Clinton's Former-DNC Chair Switches to Obama: 'I Have Been Inspired.'
May 1, 2008
I have been inspired.
Today I am announcing my support for Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States of America. I am changing my support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama, and calling for my fellow Democrats across my home State of Indiana, and my fellow super delegates across the nation, to heal the rift in our Party and unite behind Barack Obama.
The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad or right and wrong, but between two goods or two rights. That is the decision Democrats face today. We have an embarrassment of riches, but as much as we may love our candidates and revel in the political process that has brought Presidential politics to places that have not seen it in a generation, we cannot let our family affair hurt America by helping John McCain.
Here is my message, explained in this lengthy letter that I hope is perceived as a thoughtful analysis of how to save America from four more years of the misguided polices of the past: you can be for someone without being against someone else. You can unite behind a candidate and a vision for America without rejecting another candidate and their vision, because in real life, opposed to party politics, we Democrats are on the same side. The battle should not be amongst ourselves. Rather, we should focus our efforts on those who are truly on the opposite side: those who want to continue the failed policies of the last eight years, rather than bring real change to Washington. Let us come together right now behind an inspiring leader who not only has the audacity to challenge the old divisive politics, but the audacity to make us all hope for a better America.
Unite the Party Now
I believe that Bill Clinton will be remembered as one of our nation's great Presidents, and Senator Clinton as one of our nation's great public servants. But as much as I respect and admire them both, it is clear that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists John McCain.
I ask Hoosiers to come together and vote for Barack Obama to be our next President. In an accident of timing, Indiana has been given the opportunity to truly make a difference. Hoosiers should grab that power and do what in their heart they know is right. They should reject the old negative politics and vote for true change. Don't settle for the tried and true and the simplistic slogans, but listen to your heart and dare to be inspired. Only a cynic would be critical of Barack Obama inspiring millions. Only the uninformed could forget that the candidate that wins in November is always the candidate that inspires millions.
I ask the leaders of our Party to come together after this Tuesday's primary to heal wounds and unite us around a single nominee. While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our Party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us. John McCain, without doing much of anything, is now competitive against both of our remaining candidates. We are doing his work for him and distracting Americans from the issues that really affect all of our lives.
We need to be talking about fixing the economy, not whose acquaintances once said what to whom. We need to be talking about stopping the attacks in Iraq, not stopping the attacks in Indiana. We need to be talking about policy, not politics.
Barack Obama is the Right Candidate for Right Now
While I am a longtime critic of our Party's rules that created so-called super delegates, we have the rules we have and we must live with them. I am humbled and honored to be a super delegate, and I understand the seriousness of the duty it entails. I recognize that this is a difficult decision for super delegates like me, who owe so much to President Bill Clinton. It is right to be loyal, to be grateful and to be consistent. But it is also right to acknowledge the inevitability of change, right to dare to dream for a better world, and right to know what in your heart is the right thing for the future even if your friends and family disagree. Good things, just like good people, can disagree. But as Democrats, we must disagree with dignity, debate with admiration of each other, and in the end, go forward with mutual respect.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore gave me the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the Democratic Party. I pledged my loyalty to them, and I will never forget Al Gore putting ego aside, gently demurring, and simply asking me to put our country ahead of politics. It is a lesson I will remember forever, and it is what guides me now in this decision. What is best for our Party and our country is not blind loyalty, but passionate support for the candidate who can best correct the misguided policies of the last eight years.
We need a candidate who will re-invigorate the economy and keep good jobs here in America. We need a candidate who will end the war in Iraq. We need a candidate who will provide health coverage for our 45 million uninsured neighbors. We need a candidate who will end our addiction to high-priced foreign oil by investing in renewable energy here at home.
That candidate is Barack Obama.
What was best for America sixteen years ago was electing Bill Clinton. What would have been best for America eight years ago was not only electing Al Gore, which we did, but allowing him to serve as President of the United States. Imagine how the world would be different if Al Gore and not George Bush, would have been President of the United States. Let's seize the opportunity and vote for someone who like Al Gore, was against the war from the beginning, and who brings a new energy, a new excitement, and a new politics to our country.
Let's put things right.
Time to Act
Many will ask, why now? Why, with several primaries still remaining, with Senator Clinton just winning Pennsylvania, with my friend Evan Bayh working hard to make sure Senator Clinton wins Indiana, why switch now? Why call for super delegates to come together now to constructively pick a president?
The simple answer is that while the timing is hard for me personally, it is best for America. We simply cannot wait any longer, nor can we let this race fall any lower and still hope to win in November. June or July may be too late. The time to act is now.
I write this letter from my mom's dining room table in Indianapolis, Indiana. Four generations of my family have argued and laughed around this table. But what I humbly believe today is that we, as Democrats and as Americans, face what Dr. King characterized and what Senator Obama reminds us is the fierce urgency of now. As a nation, we are at a critical moment and we need leaders with the character and vision to see us through the challenges at hand and those to come. I can't guess what will happen tomorrow, so I can't tell you what kind of experience our next President will need to have to deal with those challenges. But I can tell you what kind of character and vision they will need to have -- and that is what inspires me about Barack Obama.
As Democrats, however, we risk letting this moment slip through our fingers. We risk ceding the field to the Republicans and allowing the morally bankrupt Bush Agenda to continue unabated if we do not unite behind a single candidate. Should this race continue after Indiana and North Carolina, it will inevitably become more negative. The polls already show the supporters for both candidates becoming more strident in their positions and more locked into their support. Continuing on this path would be a catastrophe, as we would inadvertently end up doing Republicans work for them. Already, instead of the audacity of hope, we suffer the audacity of one Democrat comparing John McCain favorably to another Democrat. When that happens, you know it is time for all of us to stop, take a deep breath and unite to change America.
We must act and we must act now.
The Problems of the Process: 2000 and 2008
When Al Gore got a half million more votes than George Bush in 2000, yet the Electoral College elected George Bush President, we saw the absurdity of any system that does not elect the person who gets the most votes. That is why the Democratic Party's nomination process is flawed. I will continue to fight for a 2012 process where there are only primaries, and which ever Democrat gets the most votes becomes our nominee. Delegates should decide the party platform -- voters should decide who our nominee is.
But we are struck with this absurd system for 2008, and, flawed though it may be, we must work within it without betraying the voice of the people. No amount of spin or sleight of hand can deny the fact that where there has been competition, Senator Obama has won more votes, more States and more delegates than any other candidate. Only the super delegates can award the nomination to Senator Clinton, but to do so risks doing to our Party in 2008 what Republicans did to our country in 2000. Let us be intellectually consistent and unite behind Barack Obama.
A New Era of Politics
My endorsement of Senator Obama will not be welcome news to my friends and family at the Clinton campaign. If the campaign's surrogates called Governor Bill Richardson, a respected former member of President Clinton's cabinet, a "Judas" for endorsing Senator Obama, we can all imagine how they will treat somebody like me. They are the best practitioners of the old politics, so they will no doubt call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite. I will be branded as disloyal, power-hungry, but most importantly, they will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton.
When they use the same attacks made on me when I was defending them, they prove the callow hypocrisy of the old politics first perfected by Republicans. I am an expert on this because these were the exact tools that I mastered as a campaign volunteer, a campaign manager, a State Party Chair and the National Chair of our Party. I learned the lessons of the tough, right-wing Republicans all too well. I can speak with authority on how to spar with everyone from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove. I understand that, while wrong and pernicious, shallow victory can be achieved through division by semantics and obfuscation. Like many, I succumbed to the addiction of old politics because they are so easy.
Innuendo is easy. The truth is hard.
Sound bites are easy. Solutions are hard.
Spin is simple and easy. Struggling with facts is complicated and hard.
I have learned the hard way that you can love the candidate and hate the campaign. My stomach churns when I think how my old friends in the Clinton campaign will just pick up the old silly Republican play book and call in the same old artificial attacks and bombardments we have all heard before.
Yet, despite the simple and overwhelming pressure to do anything and everything to win, Barack Obama has risen above it all and demanded a new brand of politics. People flock to Senator Obama because they are rejecting the hyperbole of the old politics. The past eight years of George Bush have witnessed a retreat from substance, science, and reason in favor spin, cronyism and ideology. Barack Obama has dared not only to criticize it, as all Democrats do, but to actually reject playing the same old game. And in doing so, he has shown us a new path to victory.
Uniting for Victory
The simple fact is that Democrats need to be united in November to win, and Clinton supporters, in particular, will be vital to victory. We will not convince Clinton supporters to join the Obama campaign, however, by personally criticizing them. We must welcome everyone and avoid doing Republican work for them. It is therefore incumbent on all of us who once supported Senator Clinton to welcome the thousands who should now switch their support to Senator Obama. Similarly, a necessary part of the healing process for our Party is for those who supported Senator Obama early to have the grace and good sense to broaden the tent and welcome newcomers into the fold.
The old players of the old political game will claim that I am betraying my old friend Senator Evan Bayh by switching my support to Senator Obama. I believe that Evan Bayh would be a great President, and therefore a great Vice President. I will continue to argue that he would be a great choice to be on the ticket with Barack Obama. Evan Bayh is uniquely positioned as a successful governor with executive experience who is now a U.S. Senator with foreign policy experience and who is young enough to not undercut the message of vitality and hard work that Barack Obama represents. Part of healing the Party may be to have a Clinton supporter on the ticket, let alone someone who would help with Indiana, Ohio and the moderate Midwest in the general election.
Being for Evan Bayh, however, does not mean that you have to be for Hillary Clinton. The important message to Hoosiers, and to super delegates, is that being for someone does not mean that you agree 100 percent of the time. Regardless of whether Evan Bayh and I support different candidates, I will support Evan Bayh.
We must reject the notion that we have to beat the Republicans at their own game -- or even that the game has to be played at all. It is so easy for all of us involved -- candidates, campaigns and the media -- to focus on the process and the horse race that we forget why we got into it in the first place. Barack Obama has had the courage to talk about real issues, real problems and real people. Let's pause for a second in the midst of the cacophony of the campaign circus and listen.
In 1992, I was inspired by Bill Clinton because he promised, and delivered, a framework for addressing America's problems. President Clinton ended a long-running left-right debate in our Party, and inspired millions. He drew giant crowds and spoke passionately for a generation of Americans who often disenfranchised and rarely participated in governing. Today, Barack Obama does the same thing. Winners redefine the game. Winners connect with the American people and not only feel their pain, but inspire them to take action to heal the underlying cause. Barack Obama is that kind of candidate and that kind of leader, which is why he will win in November.
Welcoming Everyone into the Party
We face significant challenges as a nation and as a Party, but time and again, Americans have shown the resilience and determination necessary to overcome even the highest obstacle. We have a difficult road ahead, but I have complete confidence that Barack Obama is the candidate who can lead our Party to victory and the President who can guide us to even greater heights.
Many Democrats know me for one short speech I gave over and over again in the 2000 Presidential campaign. That speech was about welcoming people into our Party and welcoming undecided voters to our campaign to elect Al Gore. Today, we need to welcome Clinton supporters, undecided voters, and all Americans to join Barack Obama's cause to fight for a better America. My speech ended with these words, which are even more relevant today:
The difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is that you are always welcome in the Democratic Party.
Because Democrats don't care if you are black or white or brown or a nice shade of green, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care if you pray in a church or a synagogue or a temple or a mosque, or just before math tests, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care if you are young or old, or just don't want to tell your age, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care what gender you are, or what gender you want to hold hands with; as long as you want to hold hands, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care about the size of your bank account, just the size of your heart; and we don't care where you are today, just where you dream you want to be tomorrow.
That is your Democratic Party.
That is Barack Obama's Democratic Party.
That is the Party that will win in November.