Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How the Democrats Became Secularist

Deal Hudson interviews Mark Stricherz about his new book Why the Democrats are Blue:

MS: The short answer is that ideological activists controlled the nomination process: They, rather than big city and state leaders -- who have a larger constituency -- were choosing the nominee. It used to be, in the old boss system, that the bosses wanted to pick a nominee based on his ability to win.

The activists were looking for a nominee who could win, sure. But they also had ideological preferences. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the folks who were true believers tended to be feminists and anti-war types. It was a totally different constituency from the old Democratic Party of Catholics, blacks, union members, etc.

DH: Were the old party bosses that were replaced by these activists Catholic? Is this the ethnic Catholic group that was replaced?

MS: Yes, they were almost all Catholic. It's shocking today to look back at some of the old newspapers of the time, but in 1968 the chairman of the DNC, John Bailey; the chairman of the platform committee, Hale Boggs from Louisiana; the chairman of the credentials committee, Richard Hughes from New Jersey; the kingmaker at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Richard Dailey, were all Roman Catholics. And that had been true since 1948, when Catholics took over the machinery. They were in charge; Southerners had played a large role in party affairs before 1948, but the party from 1948 to 1968 was controlled by white Catholics, especially Irish Catholics.

I wonder if the Democrats look on the old Catholic dominance in the same way they look at the old Southern dominance of the party. "Sure," they might say, "we lost a bunch of close-minded bigots, but now we can go down to a principled defeat in our presidential campaigns!"

Of course there are plenty of Catholics in the Democratic leadership, but they are particularly domesticated and servile on the issues that would conflict with the party ideologues. I hope Stricherz' book will provide a how-to guide to reverse the Democrats' decline into the party of the obscene Amanda Marcotte.


Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed less by the fact that the Democrats became secularist than how particular Catholics accomodated to it (i.e. became servile). Was it a struggle for them? Daniel P. Moynihan, for example, seemed a principled man and yet acquiesced and left his Catholic principles at home.

Kevin Jones said...

There's a sad story in Bill Kaufmann's Reactionary Radicals where Kaufmann, a former Moynihan staff member, tells how Moynihan in the late '80s *almost* gave a speech renouncing support for abortion. There's a big story behind that "almost."

There's a George McKenna essay called "Criss-Cross: Democrats, Republicans, and Abortion" that goes into Catholic Dems in particular. I blogged that here: http://kevinjjones.blogspot.com/2006/12/how-democrats-began-sticking-up-for.html