Democrats put God, Jerusalem back in platform over objections
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a rare moment of actual convention drama, Democratic officials reinserted language back into their official platform Wednesday evening that invokes God and affirms the role of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, trying to defuse Republican attacks over the party’s stances.
But the maneuver may have backfired, infuriating delegates who objected to the changes.
The new amendments were introduced by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and put to a vote by convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, who was forced to call for three voice votes in an effort to pass the changes.
“I, uh, I guess I’ll do that one more time,” Villaraigosa said after a second vote of delegates in the Time Warner Cable Arena resulted equally loud “ayes” and “nos.”
“You’ve got to rule, and then you’ve got to let them do what they’re gonna do,” a woman standing to his left could be heard saying in a feed carried by C-SPAN.
After a third attempt, Villaraigosa declared that the amendments had passed.
“In the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative,” he said, drawing large boos and shouts of objections.
The action kicked off the second night of the Democratic National Convention and came as Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan have seized on the platform omissions.
“I think their having removed purposefully God from their platform suggests a party which is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of American people,” Romney told Fox News on Wednesday. “I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize.”
Four years ago, the Democrats included the word God in their official platform, writing, “We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”
That line was originally omitted from the 2012 document and reinserted Wednesday night.
“As an ordained United Methodist minister, 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,” Strickland said in introducing the amendments. “In addition, President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and our party’s platform should as well.”
The passage added regarding Jerusalem, which had been in the 2008 document, said that the city “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.”
The topic of Jerusalem is a flash point in Israeli-Palestinian relations: While the city is the country’s legal capital, it is also where Palestinians want to locate the capital of an independent state. The matter is an issue to be resolved in final negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Because of the controversy, the United States has maintained its embassy in Tel Aviv, despite a 1995 law passed by Congress that called for it to be moved to Jerusalem. Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have blocked its implementation, calling the law an infringement on the executive branch’s authority.
Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the changes to the platform were made Wednesday “to maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the President and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008.”
“It has been the policy of both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be negotiated directly between the two parties, as part of discussions to achieve a two-state solution that secures the Jewish state and homeland,” she said in a statement. “Our Party platform already expresses strong support for the peace process and makes clear the steps that any Palestinian partner must take to be a part of such a process -- recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to existing agreements.”
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