Hillary Clinton’s attempts at a loyalty oath not as bad as Bush in 2004, but still bad for democracy
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 05/08/2008 – 9:16am
“Yes! I will vote for Hillary on May 6th!”
I attended three events over the weekend in Indiana: Bill Clinton in Plymouth, Janet Napolitano in Mishawaka, and Hillary Clinton in South Bend. Admission was free, as you would expect.
While attending the Hillary Clinton event in South Bend, I wasn’t even required to give any information, though I had to go through the metal detector and empty my pockets. It was an outdoor event, and I had already seen a bomb squad truck in the area. So going through that process seemed normal.
For the Napolitano event, the Obama people did insist I give my name, address, and e-mail address. I explained to them that I was from out-of-state, and they said it didn’t matter. But I also didn’t get the impression that it was mandatory.
However, for the Bill Clinton event, the criteria were something else entirely. We were in line for quite awhile when a Clinton volunteer gave us a piece of paper. We were told we could not get in without this piece of paper.
The piece of paper had slots for name, address, e-mail address, and phone numbers. It also had areas where you could check off for ways to volunteer for the campaign. Seemed fairly straightforward, except for the fact that if you didn’t have the piece of paper, you weren’t getting in the door.
The part that bothered me was the section in the lower right-hand corner: The box read: “Yes! I will vote for Hillary on May 6th!” with a place for a signature and a date.
We all looked at the paper. Someone asked, “If you don’t sign this box, can you still get in?” The volunteer at first said we had to sign it. Then, there was uncertainty.
The family behind me in line laughed a little bit. Their 15-year-old son, who was in line with them, couldn’t sign the piece of paper even if he wanted Hillary Clinton to be president. He wasn’t old enough to vote.
I told him it’s a double-whammy since a minor’s signature on a document wouldn’t have legal standing in a situation where he isn’t old enough to comply with the requirement anyway. Not that I’m a lawyer, but it made sense in an Orwellian fashion.
My issue was a little different. Since I was from out-of-state, I couldn’t vote for Hillary on May 6th. So even if I wanted to vote for her, I couldn’t legally do so.
I’m not in the habit of signing documents where I don’t agree to the terms. But I really wanted to hear that speech.
I thought about the guy behind me, who was debating between Clinton and Obama, the one I wrote about who saw Robert F. Kennedy in Indianapolis in 1968. I had asked him earlier about why he was here. He essentially said, “It’s Bill Clinton. Why wouldn’t I be here.” So what was he going to do about the form?
The mother of the 15-year-old, who was a strong Hillary supporter, wondered if they would be able to tell when you voted whether you have agreed with what you signed. And this was from a Hillary Clinton supporter who would probably vote for her anyway.
Normally, my role would be not to say anything, but I did feel compelled to tell her that they couldn’t check that at the voting booth, that her vote was private.
The volunteer eventually came back to us and said we weren’t required to sign the document, but we did need the paper to get into the event.
I can’t vouch for certain as to whether these kinds of “loyalty oaths” are required at Obama events. But I was sufficiently disturbed in this instance. And the candidate herself wasn’t even going to be at the event.
As I had written, Bill Clinton’s appearance in Plymouth was apparently the only real shot anyone in the area would get to anyone from either side of the Obama/Clinton matchup. And as that guy noted, it was Bill Clinton speaking.
Oh, and when I finally got up to the front, they took my piece of paper and never looked at it. We were getting in there regardless, but we sure didn’t appreciate the intimidation.
This isn’t as bad as in 2004 when as The Washington Post reported:
The Albuquerque Journal reported on Friday that people seeking tickets to the Cheney event who could not be identified as GOP partisans — contributors or volunteers — were told they could not receive tickets unless they signed an endorsement form saying “I, (full name) . . . do herby (sic) endorse George W. Bush for reelection of the United States.” The form warns that signers “are consenting to use and release of your name by Bush-Cheney as an endorser of President Bush.”
We chastised Bush and Cheney for having loyalty oaths in 2004. So even if we ultimately didn’t have to sign this document, we certainly felt like for awhile that we might have to.
But it was still a bit intimidating, even to those passionate about Hillary Clinton, to feel like they have to sign the document. These were not people who sign things lightly. They had real concerns over what they would be signing, even if they agreed with the sentiment.
Loyalty should be earned through good deeds, not required as a means of attending an event. The beauty of our voting system is that we have the inalienable right to decide right up to the time we go into the voting booth, and sometimes in the booth itself, to then decide who we want to get our vote. Anything less is undemocratic.