kind of prop. I do not intend to offer to you the tired and glib cliches, which for too long have been an accepted part of our political life. I am the candidate of the people of America. And my presence before you now symbolizes a new era in American political history.
One measure of that new era came at the Democratic convention on Miami Beach in 1972, when what was then a record number of delegates voted for an African-American and a woman for president.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson would set new records in 1984 and 1988.
But Chisholm’s record as the woman who ran the most quantifiably successful campaign for the presidency in the history of the republic has stood until now.
If Clinton’s name is placed in nomination and her 1,640 pledged delegate votes are recorded for her — or some significant number of them — she will set a new mark.
Shirley Chisholm made a good deal of history in 1972.
Hillary Clinton has made a good deal more history this year. The primary and caucus results are a measure of that hirstory, as are her cumulative popular and delegate vote totals.
The convention vote would confirm the accomplishment. So suggest the supporters of seeking that vote.
Clinton accomplishment would, of course, come at the expense of Shirley Chisholm’s record. That will bother some people, and I have to admit that — as a longtime fan of Chisholm and her campaign — I understand the sentiment.
But, just as Chisholm paved the way for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama so, Clinton’s advocates argue with some legitimacy, HRC can now pave the way for the woman who will actually be both the Democratic nominee and the president.