Republican and conservative complaints about the Democratic platform have crystallized in the last two days. The two main themes are pure questions of religious symbolism. If this election is about the economy, as Republicans constantly assert that it is, then their attacks on the DNC are way off topic.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Emergency Committee for Israel blasted out an article from the Free Beacon, a conservative website, complaining about the Democratic platform. ECI called it, “another shift by the Obama administration away from Israel and toward the Palestinians.” It is not entirely fair to call the language in the DNC platform an act of the Obama administration. The Republican Party platform, for example, calls for banning abortion in all cases, with no exceptions. Mitt Romney, however, is running a platform that would ban abortion except in cases of rape and incest and where the life of the pregnant woman is endangered. But, it’s fair to say there is some association between the party’s platform and its presidential nominee, and that the nominee has some influence over the text of the platform.
So, what is the objectionable portion of the platform? It does not mention Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, nor does it specify that the descendants of Palestinian refugees should be settled in a Palestinian state, not Israel proper, and it also does not condemn Hamas. The 2008 DNC platform did all of these things. Romney issued a statement complaining just about the Jerusalem question. The Romney campaign also sent out statements from its two token Jewish surrogates, Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and former Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), attacking Obama on all three fronts.
When asked by The Nation for a response, a Democratic National Committee spokesperson wrote in an e-mail:
The Obama Administration has followed the same policy towards Jerusalem that previous U.S. Administrations of both parties have done since 1967. As the White House said several months ago, the status of Jerusalem is an issue that should be resolved in final status negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians—which we also said in the 2008 platform. We will continue to work with the parties to resolve this issue as part of a two state solution that secures the future of Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.
Meanwhile, the theocratic partisan propagandists at Fox News are decrying the absence of the word “God” from the DNC platform. As Media Matters notes, Fox downplayed the significance of the GOP’s platform, in order to minimize the public’s revulsion at extremist planks such as the one on abortion. But when it came to this non-issue, they couldn’t get enough of it.
Neither of these lines of attack is likely to resonate with swing voters. Rather, they are meant to rev up the evangelical right-wing base, which obsessively pushes religion into the public square and wants to expand Israel’s boundaries to fulfill a supposed biblical prophecy.
The Republican National Convention had two themes—that the GOP would tackle the biggest issues facing the country, and that it would try to expand beyond its base. These petty attacks do neither.
Update: On Wednesday night the DNC—reportedly at President Obama's behest—amended its platform to reinstate the language from its 2008 platform regarding Jerusalem.