These days, political conventions are written off as antiquated ceremonial occurrences that have no lasting impact.
High on the list of supposedly meaningless quadrennial exercises are the deliberations and final products of each party’s platform committee. I remember fabled TV news anchor David Brinkley blithely dismissing them by curtly announcing, “No one reads them.” But the platforms do provide insight into what really matters to the parties.
Right now, D.C. is the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics. No one gives us any respect. Just look at the platforms.
The Republican platform includes a provision explicitly opposing statehood for the District. As for the Democrats, they view the city as the ultimate sure thing.Three-quarters of registered voters in the city are Democrats. In 2008, Barack Obama got an astounding 92 percent of the vote.
You would think that the Democratic Party would be grateful for this show of support. None of the states are so consistently loyal. The District will never be a battleground.
Instead, the party insults its most faithful. The latest snub has arrived one week before the Democratic National Convention opens in Charlotte.
All that the District’s two highest-profile elected Democrats are asking for is a single sentence in the party’s platform advocating D.C. statehood. Apparently, even that is too much.
According to Anita Bonds, chair of the D.C. Democratic Party, a statement in support of D.C. statehood has appeared in the platform four times since 1988. The last time was in 2000.
It doesn’t look good for it to return in 2012. When D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke to the chairman of the platform committee, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, about the matter, he was able to give her no assurances that a statehood plank had been included in the draft of the closely held document. When D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray contacted Booker, he said that he didn’t know if statehood was included.
This shabby treatment should not surprise anyone. The person at the top of the ticket — President Obama — has always seemed to regard issues of D.C.’s standing as too hot to handle.
On getting D.C. voting representation in Congress, Obama let us know where he stood early on. In an interview with The Post soon after his victory in 2008, he called the issue “partisan” and indicated it wasn’t much of a priority to him.
If D.C. voting rights is a problem because it’s “partisan,” statehood must be downright explosive.
Now, the obedient Democratic Party regulars know they are supposed to fall in line. On the platform drafting committee are at least five people who live or work in the District: Donna Harris-Aikens, Nancy Keenan, Thea Lee, Carlos Odio and Colin Kahl. Did any of them raise their voices to advocate for the inclusion of the words “D.C. statehood”?
There is a legitimate way to right this wrong. The party rules state that 20 percent of the platform committee can call for a minority report to be filed. That minority report would then be voted on by the full convention.
That does not seem too high a hurdle. It seems to me that people of principle, at a minimum, would favor the issue be given an airing and a vote.
Failing that, any delegate could call for a suspension of the rules, and the issue could be raised that way on the floor. Or maybe what is required to finally get attention is a walk-out by the D.C. delegation. That action would surely indicate that the old ways of acceptance and patience are no longer valid.
D.C. is never taken seriously, mostly because it refuses to assert itself. National political leaders know that, in the end, they can count on the city to be deferential. But let’s put this into simple English: D.C. is a pushover.
Now an opportunity presents itself to show the Democratic Party and the nation that D.C. statehood means something and that D.C. Democrats will not lie down anymore.
Gray has said he will show up in Charlotte ready to fight, if need be. That’s a good start. What if all the D.C. delegates spent their time on the floor going from delegate to delegate, pleading their case? There is one week to organize and mobilize. Begin now and rupture the long-held view that D.C. Democrats are nothing more than a docile lot.
The writer is the political analyst for WTTG-TV (Fox 5 News).