In 1968, Hillary Rodham was little more than an outsider in the Democratic party. Rodham was a member of a meritocratic elite in a mass party; a white-collar, mainline Protestant, suburban woman in a national party run by blue-collar, Catholic, urban men. In fact, her ties with the party were thin. She had campaigned in 1964 for Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and interned in the summer of 1968 for GOP representative Melvin Laird, who became the secretary of defense in the Nixon administration. Her switch to the Democratic party had less to do with a commitment to the party’s cross-racial, working-class agenda and more to do with the growing university-based elite’s opposition to the Vietnam War. She volunteered in the winter of 1968 for the insurgent presidential campaign of Eugene McCarthy, who ran against the war and the party bosses. In an act of bravado difficult to imagine today, McCarthy compared John Bailey, the national party chairman, to the "Wizard of Oz. When you pull the curtain back, there is only a voice." Rodham’s view of the Catholic bosses was equally dim. As a spectator at the party’s convention in Chicago, she watched in horror as protestors clashed with the police and the National Guard.
Given her ideological roots, Hillary Rodham Clinton might be expected this campaign season to wage an insurgent presidential campaign. Instead, Clinton is running as the candidate of the party establishment, while her two rivals run as insurgents. Although she vows to end the Iraq War, she voted for the resolution that authorized it and has not apologized for doing so. Her position hasn’t been popular with the party faithful, but it hasn’t been a deal breaker. After all, she is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee for 2008. This is not surprising. She is a meritocratic elite in a minority party; a white, Northern, educated, affluent, and secular professional in a party run by white, Northern, educated, affluent, and secular professionals. The outsider has become the insider.
This dramatic rise of secular, white-collar women in the Democratic party is hardly limited to Rodham Clinton, whose ascendance was facilitated greatly by her husband. It also applies to her peers. Forty years ago, the candidacy of a secular feminist would have gone nowhere in the Democratic party. It would have been stopped by the Catholic bosses¯John Bailey, Mayor Daley, and Mayor James Tate of Philadelphia. (Patrick Moynihan’s memorable line in Beyond the Melting Pot , that almost all the leaders of the national Democratic party in 1961 were Catholic, was still true in 1968.) Today the candidacy of a secular feminist cannot be stopped seemingly by anyone.
How was this transformation possible? The conventional academic thesis is that the McGovern Commission (1969¯1972) revolutionized the party’s nominating system, rewarding voters and activists at the expense of politicians and state chairmen. On the whole, this thesis is accurate. The commission’s rules changes destroyed the boss system, in which state party leaders chose their presidential delegates without regard to wishes of Democratic voters and created a more democratic system, which activists have used to their advantage given their higher turnout rates in primaries and caucuses than ordinary voters.
This thesis, however, has a key flaw. In theory, the commission’s reforms should have benefited all constituencies equally. Yet, in practice, the greatest beneficiaries have been secular feminists. What other Democratic constituency rivals their power? Secular feminists forced Walter Mondale in 1984 to choose a woman as his vice-presidential running mate and prevented Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania in 1992 from delivering a pro-life speech to the convention’s delegates. Although feminists did not sink the party’s presidential nominee either time, their subsequent power plays have not only done so but also have gone unpunished. Clinton pollster Stanley Greenberg wrote a memo in late 2000 in which he partly attributed Al Gore’s defeat to his unlimited support for abortion rights. Yet the first event that the party’s presidential candidates attended, in 2003, was a dinner honoring the thirtieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade . Greenberg wrote another post-election memo, in late 2004, in which he partly attributed John Kerry’s defeat to his unwavering support for abortion rights. But earlier this year the party’s top presidential candidates attended a well-publicized forum hosted by Planned Parenthood. (Indeed, Rodham Clinton said that she was proud of the 100 percent rating she had received from the abortion rights group for her Senate votes.)
Giving power to secular feminists, far from being an unintended consequence, was part of the reformers’ plan. The leaders of the McGovern Commission were not disinterested reformers or "small d " democrats. Rather, they were New Politics Democrats and friendly to the New Left. One of their goals was to fuse the Democratic party to the emerging youth and feminist movements. Although they claimed that their reforms empowered the grassroots, in reality they empowered activists and elites. Feminist leaders followed their lead. They imposed internal rules changes that benefited their side at the expense of others and deceived the public about their real motives.
The issue of Democratic party procedural reforms in the 1960s and 1970s might sound irrelevant, but it’s not, because it suggests why Hillary Rodham Clinton is unlikely to be elected president. Secular feminists gained party power by pursuing an elite rather than a mass strategy. Feminists did not appeal to religious, blue-collar party leaders or their constituents; in fact, they alienated them. They appealed instead to secular, white-collar leaders and their followers. Now their standard bearer is Rodham Clinton, whose best-known governmental effort, the attempt to pass universal health-care legislation through Congress a decade ago, was undone partly by the news that her task force had devised its plan behind closed doors. For a movement that aspires to have one of its leaders elected president, its failure to appeal to ordinary Americans is a fatal flaw.
One influential Rodham Clinton supporter this campaign season has been Washington lobbyist Anne Wexler. Today Wexler is a full-fledged member of the Washington establishment; she is founding partner of the Wexler and Walker Group. In 1968, Wexler was a member of a different ruling class, the antiwar Democratic counterestablishment. She was a lieutenant in McCarthy’s campaign in Connecticut and a member of the Rules Committee, an obscure but powerful body that meets every four years at the nominating convention.
At the top of the antiwar movement’s agenda for the Chicago convention was the passing of a minority peace plank. Speaking before a Madison Square Garden crowd of 19,000, on August 15, McCarthy had said that he would demand a Democratic platform that admitted the errors of U.S. policy, called for a halt to the bombing of North Vietnam, and required the South Vietnamese government to negotiate with communist insurgents. Although the plank drew support from intellectuals and blacks, it was not especially popular with the other members of the New Deal coalition. Southern white Protestants supported the war; Northern Catholics believed that the plank gave too much ground to the Vietnamese communists; union members viewed the plank’s supporters as soft, unpatriotic, and privileged. On the Wednesday afternoon of the convention, the plank was rejected 1,567¯1,048.
For Anne Wexler, the defeat of the peace plank was the last straw. She was already bitter that McCarthy’s presidential bid had gone down in flames. Now she felt betrayed. The bosses, and there was no question it was the bosses, had torpedoed all the McCarthyites’ efforts. Leaning on the shoulders of one British reporter, Wexler sobbed, "They got us in a corner and did this to us." On Wednesday evening, after Sen. Abraham Ribicoff denounced the "Gestapo tactics" of Mayor Daley’s police, Wexler exulted that her fellow Connecticut Democrat had stood up to a major party boss. On the bus home from the convention that night, Wexler, a dignified woman with a bouffant hairdo and degree from Skidmore College, talked like a Chicago saloonkeeper: "I’m going to get everyone to work their guts out for Abe for what he said tonight."
In fact, the bosses had not torpedoed all the McCarthyites’ efforts. Late Tuesday night, on the convention floor, the delegates had passed the Rules Minority report, which Wexler had lobbied energetically for in the Rules Committee. The minority report required the party to undertake what was potentially a historic step: appoint a commission that would make its presidential-nomination system more democratic. The delegates approved the minority report less, not so much because they thought it a righteous cause, but because they were confused about its meaning. As Wexler acknowledged to political scientist Byron Shafer, "Many state chairmen didn’t understand (what the minority reported implied). Plus there was no organized attempt to stop it . . . . That was such a heated convention, with so much going on. Many people felt this was a way to throw the liberals a bone. Plus the fact that nobody understood it." Even with the confusion on the convention floor, the Rules minority report barely passed. The vote of 1,350 to 1,206 was the closest of the convention.
The product of the minority report was the Commission on Party Structure and Delegate Selection, better known as the McGovern Commission, after its chairman Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota. After the twenty-eight-member panel was appointed in early 1969, Wexler was tapped as its chief consultant. Her chief aim was not to make the party’s presidential nomination process truly democratic. Her chief aim, in effect, was to undo the defeat of the peace plank. "If you wanted the end the war, you had to change the [party] leadership," Wexler recalled. "So we came up with a way to pick our own delegates."
Her vision was carried out by the executive committee of the McGovern Commission, a ten-member subpanel that set the commission’s agenda. Far from being representative of the Democratic party as a whole, the executive committee was stacked, deliberately, with supporters of the New Politics. Its leaders included Wexler; commission counsel Eli Segal; commission research director Ken Bode; and treasurer Fred Dutton, the chief author of the peace plank. These four Democrats did not have their roots in the union movement, big-city machines, or the Catholic Church. Rather, their roots were in the universities, especially those of elite colleges. Wexler earned her B.A. from Skidmore College; Segal got his J.D. from the University of Michigan; Dutton earned his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he was the editor of the law review; Bode got his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina.
The four New Politics leaders put their elite training to use. Bode and his interns were already counting up the number of delegates to both 1968 conventions who were racial minorities. Why not examine other types of people? After all, Bode was a national expert on the political attitudes of young people. As a young associate professor at Michigan State, he and a colleague in November 1966 had completed a twenty-one-page paper on the political views of and knowledge among high school seniors in Ingham County, Michigan. They found, not surprisingly, that young people were significantly more likely to favor extending the franchise to voters eighteen and older. Surely young people were more likely than other groups to be doves. As Bode told the New York Times Magazine in 1972, "Can you imagine the ‘68 convention voting down a peace plank if a third of the delegates had been under 30?"
The group also knew that women were more likely to be doves. During the last days of the 1968 campaign, polls had shown that women had surged toward the Democratic nominee, Hubert Humphrey, because of a last-minute U.S.-brokered bombing halt. Later polls proved Bode correct. "The single exception to this general pattern of similarity in issue orientation of the sexes concerns opinions on military policy," the political scientist Jeane Kirkpatrick wrote in The New Presidential Elite , her seminal study of the 1972 conventions. "Women were somewhat less likely than men to support the resolution of problems by force. Consistent though not large sex differences existed on whether the United States should withdraw all troops from Asia."
So Bode and the others came up with an idea. "There was a cleavage in society," Bode recalled. "People under 30 were fighting this war, and we said, ‘Count the number of people under 30 and women who were delegates to the ‘68 convention.’ The idea was that if you brought women in, there would have to be policy consequences . . . equal pay for equal work and all that." What Bode’s staff found was that of the delegates to the 1968 convention, only 13 percent had been women and only 4 percent were younger than thirty.
From this, Bode and the others drew up a proposal: State Democratic parties would be required to pick as delegates a "reasonable" percentage of women and young people. Their proposal amounted to demographic quotas. Not only would women and young people be encouraged to run as presidential delegates in 1972, but they would also be guaranteed seats on the floor. This proposal was more than a complete repudiation of the commission’s democratic mandate, which was to ensure that "all (Democratic) voters have a full, meaningful, and timely opportunity to participate in the selection of delegates." The proposal was elitist and undemocratic. Imagine if seats in Congress were apportioned by demographic set-asides: Whites, Hispanics, and blacks receive X number of seats; Protestants, Catholics, and Jews receive X number, etc.
For all of their elite knowledge and plans, the four New Politics leaders were not tone deaf. If their real motives for championing demographic quotas were divulged, they realized, the proposal would never pass. Everyone would find out that the New Politics Democrats were refighting the ‘68 peace plank! So they lied and deceived. Their main claim was that the implied demographic quotas for women and young people were needed to combat discrimination by state parties. As commission Guideline A-2 stated, state parties were "required to overcome the effects of past discrimination by affirmative steps." In truth, discrimination against female voters had not been an issue in 1968. When the commission’s research staff in the fall of 1969 drew up a list of the eighteen most common alleged abuses at the hearings, discrimination against or lack of participation by women did not make the list.
To his credit, Fred Dutton was more honest about his motives for passing the proposal. At a historic commission meeting on November 19, 1969, Dutton cited a range of reasons as to why the party should reach out to female voters, such as gender bias. But his main point was that the party needed to assimilate into its ranks "the women’s liberation movement," which he predicted would "be almost, not quite, as strong as the black movement" has been, and "get some of those people out of the county level, the women and young people, into the rooms, into the levels where they’ll have some effect on these decisions." (The commission passed Guideline A-2 by a vote of 14¯9.) Despite Dutton’s remarks, as well as those of Bode in 1972, the press swallowed the lie that the implied quotas were meant to combat discrimination.
There was a reason that Dutton sought to ally with the emerging feminist movement. Like Hillary Rodham, in the late 1960s it had yet to merge with either major political party. If anything, feminists appeared more likely to side with the GOP. The party’s presidential wing included an eastern seaboard establishment and western economic conservatives, both of which were congenial to feminist interests; Republicans had a longer history of having supported the Equal Rights Amendment; and President Nixon in 1969 had signed an executive order allowing military hospitals overseas to perform abortions. By contrast, the Democratic party seemed distinctly uncongenial to feminist interests. Catholic bosses dominated the party’s presidential wing; union workers and lower-class women supported protective labor legislation, which feminists did not support; and Democrats had a lower share of women delegates (13 percent) at their 1968 convention than did the Republicans (17 percent). To be sure, the party in its 1968 platform did support birth control, but so did the GOP.
Guideline A-2 changed all that. Feminists were no longer outsiders in the Democratic party. They had an opportunity to become insiders, and they sought to capitalize on it. Their key meeting with party officials was held at Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters, in the Watergate Hotel office complex, on November 18, 1971. Six leaders of the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), including Wexler, demanded that half of all delegates to the 1972 convention be female. Although they failed to achieve that goal¯two-fifths of the Democratic delegates at Miami Beach were female¯feminist leaders recognized they never would have gotten nearly that many without Guideline A-2. As NWPC official Doris Meissner said: "When we went to the Republican Chairman, there wasn’t anything like A-2 to go on. We couldn’t say, ‘It says you must do this, and if that doesn’t mean that, what does it mean?’ We got a little from the Republicans on the Democratic shirttail, but that was all." She later added of the soft quotas, "They were a way to seek to reform the existing structures within rather than challenging them from the outside." By such insider tactics did secular feminists enter the Democratic coalition.
Yet entering the coalition was one thing. Becoming party insiders was another. And the feminist attempt to become insiders was about to hit a major snag.
Although women had been given implied quotas because of their presumed opposition to the war, feminist leaders sought to do more than end the war or the military-industrial complex. One of the four main planks of the famous women’s national march on August 26, 1970, was "free abortions," and the National Women’s Political Caucus upon its founding in July 1971 had listed government-subsidized abortions as a basic human right. Naturally, feminists wanted the national Democratic party to support unrestricted abortion rights. On the eve of a key meeting of the Platform Committee in June 1972, about two dozen feminists lobbied presidential candidate McGovern to endorse abortion on request. "We women look at this subject as our Vietnam," Gloria Steinem told McGovern at his home, "since there are more women dying from butchered abortions than servicemen killed over there."
Although feminist leaders sought to speak for all women, their support for unfettered abortion rights was limited to elite women. In the February 12, 1971, issue of Science , the esteemed UC Berkeley sociologist Judith Blake, a self-described foe of "repressive . . . pro-natalist policies," wrote a comprehensive survey about polls regarding American attitudes toward abortion during the 1960s. Noting that the vast majority of women opposed abortion for economic reasons, a common reason that women resorted to the procedure, Blake argued that abortion-rights supporters should not try to lobby the lower classes and women: "Rather, it is to the educated and influential that we must look for effecting rapid legislative change." Indeed, women were less likely to favor abortion than men. When women were asked whether they favored legalizing abortion if the parents cannot afford another child, two-thirds on average said they did not. "The net result," Blake concluded, "is that at all educational levels (but particularly at the college and grade-school levels), women now object to abortion for economic reasons decidedly more than men." Also, Catholics were more likely than many other Americans to support legal protections for unborn infants. According to Blake, Catholic disapproval of abortion for economic reasons was 10 percentage points greater than non-Catholics¯74 percent as against 64 percent. According to Blake’s surveys in 1968 and 1969, more than two-thirds of men with a grade school or high school education opposed legal abortion for economic reasons, while less than half of men with a college education did.
Behind the scenes, feminist leaders grasped that support for abortion rights was something less than universal: In its internal memos, the NWPC warned local leaders not to bring up the abortion issue lest it split the movement. But publicly, feminist leaders acted as if abortion was a populist cause. The NWPC drew up a plank that it hoped to pass at the 1972 Democratic National Convention. It read, "In matters relating to human reproduction, each person’s right to privacy, freedom of choice and individual conscience shall be fully respected, consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions." The debate over the abortion plank ran from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12, 1972, the second session of the convention. Even in a party that had gained an influx of secular liberals, the abortion plank was not popular. It was rejected 1,547¯1,101.
Indeed, McGovern’s own lieutenants had lobbied to defeat the plank. After McGovern was tagged in the spring as the candidate of "the three A’s ¯ acid, amnesty, and abortion" and began to hemorrhage support, they were well aware of the importance of the Catholic vote. On July 21, staff members Gerry Cassidy and Kenneth Schlossberg wrote to senior McGovern aide Frank Mankiewicz about strategy for the fall campaign. Their eight-page memo stressed that McGovern’s alliance with cultural liberals such as feminists might alienate Catholic and blue-collar Democrats:
The heavy emphasis in the press during and since the convention on voter registration of youth as a secret key to your victory in the fall contains what we see as a very dangerous side-effect ¯ the appearance of deliberately dividing the electorate into "us" and "them." The "us" being the accepted McGovern constituency ¯ the young, the black, the poor, the women’s libbers, etc. ¯ and the "them" being the rest of white middle-class working America, including Catholic-Ethnic America . . . . The New Majority may constitute the winning edge but without the rest of the normal Democratic constituency¯or at least a healthy portion of it¯the winning edge may just well end up the losing edge. By unduly dwelling on the "top" of our coalition, we risk further aggravating social tensions in the foundations of our necessary support and having the house fall down.
Catholic and blue-collar Democrats were even more alarmed by the abortion plank. They recognized that if the national party took the side of secular liberals in the culture wars, it was bound to lose its majority status. Joseph Califano, the parliamentarian of the convention and a former aide to President Johnson, thought that an embrace of cultural liberalism was "likely to infuriate and alienate many middle-class Americans who had been the backbone of the party from Roosevelt through Johnson."
Califano’s prediction viewed prophetic. In November, McGovern lost overwhelmingly among Catholics. Nixon carried 59 percent of the Catholic vote, the same percentage that Humphrey had won among Catholics four years earlier. As historian George Marlin noted, Nixon’s total represented a new record for a Republican presidential candidate. Even though McGovern did not run on the abortion plank, top party strategists recognized that he owed his colossal defeat in the election to his association with the cultural left. "The American people made an association between McGovern and gay lib, and welfare rights, and pot smoking, and black militants, and women’s lib, and wise college kids, and everything else they saw as threatening their value systems," Rep. James O’Hara of Michigan, the chairman of the other reform commission created at the 1968 convention, said. "I think it was all over then and there."
Common sense dictates that secular feminists, who had contributed to McGovern’s defeat, would have trimmed their sails after the election. They of course did nothing of the kind. In the non-Euclidean world of interest-group politics, they pressed their agenda harder. Feminists were still not insiders in the Democratic party, and they intended to change that fact.
Feminists’ first major victory was making the national Democratic Party a pro-choice party. They lobbied in 1976 for a plank that opposed a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade . Their success had little to do with the popularity of abortion rights in the party; Carter lieutenants had sought to avoid any mention of abortion in the platform. Instead, their success was due largely to their superior organization and behind-the-scenes tactics. For example, at the 1976 Democratic convention feminist organizations had fifty staff members and their own newspaper. "I think the difference was that we . . . had many strong feminists on the inside, who knew how the rules worked," feminist Koryne Horbal said. "And that’s always the most important thing, knowing how the rules work and how the structure works." By contrast, socially conservative Democrats had failed to mount an effective effort. Nellie Gray, a delegate for pro-life Democratic presidential candidate Eileen McCormack, suggested that her side suffered from a dearth of lobbyists: "In those days, all of us in the pro-life movement were active in three or four things at the same time." In addition, the old guard of social conservatives was fading. George Meany and Al Barkan, two leaders of the AFL-CIO, had scaled down their efforts in national party politics. John Bailey had died, as had many other big-city and state bosses.
Despite the adoption of the plank, feminists viewed the party’s position on abortion as something less than a victory. They wanted the national party to bless not only Roe but also taxpayer financed abortions. "It worries me because there is nothing that speaks to the whittling away of the Supreme Court decisions, the attempts, for example, to cut off Medicaid funds to women who get abortions¯a restriction which affects poor women¯or those private hospitals which refuse to perform them," Freddi Wechsler, political action coordinator for the NWPC, said. "All of those things have nothing to do with a constitutional amendment."
How would feminists take over the platform and become insiders? They used the same underhanded, insider tactic that had gotten them into the party: quotas for female delegates. Only this time they upped the ante: Half of all delegates to future conventions must be females.
Passing this proposal would not be easy. Conservatives still retained a substantial presence in the Democratic party in the mid-1970s, and they were bound to oppose a hard quota for female delegates. To overcome their likely opposition, feminists dissembled. Their proposal did not entail quotas; it guaranteed "equal representation." "Instead of selling it as a quota, we sold it as a democratic concept," Joanne Howes, an NWPC board member and cofounder of EMILY’s List acknowledged, adding with a chuckle, "Maybe this was a semantic argument . . . . It was a matter of getting the right language."
Also, to pass the proposal feminist leaders maneuvered around regular party channels. They never made a case to the media or the public. They never lobbied the party’s latest reform panel, the Winograd Commission. Instead, they lobbied the members of the DNC. They talked with black leaders, such as Richard Hatcher, the mayor of Gary, Indiana, and Hispanic representatives. And feminist leaders decided shrewdly that Mildred Jeffrey, the chairwoman of the National Women’s Political Caucus, should be the public face of the equal representation clause. A confidante of UAW leader Walter Reuther and member of the Lawrence Commission, Jeffrey was respected by every wing of the party.
In December 1978, the DNC approved the hard quotas. Mark Sigel, a member of the Winograd Commission, was shocked that the feminists had won so complete a victory. "I was sort of taken aback by it," he recalled, "because we certainly had the votes not to go on record in favor of 50¯50."
The outsiders were about to become insiders. At the 1980 Democratic convention, Females represented half the slots. And secular-feminist organizations controlled the delegates. The National Organization for Women boasted two hundred delegates. The NWPC had four hundred delegates. By contrast, the four major trade unions had three hundred delegates.
Carter forces continued to oppose proposals in favor of abortion and gay rights, but they never stood a chance. As Carter organization head Tim Kraft said, "We were dealing with forces completely outside our control." Kraft was right.
Convention delegates determine a party’s ideology; they vote on planks to its platform. Change the way the delegates are chosen, you change the party’s stand on the issues. So by pushing through a resolution that half of all convention delegates must be female, feminists virtually ensured that the Democratic party would endorse abortion rights.
By a 2¯1 margin, the delegates passed Minority Report Number 11. It endorsed not only abortion on request but also taxpayer-financing of abortion. "[T]he Democratic Party . . . opposes restrictions on funding for health services for the poor that deny poor women especially the right to exercise a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy." The delegates adopted a so-called "freedom of sexual preference" plank. And the delegates approved a platform that promised to withhold money and technical assistance to candidates who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment.
Archfeminist leader Bella Abzug knew that quotas had allowed feminists to become party insiders. "Our ten-year campaign for equal numbers of men and women had been completely won at last, and it had been won because we had succeeded in greatly increasing the number of women delegates," she reflected. "By winning political power within the party, women had forced the members to address our concerns. No matter where they stood on candidates, the women delegates were united on equal representation and our other issues. The increased presence of women was changing not only the face, but the structures and policies of the Democratic Party."
Feminists had changed¯revolutionized, really¯the Democratic party. But they had not changed the views of millions of socially conservative Democrats. In a reprise of 1972, Catholic Democratic leaders were outraged at the party’s plank on abortion. The Carter campaign was deluged with calls and letters in protest of the plank. A September 4 letter from Bishop Elden Curtiss of Helena and Western Montana to Carter conveys the flavor of Catholics’ distress:
I write to you today to ask that you reject the pro-abortion plank of the Democratic national platform.
I realize that oftentimes those who draw up the platform are not the same ones who are left to defend it publicly.
The Democratic platform has many planks that cover basic issues of human rights. This is in keeping with the spirit and thrust of Catholic social teaching. Yet this one plank is in stark contrast since it calls for the denial of the most basic human right¯life itself.
In light of this basic discrepancy, I ask you to examine your conscience carefully, as one who stands for basic human rights in our society. And I ask you to reject publicly this one plank of the Democratic national platform.
Catholic Democrats were not alone. The vast majority of Americans opposed the party’s unlimited support for abortion rights, and they made their views knows. In the 1980 election, President Carter was trounced by the pro-life Republican nominee, Ronald Reagan. Despite that Carter had ran against the party plank on abortion, he was the captive of a secular party. He lost the majority of Catholic and working-class voters. Thus was born the Reagan Democrat.
For all their appeals to party insiders and fellow activists, feminists had failed to make their case to ordinary voters. This may not comport with our view of the feminist movement, which seems to be stuck in the early 1970s: women marching in the streets, their fists raised and shouting through bullhorns or on podiums. But the truth is that the feminist movement evolved. Feminists learned how to work the backrooms and manipulate and deceive people for political gain. They just never learned to broaden their appeal.
Hillary Rodham Clinton comes out of the same tradition. In an interview earlier this year with the New York Times , Rodham Clinton alluded to the insider tactics that her predecessors used. "I was rooted in a political approach that understood that you can’t just take to the streets and make change in America," she said. "You can’t just give a speech and expect people to fall down and agree with you."
Mark Stricherz , a writer for Get Religion and Inside Catholic , is the author of the recently published Why the Democrats Are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People’s Party (Encounter Books).