One of the nation's largest Black American grassroots advocacy organizations is drawing a line in the sand for Democratic leadership: if Hillary Clinton is awarded the nomination by overturning the pledged delegate count there will be a political price to pay.
Color of Change, which has a reach of more than 400,000 people, is organizing a petition campaign to persuade superdelegates and congressional leaders that a Clinton win through the hands of party insiders would "disenfranchise millions" and constitute "a shocking attack on voting rights and democracy."
"Following this course," the letter reads, "would give your seal of approval to an 'electability' strategy executed by stoking race-based fear and division among voters. We expect that from the Republicans; we fight them on it every year. But now the leadership of the Democratic party is poised to cosign this strategy of division and disenfranchisement. This could be the worst mistake the Party has ever made, yet it's being talked about as a legitimate way for this campaign to end.
"The voters who have come out in record numbers to participate in the Democratic Party won't allow this to happen, and as the most visible leaders of the Party, you must reject the idea that the nomination can be won with a strategy that preys on racism, sows division, and disenfranchises millions of voters."
The letter campaign -- which appears to be the first organized effort to influence superdelegates on the part of an African-American-based group -- is designed to create a sense of political consternation among those undecided insiders considering bucking the pledged delegate tally. Superdelegates are, by definition, allowed to cast their votes by any metric they deem fit, whether it be the popular vote, elected delegate totals, or the perception of electability. Several party officials, however, have warned that the pledged delegate total should be preeminent in their decision making process.
Previous Color of Change petitions have had their effects. In response to the Jena Six scandal, the group generated responses from more than 300,000 members, roughly the equivalent of all voters in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
In this instance, they may have more political persuasion. The campaign plays off of an already existing concern within the party that a Clinton primary victory could leave the African-American community deeply distraught and less willing to offer its general election support.
On Thursday, McClatchy reported, "Many black voters are making it very clear: They're concerned that Barack Obama is going to be denied the Democratic presidential nomination that they see as rightfully his, and if that happens, a lot of them may stay home in November."
Officials with Color of Change said their concerns were spurred by comments by DNC Chairman Howard Dean that the Democratic primary was "essentially a tie," as well as the "tone" and "strategy" of the Clinton campaign.
"Ideally what needs to happen is that this concept of there being a possibility of a Clinton win without disenfranchising people needs to stop," said the organization's communications director, Mervyn Marcano. "We want to let [superdelegates] know that people are watching and that folks are pretty upset about this. There is a false perception based on how people are jiggling the numbers that Clinton can win... and among black voters this will be problematic."
Color of Change's petition drive will direct "open letters" to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, DNC Chairman Howard Dean, and superdelegates.