According to the breathless reviews of MSNBC correspondents and the like, the Democratic National Convention was a smashing success. With celebrity cameos, notable speeches by Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, and Joe Biden, and a grand finale oration chock-full of the "hope and change" rhetoric that won Obama the White House in 2008, it was by all accounts a great week for Democrats.
If you tuned in into your favorite cable news outlet on Wednesday afternoon however, you witnessed a moment that the President and his surrogates would prefer you forget. In an attempt to defuse growing criticism over the removal of "God and Jerusalem" from the Democratic platform, a motion was made to reintroduce these elements and a voice vote was called to authorize the change. A 2/3 majority was required for the amendment to take effect. After calling for the vote three separate times and discerning scarcely any difference between the number of "ayes" and "nos", Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa finally declared that a 2/3 majority had voted in favor the amendment. The arbitrary ruling provoked a chorus of "boos" throughout the Time Warner arena.
Despite attempts to dismiss this procedural phony baloney as a mere blip on the screen, its significance cannot be overlooked. While a party's platform hardly determines how policy is crafted, it does stand as a symbol of the principles and goals that guide it. An acknowledgment of God, no matter how brief or in what context, communicates a posture of humility and gratitude to a higher power for the blessings of liberty and opportunity that America enjoys. And mention of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel sends a message to the rest of the world that America's commitment to the security and sovereignty of the Jewish state is unwavering.
Prominent Democrats have tried to assure the voting public that the omission of these elements and the vote to reinsert them were no big deal, but this begs the question: Who decided that these two little words needed to be removed when they had been part of the Democrats' platform for years, and why was the platform amended to reinsert them if their removal was inconsequential?
For those Americans skeptical of the Democratic Party's commitment to God or Israel – or both – neither the omissions nor the 11th hour, Obama-mandated reinsertion of these words came as a surprise. Staunch supporters of same-sex marriage and abortion on demand, the DNC worships at the altar of moral relativism and sexual liberation. The God of the Bible... well, you decide. As for Israel, America's relationship with the Jewish state is more uncertain now than at any time in recent history. While the President has not explicitly cast America's support of Israel into question, his administration's actions in his first term have caused many to doubt the White House's commitment to this critical diplomatic relationship. Many view the President's fawning outreach to the Muslim world as a gesture made at the expense of the America-Israel alliance. Add in a few highly publicized criticisms of Israeli policy and it's not hard to understand why Barack Obama garners less than 10% approval among Israeli Jews.
The DNC can whitewash the truth all it wants, but its little platform stunt at the convention betrays a fundamental lack of integrity and a party whose ideology is at odds with its politics. Belief in God and support for Israel is smart politics – the President's supporters in the Black and Hispanic communities tend to be churchgoers, and everyone knows you can't win Florida without the Jewish vote – but these political positions are increasingly out of step with the radical ideology that guides the party's base.
Thus far, the President has been able to straddle the line between the constituencies that make up his party. If the polls at this point are any indication it is unlikely that a dubious record on the issue of faith will dissuade minority voters from pulling the lever for Democrats in November, but as tensions in the Middle East continue to mount this may not be the case for Jewish voters. The DNC can only hope that nothing happens between now and November that will compel the President to stake out a clear position one way or the other. If it does, the architect of Hope and Change might end up a one-termer.