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.