The Democratic Convention and The Illusion of Democracy

While Democracy and the Democratic Party may sound similar, the party leaders again showed yesterday that one has little to do with the other. President Obama and party leaders wanted the party’s platform changed to include a reference to both Jerusalem being the capital of Israel and God. The omissions however were not accidental and a high number of delegates opposed the change, which had to be agreed to by two-thirds of the delegates. As shown in the video below, in calling for a voice vote, the leadership was shocked when it appeared that more people voted no than yes — certainly well short of two-thirds in support of the changes. That did not matter. The leadership just declared the vote as having passed by two-thirds acclamation.

Many wanted to be neutral on the divisive issue of Jerusalem but Obama was worried about the political backlash among Jewish voters. Many others wanted a secular platform and to stand apart from faith-based politics. Obama himself has relied on faith-based politics and policies, as discussed in earlier columns. Obama objected to the removal of the word God and seemed to miss the secular purpose of the move, asking him “Why on earth would that have been taken out?” It appears that no one had the courage to answer that question by explaining to Obama that it is not necessarily that delegates do not believe in God but were standing against the use of God for political advantage. Instead, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz insisted that “the platform is being amended to maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the President and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008.”

The problem is that the platform actually reflects the views of the party members and they did not agree. The GOP had already pounced on the omissions in the platform and the Democratic leadership wanted the issues removed regardless of the opposition of the membership. Waserman Schultz dismissed the omitted language as a “technical oversight” ignoring the obviously high number of delegates supporting the omission. When combined with the rejection of the clear vote, the statement left the convention looking like a Chinese Party Congress. The “technical oversight” in this case proved to be the views of the delegates who were told that they would decide the content of the platform to reflect the views of the party base rather than the party bosses.

In fairness to the Democratic Party, the GOP has relied more heavily on faith-based politics in the past as shown most vividly by George Bush in his first successful run for the White House. The GOP also did not show much commitment to participatory politics in their treatment of Ron Paul supporters. However, many of us have criticized the use of faith in politics as not only demeaning faith but often also injecting sectarian divisions into our political system. It also undermines principles of separation of church and state when politicians run on their intent to advance religious values in government. Yet, it is how the leadership forced through the changes that was the most unnerving for those who watched yesterday.

Party leaders dispatched former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland to push through the changes. Strickland started out by noting his credential as an “ordained United Methodist minister.” Strickland announced “I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values we’ve expressed in our party’s platform. In addition, President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and our party’s platform should as well. The 2008 platform read, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

It took three voice votes and the opposition was clearly loader than the support for the changes. Yet, Strickland simply declared the measure passed despite all appearances to the contrary.

For those long unhappy with the Democratic leadership, it was a telling symbolic moment. Once again, it appeared that Democratic voters (even delegates representing the most loyal activists) are given only the appearance of participation in their party. For years, Democratic leaders lied to their members about their knowledge and even support for Bush’s torture program and surveillance policies until it was revealed that key Democrats were briefed on the programs. The party leadership then worked with Bush to scuttle any effort to investigate torture and other alleged crimes to avoid implicating key Democratic members. Likewise, while the majority of Democratic voters opposed the continuation of the wars, the Democratic party leaders blocked efforts to force a pull out under both Obama and Bush. These controversies were seen by many that the Democratic Party is primarily run to ensure the continuation of a small number of leaders in power with voters treated as ignorant minions. It was a particularly poignant moment in an uncontested convention after Democratic voters were not given any alternative to Obama.

The image of the chair just ignoring the obvious opposition from the floor of the conventional symbolized this long simmering tension. For full disclosure, I have long been a critic of both parties and have argued for changes to break the monopoly on power by the two parties. It is really not the merits of these two changes that is most bothersome. Arguments can be made on both side of such issues. It is the disregard of the views of the members and the dishonesty in how the matter was handled. The illusion of democracy was all that the leaders wanted in the vote.

Notably, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seemed to be ready to acknowledge that the delegates clearly rejected the change on the first vote. He then insisted on a second vote and it got worse. He seemed about to admit the failure of the motion and then called for a third vote which sounded even more lopsided (with not just a failure to get two-thirds but even a majority). Yet, he declared the motion passed to the boos and jeers of the delegates.

In creating the illusion of democratic voting, the delegates might have just as well bleated like sheep in protest. It did not matter. The message was clear that the delegates are just a backdrop to be used by party leaders to celebrate their reign.

Source: CNN

278 thoughts on “The Democratic Convention and The Illusion of Democracy”

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  3. idealist707 1, September 10, 2012 at 3:18 am

    Matt Johnson,

    I take your point, but oddly there were pension systems for old soldiers and others who had served the empire. Marrying locals is not uncommon either.
    They have an old soldiers home for French foreign legionnaires.

  4. Whether this is the right thread or not, it will have to do.

    I want to discuss, in snippets as needed, the article
    written by Russ Baker on his WhoWhatWhy blog

    He covers the “small things” from Syria as significant.
    My comments should not be taken as critic of this issue of the blog, nor of him in any disparaging way. I don’t feel I know enough yet to do either.

    “we ought to at least acknowledge that the crime wave and attendant terror did not just happen, nor was it caused by the Assad regime”.

    He had preceded that by pointing to our tax money (how that is used was not explained.) which caused a high crime rate situation. He cites from a NYTimes article from Aug 8 which I had already read and found worth reading again.

    At this point I take issue with what he I cite from his blog above.
    The NYTimes article made clear that this crime wave chiefly seems to be connected with “security troops” previously paid by Assad and wealthy business men. With Assad cash strapped and the businessmen fleeing, the NYTimes with a correspondent in Aleppo, ventures that the “thieves”, kidnappers, etc are “unpaid security forces” living off the land. Ie being the main source of the rise of crime rates now.

    Is the obvious departure by Baker from the NTimes articles narrative an indicaion of bias, need to drive an own theme notwithstanding facts in an article that one has acccepted as a suitable source, or is it sloppiness dut to haste or ????.

    I don’t know (yet), but use this space to make you aware of the possibilities of misinformation in recommended sites and specific articles.

  5. This was a horrible embarrassment. I have always been critical of the Republicans abusing the voice vote process. I have seen it in Wisconsin, in state government and mostly recently at the Republican Convention with Boehner regarding governance of their party. They ignore the votes and gavel down the outcome they desire. At least Mayor Villaraigosa hesitated, but then he capitulated and ignored reality. While I do not believe the Nays ever had the majority, it was close and no way two thirds. To see the Democrats abuse the voice vote roll call like the Republicans was nauseating.

    1. In response to Taser this, the fact is that the issue was not a serious one for a host of reasons. First off, it was obvious that the leadership had no idea that there would be any opposition to this rather mundane and what they thought would be uncontroversial vote. Then the fact is that the delegates are bored,and/or drunk, and looking to have some fun at the expense of the chair. Had I been a delegate, I too would have voted NO, and the look on Villagarosa’s face was worth it, and his fumbling was even better.

      Then if it had been a serious issue, the delegates could have appealed the ruling of the chair, called for a roll call, and done any number of things to get immediate redress on the unfair ruling. Then the members of the platform committee could have gone public, and raised holy hell about undoing what they had done. I was also unaware that there was any atheist and anit-Israel caucus that had forced the original language through. Had this been a real issue, ALL of those things could have and would have been done had this been a serious breach of democratic procedings. Going back to the 2008 language and the ruling, while looking bad from the point of view on the outside, it is much ado about nothing.

  6. Matt Johnson,

    I take your point, but oddly there were pension systems for old soldiers and others who had served the empire. Marrying locals is not uncommon either.

  7. After the Roman empire failed, a lot of the Roman soldiers stayed where they were. They weren’t Romans anymore.

  8. MikeS,

    A swedish lady once said to me that tales have to be repeated until the need ends.

    Thanks for this time. My open mind to Jews is not impaired by my faulty views. Who would think that the meme “America is a friend of Israel” is faulty?

    Can mention that I embraced one two days ago, so glad I was at seeing his golden star of David when he stood in front of me at the cash register in my grocery store. “You must tell me if there is a kosher deli in Stockholm”, I said.
    Sturegatan 19, he said and held up a Hebrew texted food package out of his pocket. He’d just been there.

    Jews have a lot to thank in their holding themselves to each other, but is this one root of the hate that faces them?

    It is all too complex and I understand your reticence for that reason only.


    PS Why a kosher deli? Someone in America is urging me to try liver on rye but without pickles. And half dill pickles. And a pastrami sandwich with mustard. Last one in 1959 in NYC. I might even buy some lox and a few bagels. Can’t stand the swedish bagels, and frankly did not like the ones in NYC. A jewish specialty?

    No response expected.

  9. The facts are that the Arab Nations attacked in 1948 expecting to win and lost though some face was saved by the fighting skill of the British trained Transjordon forces in Jerusalem/West Bank There really isn’t any way around that. There is no bias or walkover in stating facts.

    Now, as to whether or not the mandate as constituted at the end of WW I through the League of Nations and reaffirmed at the end of WW II through the United Nations should have been … that is an altogether different subject and one far more interesting, in my opinion, than the history of the conflict once the Brits withdrew from the area in 1948.

  10. @Idealist: Do all palestinian want to kill the israeli?

    If I live in a neighborhood of a thousand people, and I know that ten of them are intent upon killing me, that is enough for me to barricade my doors and windows while I sleep.

    No, all Palestinians do not want to kill the Israeli. Will you deny that a fair number would support their destruction? Claim to know nothing of terrorists when they in fact do know something? Vote for Hezbollah? Celebrate suicide bombings that kill Israeli children?

    My posts do not paint them with one brush, it just acknowledges the factual evidence that Israel is surrounded by people willing to resort to anything, including suicide, in order to kill Israeli citizens.

    That does not mean everybody, but it means there is a sufficient concentration that an open border policy means far more Israeli deaths than a tightly closed border policy, and I do not blame them for choosing the latter, despite the expense, hassle, and negative economic impact.

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