This afternoon, the Democratic convention ran off the rails when DNC Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa steamrolled over dissenting delegates to make sure that the Democratic party platform included language mentioning "God" and "Jerusalem." Appearing Godless and insufficiently supportive of Israel was not the message that the president wanted to send with the party platform, and it has been reported that Obama personally intervened to make sure the language was restored.
This is quite a turn of events following last week's Democratic attacks on the platform at the GOP convention. Democrats were still trying to press their advantage on Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's "legitimate rape" comments, despite the party rebuking Akin in a relatively unified fashion. They tried to pin GOP platform language stating that the party is against abortion even in cases of rape or incest on Mitt Romney, even though Romney has repeatedly stated that he is not opposed to legal abortion for those exceptions. Not only that, Democrats pressed their case dishonestly. Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz—who, ironically, was caught in a major lie about Republicans and Israel just yesterday—sent out a fundraising email saying, "Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are now, incredibly, saying they don't agree with the policies of the party whose nomination they're about to accept, but guess what? The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that the platform was, and I quote, 'written at the direction of Romney's campaign.'"
Except that's not what the Los Angeles Times was saying. The actual article centered on platform disputes with Ron Paul delegates, and had nothing to do with abortion. Here's the full sentence Wasserman Schultz selectively quoted: "Delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes to the platform language that was written at the direction of Romney’s campaign." When CNN's Anderson Cooper asked Wasserman Schultz to defend this dishonest twisting of the Los Angeles Times's words, the result was quite possibly the most awkward and embarrassing interview of this campaign season.
As for Romney, again, he reiterated that he did not oppose abortion in cases of rape or incest, and saw no need to personally intervene in the writing of the GOP platform as he did not consider himself strictly bound by the language in it. The GOP platform scandal, if it rises to that level, blew over.
However, by the elevating the importance of party platforms and social issues, Democrats sprung the trap they're currently ensnared in. There's little doubt that the party appears to be lurching leftward at this year's convention, especially compared to 2008 when the party and Obama made serious outreach efforts to faith groups and pro-lifers. This year, the heavy emphasis on abortion and other liberal social issues is undeniable, and it's also hard to argue that the party base's positions here—such as advocating taxpayer subsidization of abortion until birth—are way out of step with the mainstream. And stripping the words "God" and "Jerusalem" out of the party platform are such a perfect encapsulation of this, it's no wonder that even the likes of Paul Begala called has called the Democratic platform contretemps today "beyond awkward" and "an unforced error by my party." Michael Yaki, who ran the Democratic platform committee in 2008, told Slate's Dave Weigel, "The best platforms don't generate controversy and certainly do no harm. There was a calculated decision to make sure 'God' was in our platform, and the Jerusalem language was one of those that popped up on the plank comparison as non-negotiable."
And because Obama felt the need to personally intervene to change the platform—where Romney didn't—Obama now owns the Democratic platform and everything in it. Notably, the Romney campaign is now pushing the Obama campaign to "to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital." The Obama administration has tried very hard to date to avoid being boxed in to saying this, and many White House officials have brazenly tried to avoid answering the simple question: What is the capital of Israel? After today, Obama may have to finally cough up an answer.
The electoral fallout could be significant: If Democrats thought they could make the case that the GOP is out of touch with the mainstream on social issues, that argument may have been neutralized by what happened today. And even worse, they look like a party with a radical, left-wing platform.