How did God get into the Democratic platform? The answer is: a bit like a thief in the night.
For anyone tuning into MSNBC last night it was a bit confusing, this sudden talk about God and the platform and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Maddow and her team tried to sort through the facts quickly but there wasn’t a lot of time to talk about it with the time available.
You see, God wasn’t in the Democratic Platform this year. And the Republicans noticed. After all, they have God in their platform twelve times, which is probably nowhere near enough, when you stop to think about it (by way of contrast, the U.S. Constitution managed to mention God 0 times).
You can imagine how well God’s absence went over. As noted on the faith blog at the Washington Post, it was “an omission Republicans have seized upon as a failure of their opponents to appreciate the divine’s place in American history.”
Giving the Republican complaints a sense of weight was the fact that God had indeed appeared in the 2004 and 2008 Democratic platforms.
Of course, this “divine grace” nonsense is Bartonism talking; it is mythology, not history. Republicans have a well known aversion to actual history and for obvious reasons embrace the made-up stuff instead.
Paul Ryan the liar whined to Fox & Friends, “I guess I would just put the onus and the burden on them to explain why they did all this, these purges of God.”
It’s not like Ryan has to explain his endless lies. So he ignored all those and complained to Fox News instead that “(I)t undermines our nation’s support for our ally, Israel.”
Mitt Romney made the Democrats out to be extremists as a result of the God-absence, telling Fox News: “(That) this party purposely removed God from their platform suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people,” Romney said. “I see it as being as out of touch and detached.”
Glenn Beck’s The Blaze ramped up the drama by calling it a “shocking revelation” that God had been stripped from the platform. You can’t throw the big sky god under the bus! You can put words in his mouth but you can’t take him out altogether!
You’d think the U.S. Constitution would be precedent enough for secular politics.
Of course, it wasn’t like religion was absent from the Democratic platform in the form of ‘faith’ (mentioned 11 times), ‘religion’ (mentioned nine times), ‘church’ (mentioned twice), and clergy (mentioned once). The platform said that,
“Faith has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout history, we know that our nation, our communities, and our lives are made vastly strongly and richer by faith and the countless acts of justice and mercy it inspires”
National press secretary for the Democratic National Committee Melanie N. Rousell said that the issue was a “faux contrversy” which sort of goes right along with the faux facts from Fox News.
The secularists among us can argue that the paragraph above is largely inaccurate in its portrayal of faith as a force for progress but the point is that the Republican attacks were baseless.
Robert Gibbs was put on the spot by CNN last night, and Gibbs like Rousell pointed out the presence of ‘faith’ and ‘religion’. He also, unfortunately, referred to ‘God-fearing Democrats’ when most of us would say fear of God is one of religion’s biggest drawbacks. Look where fear of God has brought the Republican platform. We could do without fear of the divine.
The upshot of all this was that Wednesday night, at the 11th hour, the Democrats put God back into their platform, along with affirmation that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Besides losing Christian voters, the DNC was worried about driving Jews (a pro-Obama demographic in 2008) into Romney’s hands.
It was former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, chair of the platform committee who proposed the change, which required a two-thirds voice vote by the delegates:
“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.”
This is in line with the 2008 platform with regards to the status of Jerusalem.
The word chaos has been used to describe what ensued following Strickland’s proposal. And yes, it was embarrassing to Democrats, who the day before had presented a united front. To make matters worse, it was apparently President Obama who was the driving force behind the changes and the changes met with loud opposition from Democrats, as the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, found out when he went to the podium.
HuffPo describes what happened next:
Villaraigosa, in what quickly became an awkward moment, asked for the voice vote three times in all. After the second time, he paused for several seconds and looked behind him for guidance from a convention staffer — possibly a parliamentarian — before turning back and asking for a third vote.
Even though the no’s were again as loud if not louder than the aye’s on the third vote, Villaraigosa said he had determined that two thirds of those present had voted in favor. Boos filled the arena in response.
And the Right Wing pundisphere went wild. World Net Daily predictably charged that Democrats Boo Idea of Mentioning God. Hate jock Michael Savage said, “This is a big moment. America is disgusted with this party of atheists and America haters.”
Fox News went with the headline, Convention floor erupts as Dems restore references to God, Jerusalem in platform. Breitbart went with a melodramatic Resurrection: DNC Overules Delegates, Rams God and Jerusalem Back Into Platform.
Breitbart, in keeping with its pseudo-journalistic approach to events went straight Republican talking points in is analysis of the changes:
Sources also report that the language was changed “to reflect the president’s personal view.” This is bull. President Obama has never recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and neither has his spokesperson or State Department. He has never taken a public position against the so-called “right of return,” which would destroy Israel as a Jewish state. And he has publicly stated that Israel should use the 1949 armistice lines as the baseline of any future negotiations. This was obviously a political move designed to prevent disillusioned Jewish voters from leaving the Democratic voters in droves. If Jews are smart — and if they watch this tape — they’ll realize that the base of the Democratic Party simply does not support Israel, even if the DNC quashes their votes.
This is a Republican meme, that Obama is hostile to Israel, when in fact Obama has been a very good friend to Israel. It is unfortunate that the Democratic organizers allowed this unscripted moment to occur at all; it is even worse that when it did come up they so handily bungled it. They couldn’t have handled it worse if they were secret Republicans. It was a shambles and a stumble that redquired a re-gatheriung of momentum. Fortunately for Democrats, we had the right guy in the wings: Bill Clinton, to put things to right. And he did just that, in spades.
But the larger question cannot be brushed under the table: does God belong in a party platform? Religion and politics are not identical. One is very private (as Jesus himself insisted) and the other is necessarily very public. One is of necessity something that must be discussed in a public venue so that we can collectively decide on our future course. The other is something that according to the Constitution, should not inform our laws.
Many will say that the Democrats have once more caved into the Religious Right, and there is some justification to those complaints. Democrats have a long history of catering to the Evangelical vote, of stressing their own religiosity. Those of us who are Democrats but are not Christians are left in the lurch, feeling as though the rug has been yanked out from under us. The Democrats tossed away a perfect opportunity to push for secular government. It is focusing on symptoms of theocracy, such as the attack on women’s reproductive rights, without attacking the disease itself.
God belongs in the Bible. he belongs in churches and in the homes of believers. He does not belong in the U.S. Constitution (and our Founding Fathers, at least, if not our current crop of leaders, had the sense to leave him out), and he does not belong in a major party platform. There is no denying that many of us would have said that this year’s platform reflected progress. Instead, caving to pressure, Democrats have taken a big step backward.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.