In a reminder of last week's suppression of grassroots delegates at the Republican National Convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the chairman of the Democratic Party's convention, yesterday overrode a popular uprising against the party's platform, prompting loud booing and shouting from the convention floor.
Reason's Garrett Quinn and Emily Ekins reported on the DNC's corrupt platform vote, which was captured on video, along with Villaraigosa's blinking, unprepared response. Take a look, and tremble to reflect that one of America's great cities is in the stubby hands of this man:
At issue: a boilerplate reference to God in the platform and an equally standard assertion that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Both these references were not in a version of the platform that passed a voice vote on Tuesday, and the Obama campaign hustled to restore them after a controversy erupted over their elimination. Villaraigosa (who has perversely retained his last name, a portmanteau of his original surname and that of his long-suffering ex-wife, despite the failure of the marriage) called the new vote in an unsuccessful effort to tamp down the public relations wildfire.
It's unclear to me why control of a secular government requires shoutouts to the supreme being, who presumably won't be affected one way or the other. It's even less clear why an American political party is taking a position on the capital of a foreign country. (One election prediction you can take to the bank: No matter who wins, the actual U.S. position on the Israeli capital will not change.) The New York Post's John Podhoretz analyzes the political fallout:
You can argue that the booing came from delegates who believed their will was being thwarted, and therefore was about process and not about substance.
But their will was that the platform should not feature the word "God," and that it should no longer declare that the Democratic Party supports Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
This is a country in which 84 percent of people claim a belief in God, and where 69 percent describe themselves as supporters of Israel. It's nothing short of insane to place yourself on the wrong side of these numbers, which the Obama campaign understood.
It's even worse to have created video footage of Democratic delegates actually booing that can be used and used and used again by the Romney campaign.
The convention seemed to be shell-shocked for hours afterward, as dull speaker after dull speaker made absolutely no impression at all.
My old friend Mike McGough at the Los Angeles Times explains how Republicans were using God and Jerusalem even before yesterday's dustup:
The Jerusalem Omission (sounds like a Robert Ludlum novel) aroused the ire of the top man on the GOP ticket. "It is unfortunate," Mitt Romney huffed, "that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama's shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital." By contrast, Republicans point out, their 2012 platform says: "We support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state with secure, defensible borders; and we envision two democratic states—Israel with Jerusalem as its capital and Palestine—living in peace and security."
We have already done a few urinalyses of the issues involved when the GOP last week made sacrifices of Ron Paul supporters within the party. Presumably there are people for whom the details of that fight are as opaque and pointless as God and Jerusalem are to me.
But if you look past the specifics of what the two parties and their zealots are saying and spend some time with their emotional torment (which is probably the best way to think about politics in a two-party context), I think you'll find a more hopeful story.
Both the Red and Blue factions of the duopoly have done everything in their power to remove all chance and free speech from their conventions. Maybe it's nostalgia for the days of competitive politics that has inspired so many theater fans this year to buy tickets to The Best Man, the late Gore Vidal's play positing a national convention in which the presidential ticket has not yet been decided.
But the parties can't even force their most shameless vassals – people who have nothing better to do on a work week than wear a funny hat and beg politicians for crumbs of their time – to shut up and do what they're told. The Republicans and Democrats are implacable enemies of democracy and free expression, and the story is out there for everybody to see. Both the RNC and DNC vote suppressions were discussed in the establishment media.