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The Night An Unscripted Moment of Democracy Surprised the Democrats

By       Message James Wall       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Cross-posted from WallWritings
 

To have seen it, you had to be watching either a public or a cable network. You also had to be watching closely.

Otherwise, early Tuesday evening in the Democratic National Convention, you missed an ever-so fleeting unscripted moment of democracy at work.

The old axiom, "Never watch sausage nor legislation being made," fits that moment perfectly.

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What happened was not pretty; in fact, it was downright ugly with a ruling from the presiding officer, San Francisco Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (above), saying the "ayes" sounded stronger than the "nays," a dubious ruling, at best.

As it often is, unfortunately, with the making of sausage and legislation.

The party platform of an incumbent president is dictated by the incumbent. It is intended to outline positions on which the party is in general agreement. The platform committee that shapes the set of positions is appointed from among the delegates. It always contains delegates who can be relied on to deliver language the president wants.

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The platform is a largely ignored document with a shelf life of about 15 minutes. The only time the platform gets attention is when convention delegates strongly disagree on its wording, setting off a disruptive floor debate. This 2012 Democratic convention had no time for such a debate.

The floor debate that Mayor Villaraigosa blocked, has its genesis in what appears to have been platform committee action from Utah Democratic delegates. Other Democratic delegates who were supposed to keep the Platform Committee in line were missing in action when the language was changed.

The platform language that was briefly changed was the deletion of "God" and "Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel," both boilerplate language that had been adopted four years ago in the 2008 platform.

That insurrection had to be corrected by party officials "at the top" as one delegate said. At the moment, President Obama is locked in delicate negotiations with Israel over the future of the Palestinian people. He has to win re-election if those negotiations are to continue. If Romney wins, there will be no negotiations, just capitulation by a Republican party heavily financed by wealthy Israeli-backers in the U.S.

Those Utah delegates, or whoever it was that managed to delete God and "undivided capital" from the platform, were, of course, on the side of the angels in this debate. But politics, like sausage, is conducted in the mire of the possible, not in the land of "what ought to be."

Putting "God" in the platform is an insult to no faith Americans. it also ignores other adherents of religions which refer to the Ultimate by other names, Allah and Yahweh, for example. That, however, does not play well politically in a nation with so many voters firmly believing this nation's founders were rock-ribbed Christians (which they were not.)

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The Democratic platform retains the magic phrase, "subject to negotiations with the parties involved," which means that no matter what the platform infers, the future status of Jerusalem remains in the "final status" category. God, of course, is not subject to negotiations.

A video clip of Mayor Villaraigosa in the chair gaveling down rebellious delegates, is below. Note carefully shots of two delegates, one of whom wears the Tee-Shirt worn by other delegates and pro-Palestinian. It appears to say, using an Arabic phrase, "yallah, vote," or "Hurry up, vote."  The woman at right in one shot in the video shakes her head in disappointment and disgust.


This race between Obama and Romney remains tight, though the Democrats continue to lead in the key swing states. The language of the platform will have little impact on voters.

What impact it does have is that God and "undivided Jerusalem" are handy tools for Republicans to use in their "know-nothing style" campaign ads that whip up their base against the Democrats.

Fortunately, for the Democrats, their unscripted moment came long before the major television networks begin airing the night's proceedings. Only cable networks (which viewers have to pay for) and public television (smaller audiences) began broadcasting at 7 p.m. (EST) while the free (crammed with commercials) major networks waited until 9 p.m. to join the proceedings.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)
 

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