Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
So you’re running a political convention. You want excitement. You want Kumbaya. You want above all unity. But on Wednesday night during the early part of the evening session, unity was about to go down the toilet!
This year the party had dropped the statement that it recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that Israel is the US strongest ally. Tel Aviv is still the capital where the U.S. Embassy is located. But, Jerusalem is the politically correct answer for politicians and conventions. This year the party delegates also decided to leave the word God out of the platform.
Already on Tuesday as the convention opened there was a great deal of buzz over all of this. I’m sure that whoever canoodles these changes to the party platform is toast and will be assigned to the American consulate in Chechnya. As it is, there are already reports swirling that President Obama personally intervened to add the language to the platform.
So why did the Democrats leave these two crucial icons of American political practice off? Was it as a bow to Jewish voters who do not apparently write the word "God"? Was it as a sign of reaching out to Palestinians and the Middle Eastern states and people leaving off the flammable issue of Jerusalem? Was it a gesture to atheists and secularists to leave off the word God?
We don't yet know, but what we clearly do know is that the Obama team made some late night phone calls and said, "This is not acceptable! Now Git 'er Done!" The news media reported that Obama was royally ticked off at these omissions.
So on Wednesday Antonio Villaraigosa, Mayor of Los Angeles and chair of the convention, turned business over to former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who is co-chairman of the convention who introduced the resolutions. They were flashed on the screen, and Villaraigosa called for a two-thirds voice-vote necessary to pass these amendments.
The first voice vote was ambiguous - there wasn't a discernible winner between the 'ayes' and 'nays.' Villaraigosa looked puzzled and asked for second voice vote. The second vote was clearly NOT even half in favor. The whole thing suddenly froze up, a puzzled Villaraigosa seemed paralyzed looking around for help. Someone started to walk up on the stage. He then called for a third vote which was the same as the two previous ones - a house clearly divided.
He then quickly said "the eyes have it", declared the amendments to have passed as the "no's" shouted, got up and waived No and stood up. The couple with the sign "Arab Americans for Obama" was clearly very angry!
This was a real unexpected improvised explosive political event.