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Not often is a political fix so public.
The Democratic committee that develops the party’s campaign platform recently failed to include the apparently obligatory “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” pronouncement.
This statement, which is largely untrue and has a number of problems, had been part of previous platforms. Its omission caused an immense brouhaha, and party bigwigs decided that the ongoing Democratic National Convention needed to reinsert it.
The means was to be an amendment introduced on the convention floor, which required a two-thirds affirmative vote by delegates.
The bizarre sequence of events that followed was and remains in public view, thanks to C-span and YouTube videos (e.g. http://youtu.be/bjdj6K3yoR8 ). These clips are hilarious to view – if one likes tragicomedy.
The videos begin with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the handpicked chairman of the convention, standing at the podium.
Villaraigosa calls on the Chair of the Platform Drafting Committee, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland. Strickland moves that the rules be suspended to permit an amendment to the platform.
This passes quickly, as many people clearly have no idea what’s going on. Strickland then introduces the required amendment, and it is immediately seconded.
Villaraigosa then says, in the normal Roberts Rules of Order rite: “Is there any further discussion. Hearing none, the matter requires a two-thirds vote in the affirmative. All those delegates in favor say “aye.”
There is a large “aye” vote.
He then says, “All those delegates opposed say no.”
There is a “no” vote that is at least as loud, perhaps a touch louder.
Villaraigosa then says, “In the opinion of the…” He suddenly stops, then says, “Let me do that again.”
Things are going wrong and Villaraigosa has no idea what to do. The motion has just been defeated, since it requires a two-thirds vote and it has clearly failed to get this. Nevertheless, Villaraigosa soldiers on.
“All of those delegates,” he begins, in the tones of a school master admonishing recalcitrant students, “in favor say ‘aye.”
There is a large “aye” vote.
Villaraigosa then says, “All those opposed say ‘no.’”
There is an equally large “no” vote.
Villaraigosa looks like a deer caught in the headlights. He gazes straight ahead and then from side to side, a foolish half smile fleetingly on his face. He starts to say, “I, um… I guess…” He gives his head a slight shake and looks behind him.
A woman official can be heard quietly telling him, “You’ve got to let them do what they’re gonna do.”
Villaraigosa announces, “I’ll do that one more time.”
Keep in mind that the amendment has already twice failed the two-thirds test. According to all rules of procedure the amendment has been rejected. Nevertheless, Villaraigosa says again, “All those delegates in favor say ‘aye.’”
There is a large “aye” vote.
Villaraigosa says: “All those delegates opposed say ‘no.’”
There is an equally large (in fact, it may be a slightly larger) “no” vote. The amendment has now been defeated three times. At minimum, half the delegates have rejected it.
Is Villaraigosa going to repeat this vote a fourth time… possibly all night until they finally get it right?
No. Perhaps someone has finally signaled to him to ignore the vote and simply read his lines. Or maybe he has figured this out for himself. By now, he has probably realized that his chances of being the next Obama have slipped through his fingers, thanks to uppity delegates who won’t get with the program.
He decrees: “In the opinion of the Chair, two thirds have voted in the affirmative [boos can be heard] and the platform has been amended as shown on the screen.” He thanks Strickland for his service.
Meanwhile, the boos increase in volume and begin to sweep the convention, while those in favor of the fix that just went through on national TV cheer loudly – apparently unconcerned that clear principles of fairness and proper procedure have just been flushed, in full public view, down the Democratic toilet, the alleged “people’s” party.
Some people might wonder why so many delegates went against their leaders’ wishes, creating what Republican spinmeisters are now casting as an “embarrassing” spectacle, suggesting that the Democratic Party contains numerous political extremists.
In point of fact, however, presidents from both parties, including George W. Bush, have sensibly opposed locating the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, which Israel fanatics have long pushed.
There are a number of problems with the statement.
First of all, it’s inaccurate.
Despite the fact that Israel claims Jerusalem as its capital and has continued its decades-long expulsion of the Christians and Muslims who inhabited it for centuries, international law decrees that much of Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian land. (And many people, with substantial justification, consider that all of it is). Virtually all countries, including the U.S., locate their embassies in Tel Aviv.
Even the original 1947 UN partition recommendation, which Israel claims (fraudulently) as the legal foundation for its creation as a nation-state, called for Jerusalem to be an international city.
Second, it is widely understood that the wrong move concerning Jerusalem by the U.S. government would significantly reduce the chances of a peaceful settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thus costing even more lives, while substantially increasing hostility toward the United States, causing considerable damage to both America’s security and economy.
Yet, all this seems to matter little to political operatives from both parties, who are either Israel partisans themselves or are focused on taking positions that will not alienate campaign donors.
Despite this omission on Jerusalem, many observers would have expected Israel partisans to have been extremely pleased with the Democratic platform. According to one of its Israel-partisan drafters, Robert Wexler, the platform was “100 percent pro-Israel.”
The platform writers, Wexler explained, simply wanted to especially focus on Israel’s (alleged) security needs concerning Iran.
In fact, a comparison with the Republican platform’s statements on Israel by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs shows the Democratic platform to be for all intents and purposes identical. This is not surprising, given that Israelists dominate both parties.
This was not, however, good enough. According to the UK Guardian, there was “a mounting clamour from Jewish donors and pro-Israel groups [who] objected to the dropping of a line supporting Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from the Democratic policy platform.”
Accordingly, those who control the Democratic Party decided that an amendment would be added with the prescribed wording. They set about getting it, by hook or by crook. It turned out to be by the latter.
Is the Democratic convention debacle completely bad news?
It’s hard to say.
On the one hand, it’s deeply unpleasant to watch manipulation unfold, and obvious lies win the day. For anyone who believes that votes should be fair and processes honest, it’s disturbing to see the opposite take place in one of our country’s major institutions.
Considerably worse is the fact that it’s this kind of political corruption that contributes to the extraordinarily small voter turnout of our citizens.
A democracy requires its citizens to participate in the process. When people see there is no point, they stop. That, of course, leaves a vacuum that is eagerly filled by the ruthless and unprincipled, who caused the problem in the first place.
In 1787, following the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin said that the months-long, hard-fought convention had given us “a republic, if you can keep it.” Villaraigosa and those who tell him what to do – and the rest who go along – are grinding this under foot.
But it’s not all bad news.
The reality is that at least half the delegates at this extremely mainstream convention – full of party loyalists who usually toe the party line – did not go along with the Israel Lobby agenda.
And while videos of the event focused almost entirely on close-ups of dissenters of Arab ethnicity, suggesting that this was an ethnic position, the vast majority of those opposed to the amendment had no such ethnic connection and were from all over the United States.
While the media, both liberal and conservative, consistently give us Israel-centric coverage, and while party bosses make it clear that favoring Israel uber alles is the way to get ahead, at least half the delegates rebelled.
Of course, this was a small, ultimately unsuccessful uprising. Nevertheless, I think it is an indication that the tide has slowed and may start to turn.
In fact, I believe an uprising in the United States may be coming.
People are tired of wars and killing, and of being sold a pack of goods by both parties using lies, deception, and manipulation.
We’re tired of power brokers running roughshod over what we want.
We’re tired of “alternative” institutions such as MoveOn that enable the charade, and of candidate puppets of “change” who continue cruel policies while spouting high-minded words that they hope will hide their unconscionable actions.
We’re tired of scripted conventions, of bullying special interests, of lying politicians, of manipulative media, and of partisan politics that set us against one another, in which both sides push falsehoods about the other, and about themselves.
We’re tired of pretend democracy.
More and more of us are demanding real change, not computer generated simulations. Instead of responding by refusing to vote, and thus forfeiting this life-and-death game, many of us are going to cast votes that will displease those used to running things.
And if in this election we choose to “throw our votes away,” as party cheerleaders scornfully call it, on candidates who would end our serial, suicidal wars and stop the killing of children – thus saving the lives of our own as well – then I feel we will have a shot at a future election in which we aren’t once again expected to choose between a proven war criminal and a competitor who might, astonishingly enough, be even worse.
Instead of throwing our votes away, I believe we will have started the process of throwing the bums out – this time for real. And of keeping our republic, or our democracy, whichever you choose to call it.