Friday, 7 September 2012

Ah. Democrats.

First, I heard that the Democrats had presented a platform in which god was not mentioned. I thought this to be a good thing, as anyone reading this might expect; I think I have made my views on church/state separation abundantly clear by now.

Shortly thereafter, I heard that the platform had, in this particular aspect, been rescinded by a 2/3 vote. This came as no great surprise to me, and I accepted it as part of the status quo of a society that is still changing, still evolving. No-one doubts that a large part of American society is still moderately, if not deeply, religious, and pandering to the majority will perhaps always be a part of politics. In particular, I thought, this may be a response to the Republican attacks on the lack of god in the platform; many Democrats still hold beliefs in a higher power, and would wish such a thing included. I assumed it to be a bit of political maneuvering, something that any of us who pays attention to the sphere of politics has necessarily been forced to come to grips with, no matter one's individual political ideas.

This viewpoint has changed.

It will surprise nobody to learn that I am an avid consumer of the Daily Show, and the Colbert Report. Indeed, as a Canadian, I rely on these two shows, the CBC, and a few others for my information on American politics. I have watched the keynote speeches of the DNC in their entirety online, but other than that I get my information from a select choice of reliable sources.

As such, the Daily Show was the first I saw of what actually happened at the DNC with regards to the supposed 2/3 vote regarding the inclusion of god in the platform. And having watched the actual event, I have to say that I'm deeply disappointed in my favoured American party on this issue.

The speaker who introduced the proposed amendment to the platform - I cannot recall his name - did so sincerely and legitimately. He stated, quite clearly, that the amendment was to include the mention of god - also the statement that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel - in the Democratic platform. He stated the a vote of 2/3 majority of delegates would be required to effect the change.

So far, so good; I personally think the whole exercise is ridiculous, but the entire point of democracy is that my individual point of view is only one of many, and all must be taken into account. Acquiring a clear majority to amend the platform seems a worthy place to set the bar.

So the voice vote was called. And it seemed to me, on listening, to be approximately 50-50.

A voice vote which is approximately 50-50, it seems clear, has not achieved a 2/3 majority. Having failed to do so, the amendment fails, yes?

Now, a voice vote can be ambiguous, particularly with such a large group in such a large setting. Calling a vote of delegates in such a setting, without any cleat way to maintain accuracy, seems a bit silly to me, but it was done. At this point, I think a few options present themselves as the way to move forward:
1: Accept that a 50-50 split in the voice vote is insufficient to claim a 2/3 majority, or;
2: Call for a more accurate method for counting votes.

Neither of these two seemingly reasonable options were the one chosen by the supposedly honourable mayor who called the vote in the first place. Having not received the clear majority he expected, and unwilling to concede that the matter was lost, he simply and arbitrarily decided to call the vote again.

A second time, the voice vote was ambiguous, a somewhat 50-50 split, well short of the 66-33 split needed, as per his own statement, to amend the platform. Time to declare failure and concede that the platform should not be amended? No, silly reader. Time to call the vote yet one more time.

At which point the entire thing becomes incredible, in the sense that it loses all credibility. For, having called the redundant voice vote a third consecutive time, he received the same response; a more-or-less 50-50 split between yea and nay. It becomes yet clearer and clearer that the hoped-for 2/3 majority will not appear; that, at best, 50% of the delegates support the amendment, well short of the stated requirement.

The only thing to do, then, is to unilaterally declare that the majority has been reached and the amendment passed. This actually happened.

I am not disappointed in the Democrats for including a religious viewpoint in their platform. This is par for the course, and though change is coming about, a truly secular platform is well into the future yet. No, my disappointment comes from the party's own internal dishonesty. From its own supposed commitment to honouring the truth, and its failure to do so in this case, when the rules are so clearly spelled out, and the failure to meet them so blatant. It comes from their willingness to pander, in this instance, in the face of the voices of their own delegates, by the conventions they themselves have set.

Were I American, I would no doubt still vote for the Democratic party. But instances like this serve only to shake my assurance that this is the party of honesty, of truth. That they cannot even abide by their own rules in the face of pressure is a strike against them. The Republicans are worse, far worse.

But we can be better.

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