Obama: Why was ‘God’ taken out of platform in the first place?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might have heard two-thirds of delegates in the Time Warner Cable Arena approve changes to the Democratic Party platform early in the proceedings Wednesday night. But some delegates who were on the floor weren’t so sure he got the count right.

“I think it failed,” said Don Kershner, a delegate from Boise who said it sounded to him — sitting in the opposite end of the arena from the speaker’s platform — that at least 50% of delegates opposed the changes. Kershner was one of the only delegates from Idaho in the arena when the changes were made — itself a problem, he said. But he said he thought the party should have left well enough alone.

“They shouldn’t have messed with it,” said Kershner, wearing a white cowboy hat supporting the Boise State Broncos. “It’s clearly a dividing subject. We don’t want to drive a wedge into the party.”

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The drama occurred in the first moments of the convention proceedings Wednesday night, when Democratic officials reinserted language back into the official platform invoking God and affirming the role of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.


Both passages had been in the 2008 version of the Democratic platform, but were removed in the drafting of this year’s edition.

President Obama personally had a hand in getting the language reinstated.

A Democratic official says the president was unhappy about the platform changes when he heard about them.

He told his staff to convey his opposition right away, which set the wheels in motion to reinstate.

On the “God” part, the official said, his response to hearing it was, “Why was it changed in the first place?”

But putting the passages back in the platform — a move Democratic officials appeared to think would go smoothly — caused loud objections in the convention hall.

Terri Holland was one of the people who voted against the amendments introduced Wednesday night. The New Mexico delegate from Albuquerque said she thought that Democrats had made the changes “to kow-tow to the religious right,” something the party should never do.

“I don’t think it has a business in anybody’s platform,” she said, about the part of the amendment that referred to giving “everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”

Holland agreed that the first two votes Villaraigosa took did not get two-thirds approval. By the third time around, though, she said that her fellow “no” voters had given up the fight.

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She and fellow delegate Richard Cooley said the proceedings were haphazard, and that the platform should have taken a paper ballot vote. Neither were even aware the changes would be made until Villaraigosa got up on the podium and started speaking.

“We’re Democrats, we love that stuff,” Holland said, about paper ballots.

Cooley added that Democrats had learned the importance of proper vote-taking in the Bush-Gore election in 2000. They shouldn’t take any vote for granted, he said, especially on such a divisive issue.

“We all have our own God,” he said.

Still, some delegates, including Charu Khopkar, a California delegate from Long Beach, said they thought Villaraigosa got the count right. Khopkar said he admired Villaraigosa for taking the time to ask three times for a vote, even if it’s not an issue that he cares deeply about one way or another.

“Myself, I am not a believer,” he said. “But I think it’s a perfectly appropriate part of the platform.”

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Twitter: @AlanaSemuels