In a historic and unprecedented move, the U.S. Democratic Party asked the delegates at its 2012 national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina to use democratic procedures to approve a platform amendment. At the last minute, however, they avoided the whim of popular will by creatively interpreting an evenly divided voice vote as a two-thirds majority approval.
At stake were two issues combined in one amendment: the inclusion of a reference to God in the plank on religion and a declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.[i] As usual, these changes were introduced by the Republican Party, which has assumed a role of leadership in the Democratic Party in recent years.
I spoke with former Los Angeles mayor and presiding Democratic National Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa to get further information:
Barb Weir: Tony, how did you get into this mess?
Antonio Villaraigosa: Frankly, it was an oversight on our part. How could we have failed to mention God in the plank on religion and to endorse the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem? Would you care for some authentic Israeli hummus?
BW: No thanks. So who brought this to your attention?
AV: In this case we owe a debt of gratitude to our Republican friends. I don’t know where we would be without their help and cooperation. Obviously, we had to correct this omission, which is why we used the official amendment procedure. Would you like some genuine Israeli falafel?
BW: Thank you, Tony. I’ve already eaten. So what went wrong?
…the amendment procedure assumes that delegates are compliant and will ratify whatever we put in front of them.
AV: There were two problems, Barb. First, the amendment procedure assumes that delegates are compliant and will ratify whatever we put in front of them. That turned out not to be the case. Obviously, we need a better process for selecting and educating delegates so that they understand their role. I bet Saddam Hussein never had this problem. Let me at least offer you an Israeli kuffiya. It’s very fashionable.
BW: That’s very kind of you, Tony, but I get my kuffiyas from a different source. Given that the delegates voted contrary to expectations, weren’t you obligated to accept the vote? Everyone heard your parliamentarian say, “You’ve got to let them do what they’re going to do.”
AV: She was just being a good parliamentarian and following the rules, Barb. However, rules of order and party by-laws are like treaties and other international law. They are meant to be followed only when they provide justification to do whatever we want. Furthermore, the teleprompter clearly stated “…two-thirds having voted in the affirmative, the motion is adopted.” In cases of discrepancy between a party vote and the teleprompter, we always follow the teleprompter. And besides, the teleprompter was scripted long before the vote, which is why the vote couldn’t overrule it. I don’t suppose I can interest you in original Israeli Bedouin handicrafts.
BW: I’ve got a ton of them, Tony. The Bedouins have no other income since their land was confiscated and their homes bulldozed. So what was the other problem?
AV: Unfortunately, we placed two items in the same amendment. We thought that since neither God nor Israel is controversial it would be easy to get approval. In retrospect, it would have made more sense to vote separately on the two. You know, I happen to have some delicious Israeli camel milk. You won’t be able to get it much longer now that the camels have no place left to graze.
BW: I’ll pass. So how would that have changed the outcome?
This assumes that Israel is more popular than God, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case.
AV: That would have allowed the more popular of the two items to pass. I realize that the less popular one would still have been voted down, but I think we would have been forgiven for overriding a vote against God, as long as the Israel section passed. This assumes that Israel is more popular than God, but I’m pretty sure that’s the case. Did I show you my rare antique Israeli house key from a beautiful old Israeli house that was miraculously waiting for newly arrived Jewish immigrants to Israel in 1948?
BW: Some people have said that Israel has undue influence on U.S. foreign policy and internal U.S. politics. Do you think this had anything to do with the way this vote was handled?
AV: That’s a scurrilous accusation, Barb. The reason we rely so heavily upon Israel for our foreign policy decisions is because they know better than we do what is good for the United States. And as far as our internal politics are concerned, I can’t even count the number of elected officials that owe their success to the help and generosity of the Israel lobby. You have to see the amazing artifacts that I managed to save from the Muslim cemetery on which the Israeli government is building the new Museum of Tolerance. Do you understand why it’s so important to let Israel know that we support them?
BW: I think I do, Tony.
[i] No country on earth except Israel recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This is because the 1967 capture and annexation of East Jerusalem is considered illegal under international law. The Democratic party platform is therefore contrary to official U.S. policy.