The Democrats made some hasty yet controversial amendments to their party platform today ahead of the President's renomination. At Obama's own urging, reportedly, delegates decided, by a dubious voice vote, to restore language from previous platforms affirming Jerusalem as the one true "capital" of Israel, after its omission this year provoked criticism from Republicans who questioned the incumbent's loyalty to the Zionist state. This is the sort of show both parties have put on through their histories to win ethnic votes. It's stupid, but if you're still a Democrat at this point I doubt this is the issue you'll bolt over. Nor will today's controversy over God drive anyone away. Once again, this year's platform committee left out some language from 2008, specifically a phrase calling on government to stand up for working people -- harmless enough, so far -- and give them the chance "to make the most of their God-given potential." In 2008, this had been the only invocation of Jehovah in the entire platform. With it gone, Rep. Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, was able to talk of a "purge of God" from the Democratic party. This might have been the time to recall that "God" goes unmentioned in the entire U.S. Constitution, except when the document was dated in the then-uncontroversial "year of our lord." But instead the delegates this afternoon were corralled into amending the 2012 platform to restore that important little bit of 2008 language. There was little point. The Republicans already have their talking point and won't give it up. They'll say that the Democrats only restored God to their platform in the face of public outcry, and nothing the Democrats do afterward can blunt that point. The platform committee made a mistake, and now they can just hope they don't pay any real price. I'm no well-wisher to the Democrats, but I do think the damage will be minimal. Nevertheless, it was a mistake.
To be frank, speaking as an atheist, if someone on the committee removed "God-given potential" with a conscious purpose of purging God from the platform, that would be chickenshit. To my ears, "God-given potential" is less an affirmation of divine sovereignty or a call to worship than it is simply a synonym for "natural" or "innate" potential. It's idiomatic, not theocratic. People who'd object to the term on atheist or secularist grounds are petty. That battle is simply not worth fighting. If someone wants to make the absence of God a key plank of an Atheist Party platform, and wants to debate Republicans and all comers on the subject, I say: go for it and kick their butts. But despite what some Democrats may say, the imminence of theocracy is not the deciding issue of this election year, and the Democratic party in particular can't afford to alienate anyone they hadn't already written off long ago. Restoring the Jerusalem reference to the platform was contemptible and really tells you where the Democrats stand on Middle East peace. Restoring "God" was just damage control.