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. Ralph Adamo 1, September 8, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Don’t worry, Jonathan Turley and other Leftists, you will get your wish soon for an anti-Israel, anti-civilization, Pro-IslamoNazi fully Leftist Democratic Party. The people in the Democratic Party that wanted the Pro-civilization plank put in only did so for appearances. But soon, the appearances will be dropped, and then all of you Leftists can celebrate the end of any pretense of being pro-Israel, anti-civilization, anti-liberty, and anti-human rights. You will then be able to indulge in your Leftist perversions without any sense of shame. You will then be able to join hands with your fellow Nazis on as well as IslamoNazis that you hold near and dear.
    This is as stupid as it gets.

  2. TonyC..

    Will give your words more consideration later. Bedtime for me, 1200 AM.

    I find new surprising evidence everyday, by chance mostly.
    The latest was a jewish lady who had family members who lived in Palestine, as it was called in the ’30s.
    She said quite emphatically that there was only peace which reigned then there. Trouble came with the Zionist according to her. She is anti-Zionist, as apparently many USA and Canada Jews are. And they don’t apologize for it.
    Not judging, just offering for what it is worth. Can give you the site later. Too tired now.

    Will get back to you later. Don’t want to deal with your words hastily.

  3. @Idealist: Without bigotry, and as an atheist that thinks Jews, Christians and Islamists are all equally deluded, I see the plight of Palestinians as largely self-wrought.

    I think, when one country instigates a war against another, that country risks everything it has; its land, its people, its treasures. The history of the region is complex, but essentially it was lost, in WW-I, by the Ottoman empire which was allied with Germany.

    So, at least in terms of any rights to land or citizenship, tough cookie for the Palestinians, they picked a fight and lost very badly. The land belonged to Britain, to do with as it pleased, and after WW-II they chose to create Israel. The expansions of Israel have also been due to neighbors picking fights and losing.

    There are serious human rights issues going on the Palestinian territories, IMO war crimes perpetrated by Israel which I find despicable.

    But with equal dismissal of any religious argument or reverence for any particular acreage by any side, I say countries that attempt conquest run the risk of being conquered.

  4. ValerieKeefe,

    If we take the bigotry out of the Palestine vs Israel question there are logical arguments which must be addressed.

    If party C makes decisions effecting parties A and B on the basis of the rights of a protectorate holder, how compelling are those decisions?

    If Party B takes over Party C’s territory and refuses to obey a UN mandate to retire, but insteads impedes, seizes, destroys, kills in the name of revenge, etc. then how do we judge this?

    You get my drift, of course.

    Might makes right, that’s just it. The Americn theme song as well. But I am afraid that the semitic cousins via Ishmael would sing the same theme.

    Does the UN have any value? Is John Bolton right? Is he Romney’s ambassador to Israel?

  5. @Adamo: Thank you for the good wishes. To my fellow leftists: One surrender does not a victory make; keep working to indulge our leftist perversions.

  6. Ralph Adamo,

    Always like when bats fly by. We used to talk to them via our voice transcriber—-you know the thingy which moves our voices up to their hearing range.

    Unfortunately mine is broken now so can’t talk to you now.

    Happy trolling.

    PS Your squeaking is funny. Reminds me of der Hitler.

  7. Don’t worry, Jonathan Turley and other Leftists, you will get your wish soon for an anti-Israel, anti-civilization, Pro-IslamoNazi fully Leftist Democratic Party. The people in the Democratic Party that wanted the Pro-civilization plank put in only did so for appearances. But soon, the appearances will be dropped, and then all of you Leftists can celebrate the end of any pretense of being pro-Israel, anti-civilization, anti-liberty, and anti-human rights. You will then be able to indulge in your Leftist perversions without any sense of shame. You will then be able to join hands with your fellow Nazis on as well as IslamoNazis that you hold near and dear.

    1. Ironic. I was weighing in recently on another bad-faith attempt of the right to conflate opposition to the occupation of Palestine with being pro-Islamist… If it was 1920, I would not be a Papist or a Fascist for wanting a cessation to the occupation of Ireland. And if the Brits treated non-state-actors the way the Likud party does, there’d be well-armed troops wearing Union Jacks in Dublin today.

  8. id707,

    gotta run out for errands and then dinner … will listen to the fiddle piece later this evening.

  9. Blouise,

    I once dared a musical response to you and got silence.
    You knew a noncompusmentis musically when I said BOO.

    So, I claim all sorts of supernatural musical powers, but am a musilliterate. Like that word, My gift.

    Minor is like porno, I knows it when I hear it. But keys???

    Isn’t there a wonderful violin concerto by Mendellsohn, Yenudi played it when he was 17 and was never better. It is availabel on Naxos Classic:

  10. BettyKath,

    Thanks for the ZEN tip! hee hee. Zinn…
    I think I’ll be glad to start with him/that.

    “707, (sounds like your a cohort of Bond)

    Who? James Bond? And the only cohort I understand are medical in research studies. Will check the dictionary.

  11. “I think that if and when the Parties collapse, it will be a non-event; like when you hear a band has broken up and your reaction is, “Oh, were they still playing?”” (Tony C.)


  12. Tony C.,

    The two points I was trying to make is that there is a lawful, and relatively easy way to reduce the power of political parties, if not eliminate them altogether as presently constructed, on a state by state basis AND … it is already happening indicating there is no real need to get it rolling … simply jump on board. It is a grass roots movement that has no leadership and no loud speakers and its numbers have been steadily increasing over the last three decades.

    In a Presidential election year the number of registered voters increases but by May of 2012 what the numbers showed was no noticeable increase to registered voters for either major party but a 4% jump in Independents.

    The void is already there. That void can be dangerous. I’m going to repeat … the void is already there.

    Now why have we not heard more about this from the media? The answer is obvious … at least to me.

  13. id707,

    I chose that particular arrangement because I’m a Merlin fan. I was really going for the difference between A and E flat minor mood.

  14. 707, (sounds like your a cohort of Bond)

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

    Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States” is a good start. Anything by Zinn. otherwise known as “what-you-didn’t-learn-in-high-school”. If Zinn’s work had been taught in HS, I might have done better. I knew I wasn’t being taught the whole story and was totally turned off. Interestingly, considering I hated history in school, that’s what I read now.

    If you’re interested in third parties, Richard Winger’s “Ballot Access News”. This is a monthly newsletter, now on-line, that tracks all parties that are not Democrat or Republican, all lawsuits that affect those parties, how the parties are doing in qualifying for the ballot in each state, etc. His archive goes back just a few years but contains a treasure trove of information if this is your interest. His current issue contains a story about a Michigan decision that used false information as its precedent.

  15. @Arthur: I disagree. Political parties, like businesses, end up in the “natural” hierarchical configuration of large groups of humans, with some powerful people at the top of the pyramid directing and deciding for those beneath them. Those beneath them do get to work on some details and make some decisions, but also direct and decide for those beneath them.

    The result, by the time the bottom is reached, is all decisions are made, and the hierarchy protects itself. The bottom layers of the pyramid are involved in minimum wage type jobs, knocking on doors, calling people, posting signs, helping out by driving and moving campaign materials.

    The vast majority of the political party has zero power in the political party, they have basically surrendered their decision making capability to the top three layers of the pyramid, one or two dozen people that can fit around a large conference table.

    Joining a party means working for candidates you really did not get to vet, choose or endorse. You let somebody else do that for you. That is not always a bad thing, but the larger the organization the more money it has, the more temptations there are to abuse power, the more attractive it appears to sociopaths and con men, and the more likely it is to be corrupt and self-serving at the top.

    Even if the self-serving part is just something like, “I don’t like that candidate so we are not supporting her,” that is an individual making a decision for the collective. I now point at the DNC bullying through the “God and Jerusalem” planks on the platform despite a NO vote by the delegates. The top of the pyramid does whatever it feels like.

    Corruption is not inevitable, sometimes good fair people do get in, but the chances of corruption increase strongly as the power and money increase.

  16. Elaine,
    The voter suppression concept is the biggest non-issue of this election. When you have one side purposely preventing legal voters from being able to vote via state laws, it may not matter how much money you have to fight it.

  17. @Blouise, BettyKath: I think you are both right.

    However, I think before the Democratic or Republican party ever loses its certification in a State, the rules will be changed by bipartisan agreement. They are on the decline together, if lack of participation threatens one with decertification, the other will not be far behind.

    Which means, more and more, that the party is important for fielding ballot candidates (since the system is rigged for that) but the membership is falling. The televised strong-arming of delegates at the DNC over the “God and Jerusalem” plank of the platform, despite the fact that the 2/3 vote was clearly not achieved, may seem trivial to most people, but it is precisely the sort of thing that erodes support, particularly among young adults (like college students).

    Some of us (but particularly the idealistic) are extremely sensitive to hypocrisy, and there is no easier place to identify it than in the flouting of rules that an authoritative body has set for itself.

    Stewart and Colbert ridicule it for laughs, and get them, but what is funny is the naked hypocrisy of the Party it exposes, and long after the laughter the residue remains for some as proof that joining the Party is pointless. Even if you rise to the level of delegate to the Convention you have no real control, you will be strong-armed into whatever the elite want, they will just lie about your vote and move on.

    BK is right on the numbers, too, and I was wrong; as far as percentages of voting. I said earlier that 80% do not vote, that was a number I read on campus and it is only true for 18-24 year olds: 41.8% were registered in 2010, and 19.6% (of all 18-24) actually voted in 2010.

    I think composition rules will eventually just be rewritten to “grandfather in” the D and R parties, just like the Party Secretary (or whoever it was) just declared a clear NO vote to be a YEA vote on the God and Jerusalem plank and brooked no complaint.

    But it sets up an interesting dilemma for the future. Does anything change when the D’s and R’s each have 10% of the voters, and 80% are independent?

    What if 98% of voters are Independent? I do not think that is such an implausible scenario, there are 137M registered voters, surely 1% for each, or 1.37M, is enough dues to keep a Party alive and kicking. There are 12 States with less population than that and full blown political parties.

    I think that will be an interesting state of affairs, if we live to see it. However, perhaps once the Independents exceed 50% of the voters, Independent candidates will start to have a plausible chance at federal office and the White House, and the Parties will fall into disarray.

    It may be that in the current information age, which amplifies the hypocrisy with video and audio and super simple access and sharing, the top-down decision making of the current Party systems will just collapse, and candidates will increasingly ditch the Party and go it alone, with their own fund-raising and Internet video speeches, presentations and appeals.

    They won’t need that messaging, organizational machinery and financing. Since the price of that machinery is subjugation to the Party platform, finding a way to ditch it will buy them independence.

    I think that if and when the Parties collapse, it will be a non-event; like when you hear a band has broken up and your reaction is, “Oh, were they still playing?”

Comments are closed.