Divisive party platforms clouding the truth Americans deserve

The circus that erupted during the Democratic National Convention over the inclusion of references to God and Jerusalem was worse than just unneccessary. It was a testament to the self-defeating pandering that has plagued this election, on both sides, and should signal that the very concept of a party platform is nothing but a divisive, ideological distraction from the issues.

The controversy revolved around the difference between the DNC’s 2008 platform and the current one. Two of the items excluded in the 2012 platform are the mention of God and the affirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

A hasty vote was called before the DNC delegates Wednesday by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. After seeming to fail to receive two-thirds approval, he called the vote two more times, then concluding that, in his estimation, the motion had passed and the language pertaining to God and Jerusalem would be included in the platform.

Regarding the mention of God, a close reading of the actual language of the platforms reveals that the issue isn’t whether the Democrats are denying God’s existence or calling for an more atheist America.

Rather, it’s over the exclusion of the mention of God as an adjective — “God-given potential” — and it was the only mention of God in the DNC’s entire 2008 platform.

The debate about Jerusalem has been raging since Israel took the city from the Jordanians in the 1967 Six-Day War. American presidents have for more than half a century tried to bring Palestine and Israel to a peaceful agreement.

Whether included in a party platform or omitted, these efforts have resulted in little to no progress. And at the very least, the omission of Jerusalem does not signify that Democrats are ready to abandon Israel altogether.

And this is why the issue of the DNC’s affirmation that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital represents the worst form of post-truth politics in this election.

However, the true folly of this situation is that it places the mantle of relevance on these party platforms. These platforms are not contracts: They are public expressions of a party’s ideals and direction, and they certainly hold no binding power on either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.

Romney, in particular, has openly challenged the platform presented at the Republican National Convention with it’s absolutist stance on abortion, publicly saying that he believes abortion should be legal in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is endangered. Romney’s stance on the issue out on the campaign trail has wavered, albeit only slightly. Still, no matter the slight distinctions in his stance, his belief on abortion remains a stark contrast to the Republican party platform, which says abortion should never be legally permitted.

Four years ago, when Romney sought the presidential nomination, he said in an interview with ABC News, “We support a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution, and we endorse legislation to make it clear that the 14th Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” His beliefs today differ greatly from then because he had to adapt to capture support from more social conservatives.

When parties place a largely meaningful policy position — be it a stance on Israel or beliefs about abortion — in an essentially meaningless party platform, both Republicans and Democrats have not irrevocably promised anything.

Party platforms, at their very essence, serve only to communicate as many ideals, beliefs, hopes and wishes for the country’s future as the party believes is necessary to please its constituents or capture more voters.

As history shows, platforms filled with half-promises and nonbinding policymaking are simply another political move, clouding the truth Americans deserve.