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”

  1. Lottakatz: “It is distressing to think that real political responsiveness requires such a high level of threat. That’s what it is, a threat to the political well-being of the people in office.”

    Exactly, and very well said. Said with precision. That’s the problem right now. To reach to the level where you can offer any credible threat to the political well-being of NOT JUST the people in office but the people who WANT to be in office NEXT TIME, you have to give up the entire rest of your life. If someone had come to me at 30 and said:

    “Here’s the thing: Either you can get married, have a kid, fight first an unending custody battle with a madman that will soak up your kid’s childhood, your money and energy, and your for-all-intents-and-purposes LIFE, for 35, 40 years,


    You can spend the rest of your life devoted to the cause of trying to make the goons in charge of government avoid turning this country into a total conscience-free international psychopathic power that will not only vest the corruption you now see and reward it with a blessing unto the seventh generation,

    which would I have chosen? Hmmmm, let me see now, will you repeat the question?

  2. The Thing Nobody Talked About at the Conventions
    By Charles P. Pierce

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There are some politicians — not many, but a very distinct few — who, when they talk to you about one specific issue, you listen politely, agree wholeheartedly, and move along to the next topic, thank you very much. For example, when John McCain tells you what’s wrong with torture, there seems to be very little point in arguing with him about it.

    (Although, it should be noted that, in 2008, while test-driving the utter obliviousness that he has ridden to this year’s Republican nomination, Willard Romney decided to argue with McCain about whether torture works. McCain looked at him as though Romney had sprouted another head.)

    The same dynamic prevails when Congressman John Lewis of Georgia talks to you about voting rights. Nobody knows more than he does about their value because nobody knows more than he does about what they’ve cost. He was beaten nearly to death in the struggle for them. John Lewis tells you something about voting rights and you say, yes, sir, and you shut the fk up.

    John Lewis gave a speech on Thursday night, in the first hour of the convention, that almost nobody saw, which is too bad, because it summed up the great unmentioned subtext of this year’s election — namely, that, between the new torrents of money that are overwhelming the system, and the rise again of voter-suppression legalisms in the various states, which are in many cases products of those same new torrents of money, the election is coming perilously close to becoming a puppet show. The Republicans didn’t mention that, because they have taken in so much of the new money, and because Republican governors and legislators in the various states are behind the new voter-suppression laws, and everybody knows that. The Democrats are caught in a bind, because they have to play in the new universe of campaign finance, too, and because they’re trying to keep up with a symphony of well-financed propaganda that seeks to make voter-suppression into a good-government initiative. John Lewis is not fooled. John Lewis has seen this before. And John Lewis told the convention what he’s seeing rising in the country out of his own past.

    Brothers and sisters, do you want to go back? Or do you want to keep America moving forward? My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union. Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax. On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar-all to keep them from casting their ballots. Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.” That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not just. And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen this before. I’ve lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.

    And that is simply the way it is, and, if you don’t like the truth there, you’re welcome to get your brains nearly beaten out of you on the Edmund Pettus Bridge so you would begin to have the most basic qualifications to argue with John Lewis about it.

    I’m sorry that not many people saw his speech, because it framed perfectly the one thing that everybody felt — but nobody talked about — during both of these rodeos over the past two weeks: The game, to borrow Elizabeth Warren’s phrase, is rigged. The president talked around it a bit in his acceptance speech. I have never talked to so many people who were so thoroughly convinced that their vote didn’t matter, that it would not be counted, or that it would be stolen, or that their very right to cast it would be so hamstrung with official bother that it would cease to be a right and simply become another inconvenience. They’re angry. They still may try. But if you’re looking for a sub-theme for why things are the way they are in the polls, that’s my stab at it. The country’s dead-level, frustrated and angry, but not necessarily motivated, and a substantial number of people think the whole thing is a waste and an equally substantial number believe that it’s not on the square. If I were running the president’s campaign, I’d shut the hell up about Simpsonp-fking-Bowles and put John Lewis on an airplane and let him tell his story in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and everywhere else this atavistic authoritarian nonsense is going down. There’s more at risk here than anyone knows.

  3. Dear folks,

    have read all the comments at Swedish man dies thread.

    Am very satisfied that some did an excellent finding info and informing. Lotta, Nate. Bettykath, etc.

    Here are my closing comments. Nobody is here to read them but for the record.

    1, September 8, 2012 at 8:05 am
    Having read through all of the comments, mea culpa.

    After the first rabid attacks, to be expected, there came a neverending wave of thoughtful inquisitive and data filled comments.

    Thanks to: Nate, Lotta, Gurl, BettyKath and many others for a good job. I can’t judge your comments, neither on america or sweden as i have not informed myself.

    the judgement/compensation system was news to me, that it existed yes, but no more was known. We still have the question of disbarment and prosecution for criminal acts to define in the discussion.

    Just a reminder, there are always Jour (backup) within minutes away, and in emergencies you push a button and help arrives in seconds, competent help. The decisions and actual happenings are not clear. So no more can I say on the current case.

    Thanks to all for a discussion which did not attack each others throats. Is that due to something special about those who participated? Think about it. Yeah, I know, I was not nere. But it was some others I was considering.

  4. Dear Folks,

    I hope you read this. It concerns the two day old Swedish medicine thread.

    I was totally caught up with other things that day and did not even open the emai notice on the thread.

    Anyhow here is a reply/comment of sorts. Haven’t had the patience to read through all your comments.

    Your motives should be questioned first. And your skillfulness in reading as a lawyer is another questionable aspect. Nate so far is doing well there.

    I would be having a great deml of overrating my influence here to assume my praise of the Swedish health system or my many praises of Sweden could incite a lust to attack.
    For uninformed attacks in this case are many and the volume of them is high in re the subjects importance compared to the tort impaired USA system.
    If it is me who is a factor, I don’t mind. Critique can always be met. And when you spout you must be prepared to defend it.

    So far that I have read only Nate seems to have engaged a competent mind in examining the data and a knowledge re common operating practice.

    Now if you want Swedish horror tales I have very many ones, none of which have beer refuted when told to other doctors…..of course thay are hindered in concurring but refutation is not formally hindered.

    But those are long tales and a waste of your time.
    They have motivated me to minutely follow what is done when I am not under narcosis, and inform myself along the way. But most don’t bother doing that.

    Just now I am following my case of Lyme disease. Is 10 days antibiotics enough as is practiced here? The Germans’ practice is 6 weeks. Can blood tests offer proof of non-infection, ie complete eradication??

    That there are mistakes and big ones too is not denied by anyone here. The media has it constantly as a subject. Not because there are so many, but because we want to always remind them, Don’t phuck up. But when did you see such a case reach national media with a great public reaction. Does not this speak for the level of care we feel we reasonably can expect?

    I am making assumptions as to the media reaction as I have not even read the blog, having jumped to the comments.

    I still feel secure when I am awake. And what they do to correct the minor problems is constantly discussed as being too slow to “debar” incompdetent persons. This is a major one however.

    If interested I can try to be of help. will read the blog. I hopped down to the comments direct when I saw the headline in the email.

    In the meanwhile, consider whether some of this outrage expressed by yourselves or in the media is motivated by envy or outrage that people keep saying that America is the only industrial modern nation without universal single-payer health care. A little teensy-weensy bit?

  5. Blouise,

    Have you followed the Orff music while reading the lyrics?
    New vistas are revealed.

    Much more intriguing ones than the well-known ones embodied in the Merlin expression.

    Thanks for bringing this piece up. Have listened to many different versions by different groups. Some very stodgy. Amazing differences.

  6. There are some very smart minds here, and some highly trained/educated ones too.

    So many seem to only engage them in the service of smartly and skillfully supported previously adopted opinions.

    They manipulate the facts on issue to defend their dearly held positions, which they desparately clasp as though they embodied themselves, their very existence.

    Others can at times free themselves and take a step back.

    I commend the latter. Will not embarass with names.

  7. My Gracious, the things one misses by sleeping when you folks in the USA are active and we in Europe must rest.
    This is a long post, enthralling I hope, otherwise you will be bored. Very little bang-bang and no sex. But guaramteed drama. Reviews are welcome and cat-calls

    Just to take issue with gbk, as he appeared recently out of a “from the beginning” disdain for me and attacked me viciously and solely personally only a few days ago, then I am glad when he gives me an issue to comment.

    And to the issue.

    I liked MikeS comment that it was a complement (sic) that gbk had received from Blouise. Yes, that is also true in the mispelled form, (freudian slip?). gbk does need a complement.
    Or at least an addition to his partial truth.

    gbk told only a fraction of the truth, not the whole truth, with regard to the effects and purpose of our duo-party system.

    The major part missing is that the government, while not officially an organ of the D/R duopoly, it is an expression of their wishes, one of which is to retain their duopolitical advantages through legislation which gives them a strangle hold on the electoral system, whether it be at state or federal level.

    The parties’ duopoly effectively control the candidates, the campaign promises, and their reepective platforms, the media drive, the monies available… effect all of the electoral space.

    I wiil not ask the naive question if this is FAIR.
    No, let me ask if this results represents potentially the results that could be obtained with an active participation of those ELIGIBLE to REGISTER to vote?

    Now whether these elegibles are defined as 50% or 80%, those who participate are obviously far from representing the eligibles. The system has suffocated potential participation. And I put 100% of the responsibility on the duopolists for this situation.

    The duties to the populace subsumed by federal cum state effectivization are belly issues. Will you starve, will you be sick and without care, will you have your house seized due to Wall Street and bank barracuda operations, are your kids going to dilapidated schools with bad testbooks full of religion instead of science…….

    These are issues which should electrify an electorate.
    On their feet, thinking and expressing THEIR priorities. IRAQ or good schools. Afghanistan or one-payer healh care for ALL. People employed surveilling the populace or a Wall Street regulating agency worth a name. Etc.

    How are these non-registered persons and the non-voters hindered???
    I think you are more intelligent than I and better-informed than I, so all can answer those questions.

    So, to reiterate, I think the people are CORRECT in their placing equivalency between the R and D parties and the GOVERNMENT. And given that, considering the impossibility to influence/effect the parties in the face of corporate influence, and the impossibility of effecting an independent force, then what is left to choose?

    THEY DROP OUT. We have become a nation with 80 percent dropouts in terms of political participation.
    Is that the best we can do?

    Is that what paralyzed the electorate in the Vietnam war? Leaving the streets as the only democratic venue available to those wiliing to take that route, ie the young and indeed daring. Is it better today than ’68??? With all the additional disabling legislation which has been added, the obvious answer is NO.

    Has it always been so? BettyKath dealt with that. Only the rich, only white men who had property… slowly and very grudgingly expanded…. this hope for universal suffrage. But the control of the process was never lost by the parties.

    So parties, I contend, as has already been said, are stalemating democracy. And keeping us in chains with their current control.

    BTW, in their mottos the Canadians praisw Peace, order and good government.
    We praise Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
    I think we should adopt theirs. It sounds naive in our naive ears, deafened by the glitter pumped in continuously of “do your thing—it’s the American way”.
    What is not said, but exists in fact is the unsaid message: “We’ll take care of the rest. Get phucked.”

    I will again thank gbk for the issue to discuss, although I don’t think he expected the responses from Blouse and others, but he could take small hints and encouragements delivered by her and others, and reply in a similar elite tone, finishing off with his proof of superiority by noting his musical tasks of the moment.
    Beautifully done. Something to respect? No more than I respect the maneuvers of the R/D duopoly vv the electoral process

    And thanks to the others who have expounded the message and from whom I have learned and have been inspired.

    A simple comparison, you are known from birth or immigration in Sweden. And you are franchised at attained voting age. No one asks you which party you support or of which you are a registered member. This and a multi-party system keeps the pols contantly in contact with their electors, the people. New parties have reached parliamentary seats of weighmaster importance in the last 20 years. So new priorities and goals supported by the electorate can be effected. Platforms are up for vote EVERY YEAR. Corporate influence, even remotely, is a kiss of death. Try all this on for size.

    Sorry for the length, but as you know, much more is left to say on this issue. And decades of work.

    PS BettyKath. Thanks for the history lesson. Got a good book on such to recommend re the American saga?

  8. Blouise and Mike Spindell,

    I obviously need to read more fiction!

    Except that I feel my life is fiction enough, so I tend to ignore other’s interpretations of the collapsed wave function because it’s such a personal thing and it takes so much effort just to justify mine — but it seems this perspective is to my detriment in this particular example.

    Gotta finish writing a twelve bar four-part refrain and end up in the right key, wish me luck as it will truly be fiction to call the effort finished.

    Thank you Blouise for the compliment, and thank you Mike for the clue.

  9. I’m also waiting on Sandford’s next that Phuckin’ Flowers due shortly. That would be Virgil Flowers series

  10. bettykath, (my internet connection keeps going down, very frustrating when trying to post)

    I know the party system quite well and I believe it served its purpose and is now on the way out as presently constructed.

    As of May 2012 those registered as Independents is up to 44% … different states show different rates of increase, for instance, I believe Mass. is up to 52% … but Independents as percentages are rising everywhere. Political Science people attribute this to those who are dissatisfied with the party system and leaving it but mainly to young voters who have totally eschewed the parties and view themselves as Independents desiring no party affiliation of any kind. It has moved beyond the definition of a trend into actual fact.

    It really is happening and the mistake people make in looking at the fact is in trying to come up with another party to replace with. People don’t want parties of any kind. And all states have laws/rules regarding what constitutes a party at election time based on percentages as I mentioned above. (Check your state for the laws)

    If enough people fail to register for a party or do not vote for a party’s candidate … the party ceases to exist and becomes what many states term a “political designation”.

    The more people come to understand this, the sooner change can be accomplished. It is already well on its way.

    1. People don’t want parties of any kind. And all states have laws/rules regarding what constitutes a party at election time based on percentages as I mentioned above. (Check your state for the laws)

      I have to disagree that political parties are the problem. The real problem is that not enough people take part in them. What a lack of political parties would do is to ensure that the wealthy and those who are best known from publicity get power and stay there. There is no way for ordinary people to learn how to function in a democratic system. In places like Vermont, they have town meetings which are governing bodies and regular places for people to learn and take part in politics. In massive urban areas, this is not possible, and there is no venue for people to learn organization skills and parlimentary skills except in local party meetings, unions, and SOME churches. Most of the Protestant fundamentalist churches in our area are simply cults with a maximum leader. The Catholic Church is not a democratic organization either,

      So the solution is not less political parties, but an invigorated participation in democratic bodies on a local level. You don’t learn democracy by sitting back and going to the polls every four years.

  11. Reacher huh? I have most of the Reacher books in paperback laying around here (I buy library seconds for half a buck if they sound interesting) but haven’t read any of them. Never got around to it. It seems I have been missing a good series. I’ll work harder on catching up.

  12. Bettykath: “Blouise,
    ” If enough people leave the party … the party ceases to exist …

    It also appears that if you attract a majority of new people to your party that are sufficiently different then your party goes out of existence. The new conservatives have spent decades stitching together a coalition of people under the Republican banner that are not like the Republicans that I recall. It seems to me that the Republican party is gone and this new party needs a new name.

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