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Hillary Supporters And The Coming Catharsis

DENVER - Today, to coincide maximally impolitely with the opening of the Democratic National Convention, John McCain released an ad aimed right at the wounded hearts of Hillary supporters: "She won millions of votes, but isn't on his ticket. ... The truth hurts," the spot's female narrator whispers conspiratorially. On CNN this morning, James Carville insisted Team Obama "disrespected" Hillary, while another commentator suggested the Hillary brigades aren't over it yet, not nearly. And so the national convention of the party notorious for internecine warfare begins, in its fashion.

Frankly, though, I had long assumed the legend of the legions of diehard, I-won't-get-over-it Hillary supporters was a figment of the media's drama-hungry (and the Clinton strategists' self-serving) imagination. Lots of her supporters must still be disappointed, sure, but embittered, furious she's not on the ticket, even willing to chuck pragmatism out the window and vote for John McCain? Really? But the tiny plane I took from Des Moines to Denver yesterday carried several such angry Iowa Hillary fans, including the elegantly-dressed delegate squeezed into the seat next to me. A bright blue button on her tasteful beige lapel shouted "Hillary." "I'm really upset," she said, about Obama's Joe Biden pick, not looking at me, but gazing at the seat back in front of her. 

"Maybe Hillary didn't want it," I offered.

The Iowa delegate shook her head. "She did, she did," she said mournfully. The only part of the convention she was really looking forward to, she added, was the opportunity to vote for Hillary on the first nomination ballot. That would be a moment of "catharsis."

Get used to "catharsis": It's a key Hillary-supporter catchword. You'll hear it, along with its psychotherapeutic pair-word "closure," endlessly until this Wednesday, when the nomination vote happens. But mark me down as somebody unsure of how the much-ballyhooed Great Catharsis is going to work. What is catharsis, in a political context? How will voting for the first female candidate on the floor of the convention only to see the upstart guy accept the nomination the next night in front of 75,000 screaming fans offer any kind of "healing"?

--Eve Fairbanks