In just three short minutes, Democrats handed the 2012 election to Republican Mitt Romney.
In a surreal floor vote at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., at 5:04 p.m., long before prime-time viewers flipped on their TVs, delegates split — hard — on whether to include a simple mention of God in their platform, and to declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
“Awkward,” “embarrassing,” “stupid,” “unforced error,” said Democrat Paul Begala. That doesn’t even begin to capture what will be a game-changing event in the presidential election.
With no advance warning and no fanfare, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a rising star in the party, took to the podium. He gave the floor to the head of the platform-drafting committee, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
“As an ordained United Methodist minister, I am here to attest and affirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the value we have expressed in our party’s platform,” he said. “In addition, President Obama recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and our party’s platform should as well.”
Well. The delegates voted — by yelling ‘yay’ or ‘no.’
Spotlight Mr. Villaraigosa. “In the opinion of the chair — let me do that again.”
He did. Another vote, half yay, half no.
“I, uh, I guess — ” said the by-now formerly rising party star, turning for help.
An unknown woman sidled up and told him, “You just gotta let them vote, and let them do what they’re gonna do.”
Finally, in vote 3, the “no’s” clearly won, but the teleprompter said otherwise and the motion was deemed passed: God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were back in the party platform.
“In the opinion of the chair, two-thirds have voted in the affirmative, the motion is adopted and the platform has been amended,” Mr. Villaraigosa said.
Delegates booed, hissed, jeered, howled, fumed.
Word later trickled out that Mr. Obama, who spends most Sundays on the golf course instead of in church, had personally intervened to get God and Jerusalem back into the platform. (The word came from, of course, the mainstream media; it was just that important to him, they said).
But the underlying motive was clear: The president is struggling to win support from white working-class (and religious) voters, and Jews, who have been wary from the outset of the Obama reign, are fleeing in droves.
The DNC quickly returned to its roots: college girls demanding more federal money for contraception, demurely coiffed middle-aged women pushing Planned Parenthood and abortion.
But the giant chasm within the Democratic Party — not to mention its wide divergence from mainstream America — was already exposed.
The true intent of the party — an America without God, that does not care about Israel, in fact supports the Palestinians — was out of the bag.
Mr. Romney pounced, saying omitting God “suggests a party that is increasingly out of touch with the mainstream of the American people. … I think this party is veering further and further away into an extreme wing that Americans don’t recognize.”
It was just three minutes.
And yet the entire election changed. Mr. Romney, a Mormon who battled unsuccessfully for Christian support in 2008, just became the Christian candidate — and the Jewish candidate, to boot.
Team Obama is no doubt furiously rewriting the president’s speech for Thursday night (now in a venue 50,000 seats smaller). With tonight’s debacle, chances are his legion of supporters dropped by millions more.
When the landslide comes, Democrats will certainly point back to tonight — they won’t now, they will then. Game-changers come when you least expect them.
Tonight changed everything.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.