The Democratic National Convention dissolved into unexpected procedural chaos Wednesday afternoon when the party sought to placate critics and insert language pledging allegiance to an undivided Jerusalem.
Convention Chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, the Los Angeles Mayor, called for a vote on a motion to amend the platform, whose changes since 2008 had drawn intense criticism from Republicans and no real defense from leading Democrats, who cast the omissions as oversights rather than policy statements.
The delegates on the floor, though, appeared not to be in on the plan: Villaraigosa called for a voice vote three times, with Ayes rivaling Nays, and then forced through an affirmative over an unclear and noisy situation on the floor.
Several delegates told BuzzFeed they were dismayed by the chaos, and some objectors said they voted “no” because Villaraigosa had not explained the move. Other said they believed the vote reflected hostility to Israel among the delegates.
“I found it really disturbing,” said Patricia Ravitz, a delegate fro California. “I voted ‘yes’ very strongly, at the top of my lungs. I was surprised it was so close.”
“I was shocked so many people voted no. I don’t know what they were thinking,” said a delegate from Kansas, Carolyn Wims-Campbell.
But dissenters appeared to have a variety of motives.
Jerusalem “is a hub of all three religions and we should recognize that fact,” said Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan state representative who said she opposed amending the platform. “It should not belong to just one people.”
“It makes me feel a little frustrated that this isn’t being discussed in a fair and just way,” she said.
The hasty process raised hackles with others.
“I didn’t get a chance to read it and there was no discussion. It was up there for 30 seconds and then it was down. I’m upset with the process. That’s why I voted no,” said John Washburn, a Georgia delegate.
One dissenter, who said she hadn’t made it in to voice her “no,” said she opposed the inclusion of God.
“I think the best thing we could do is separate religion and politics,” said Barbara Herz, of Wyoming. “We should let every person make their own religious decisions and keep it out of the platform.”
And some of the yes voters shouted with an eye to the difficult politics of religion and the Middle East.
“I’m a little worried that Republicans will use this to smack us,” said Tony Campbell of Tennessee.
That may have been the view in Washington as well. Emailed a Democratic source: “The President personally intervened to strengthen the language.”