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A psychological bloc

Hillary Clinton's supporters seem to want some kind of 'catharsis' at the Democratic convention.

August 12, 2008

Without using the term, Hillary Rodham Clinton has acknowledged that some supporters of her failed presidential campaign are sore losers. In a video clip posted -- where else? -- on YouTube, Clinton told fundraisers that "we will come out stronger if people feel that their voices were heard and their views respected." It was the latest indication that so-called Hill-raisers are demanding a consolation prize from the victorious Barack Obama camp -- when they aren't rerunning the primaries. (This week, Clinton's former communications director suggested that if erstwhile contender John Edwards' infidelity had been revealed before the Iowa caucuses, in which he finished ahead of her, Clinton would be the nominee.)

It's not enough for many Clinton supporters that their candidate will be a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Denver this month. They want more. So far, Clinton hasn't endorsed the most audacious idea being floated: that her name be placed in nomination at the convention, followed by a symbolic roll-call vote that would give new meaning to the term "hollow exercise." But she seems to be holding out for some sort of therapy for her still-aggrieved followers because, in her words, "I know from just what I'm hearing that there's incredible pent-up desire, and I think that people want to feel like, 'OK, it's a catharsis, we're here, we did it, and then everybody get behind Sen. Obama.' "

We don't know how familiar Clinton is with ancient Greek tragedy, but the use of the term "catharsis" will seem ominous to those who are. According to Aristotle's "Poetics," catharsis (sometimes translated as "purgation") occurs when the audience at a drama experiences a scene -- such as Oedipus' discovery that he has married his mother and killed his father -- that arouses "pity and fear."

More likely, uncompromising Clinton supporters will experience those emotions not when Clinton is given her due but when Obama officially clinches the nomination.

The party can only hope that that catharsis will purge the Clinton holdouts of their refusal to recognize reality. If not, the party could be headed for a real tragedy.

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