The 2008 document is at direct odds with how President Obama has governed. Changing it or leaving it the same would both be awkward.
When the Democratic Party holds its convention this September in Charlotte, North Carolina, President Obama's speech is likely to garner the most press attention. But I'll be most interested in how the delegates get themselves out of the pickle of their standard bearer's making: What are they going to say about civil liberties and executive power in the party platform?
Four years ago, the last time the Democrats adopted a platform, their presidential candidate championed civil liberties, insisted that closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay would make us safer from terrorists, and righteously denounced the expansive Bush-Cheney understanding of executive power. Said the official 2008 platform contemporaneously adopted by Democratic delegates (links added):
We will close the detention
camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst
constitutional abuses in recent years. With these necessary changes, the
attention of the world will be directed where it belongs: on what
terrorists have done to us, not on how we treat suspects.
If you click through to the links I've embedded above you'll quickly get a sense of how thoroughly President Obama has betrayed the words and spirit of his candidacy and his party's platform.
What will the 2012 Democratic Party platform say about civil liberties?
What will it say about the U.S. government's lethal attacks on citizens
overseas? About Gitmo and military tribunals? About drone wars? And,
perhaps a more important question: Will Democratic activists push the
party to keep and perhaps strengthen its platform -- and if so, will the
Obama campaign push back?
It's an uncomfortable choice: either betray your principles and accept the Bush-Cheney-Obama approach to the War on Terror, or else highlight in a minor way how your standard-bearer has betrayed the principles on which he ran and adopted so many of the policies he once criticized. Either way, the wording of the 2012 Democratic Party Platform won't escape scrutiny.
I'll be watching. And I hope Democrats who still care about these issues use the opportunity to make themselves heard.
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