Politically, though, it was cinder-block stupid. What is it about Democrats that makes them so chronically naive, so oblivious to inevitable political fallout?
For a few years there, they had Bill Clinton and James Carville to slap them out of their historic determination to lose elections, and Clinton gave it his best shot again in Charlotte. But this Three Stooges handling of what should have been a nonevent proves the party is once again in full Michael Dukakis mode.
Then, of course, after bungling the whole thing from the start, they backpedaled and put God back on the agenda, once again vindicating the notion that they're weak and vacillating. Stand your ground on principle, or don't go there in the first place; you can't have it both ways.
Personally, I'm so sick of Elmer Gantry politics that I'd like to spend every election year on the far side of some planet that Earth's broadcast signals can't penetrate. The conceit that God wants the endorsement of politicians is truly profane, in every sense of that word. It's a smug and cynical and reckless kind of blasphemy.
Democrats' openly debating the inclusion or exclusion of the word God in their platform was idiotic. Republicans' giving Jerry Falwell a box seat at one of their conventions was obscene.
I don't presume to speak for God, which would automatically disqualify me from contemporary American politics - as if I could care less, which I couldn't. But I can't help thinking that God doesn't need a plug from politicians, and that most of the time he'd just as soon do without it. Think he was really moved by campaign testimonials on the deep and abiding faith of John Edwards or Newt Gingrich - or, for that matter, Bill Clinton?
But this is worse than prime-time photo-op sanctimony; worse even than the sneering and manipulative hypocrisy that infests all Party of God politics. The reduction of God to a plank in a political platform ought to make us all shudder in moral and spiritual revulsion. Could the most profound mystery of creation be shrunk any smaller, trivialized any more shamelessly than that?
If Democrats should ever manage to grow some - guts, I think, is the acceptable euphemism - maybe they'll tackle this nonsense head on. Maybe they'll say it's not the appropriate role of the Democratic Party - indeed, of any political party in this manifestly non-theocratic constitutional republic - to claim it's a standard-bearer for the Kingdom of God. Let the other guys think they built that.
Dusty Nix is the editorial page editor of the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-
Enquirer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.