CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The unveiling of the Democratic Party’s national platform this week was, for the most part, unsurprising. Given the harsh “us vs. them” rhetoric on economics heard Tuesday night from speakers such as former Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, it was widely expected that the tone of the party manifesto would reflect a strong commitment to the Obama agenda of raising taxes on the highest income earners and expanding the hand of government in the economy. It did.
With Barack Obama the first president to endorse same-sex marriage, his party’s platform embraced the same goal for the first time. With convention speakers such as Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards and National Abortion Rights Action League President Nancy Keenan hailing the President for his support of “a woman’s right to choose,” the Democratic strong pro-abortion plank–now 36 years old–remains.
Biggest surprise — Jerusalem
If there were any surprises in the 2012 document, it was the omission of the ’08 language calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel–a cherished cause among the American Jewish community and an issue that has previously had bipartisan support in party platforms. The omission comes at a convention where Democratic leaders have taken pains to court Jewish voters, including an opening day film featuring ringing blessings of Obama from Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Where Obama got about 74 percent of the Jewish vote in ’08, pollster John Zogby told Human Events that his latest surveys show Obama “has lost some Jewish support” and leads Mitt Romney among American Jews by 68 to 18 percent.
The other rather surprising platform change from 2008 is the removal of any reference to “God.” Where the ’08 platform called for a government that “gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential,” the same paragraph in the 2012 document says “the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”
Referring to the changes in the Democratic platform on Israel and God, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan called them “tragic” and “peculiar” respectively.
The McGovern legacy
In many ways, the Democratic Platform is the legacy of former Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.). After Democrats narrowly voted at their 1968 convention to create a commission to reform party rules and open up the procedure to become delegates, McGovern–a hero of the anti-Vietnam War movement and leading liberal–chaired that commission.
The rules made it easier for the most left-of-center activists to contest the choices of party leaders and win delegate spots. The legacy of the McGovern Commission has been a Democratic Party that has increasingly shunted out its centrist element (the centrist Democratic Leadership Council once chaired by Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman is shut down) and moved to the left. The new platform is the latest legacy of George McGovern.