Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois was interviewed about the contents of the Democratic document. He noted that people seemed to have forgotten that he was twice chairman of the party’s platform committee and that “we produced the most unread document in the history of American politics.”
Little has changed, which is why both parties passed their platforms early and without notice. The blunt fact is that candidates will run on the issues they think will get them elected; in that sense, a platform can only be an inconvenience.
But there are groups to whom platform minutiae matter greatly.
A Christian website complained that, in the Democrats’ 2004 platform, there were seven references to God; in 2008 only one, and this year no reference at all.
The 2012 Democratic platform does not specifically identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While the Republicans last week affirmed that city as the capital, they broke from past platforms by not calling for moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians claim at least part of Jerusalem as their own. The official U.S. position, and that of most Western nations, is that the status of Jerusalem must be settled in final status talks leading to an independent Palestine.
The Bush administration made noises about moving the embassy but backed off when it realized doing so would hopelessly wreck the administration’s chances of negotiating a peace agreement.
Platforms affirm positions that have been jelling over a period of years. The Democrats finally endorsed same-sex marriage and called for repeal of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act authored by then-U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Marietta) and, signed, although reluctantly, by Bill Clinton, Wednesday night’s marquee speaker.
The Democrats supported legal abortion, public funded if necessary. In a dig at the Republicans, they said abortion was “an intensely personal decision” with “no place for politicians or government to get in the way.”
The new Republican platform is absolutist on abortion, with no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. Rather awkwardly, that is not the position of the party’s presidential nominee.
If Mitt Romney chooses to ignore that inconvenient plank, he will simply be joining a long line of presidential candidates who feel the delegates should devote all their efforts to getting them elected and not loading them down with ideological lumber.