It all came to a head in 1972, as most of us know, but even if you do know, Stricherz’s account of the 1972 convention is helpful and even riveting at times. What’s most interesting to me is that the abortion issue more or less came out of the blue. It was only the feminists who wanted it and McGovern’s people were actually rather frantic that it not become a part of the platform, knowing full well what it would do to the traditional party base.
It really is quite amazing to consider the transformation in the priorities of the Democratic party in just those few years - who in 1964 could have imagined that gay rights and abortion rights would become such a focus just a decade later.
As interesting as that was, I’ll tell you that the segment of the book that interested me the most was the material dealing with Carter in 1976. Only three years after Roe was decided, abortion was an ever bigger issue than it had been four years previously and a Human Life Amendment of some sort was a matter of serious discussion as a realistic possibility in many quarters.
Carter played both sides, but the party platform remained clearly in support of abortion rights, with a stated opposition to a constitutional amendment overturning Roe - a fact that prompted many bishops to make extremely strong statements, including - and this might surprise some - Cardinal Bernardin:
Archbishop Joseph Bernardin of Cincinnati, the head of the National ConferenceIt was soon realized that Carter had a “Catholic problem,” one not alleviated even by the efforts of staffers hired to specifically address it. On August 31, he met with six bishops in DC, including Bernardin:
of Catholic Bishops, blasted the party platform as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘morally
offensive in the extreme.’ On the eve of the Democratic convention, ten thousand
people rallied under a blazing sun in Central Park and marched to Madison Square
Garden to urge the party to oppose the abortion plank….The priest chosen to give
the closing benediction at the convention backed out, citing Carter and the
party’s stand on abortion.
At the August 31 meeting, [Bernardin] left no doubt about the importance heCarter continued to finesse, being vage about some things, expressing his personal opposition to abortion at times, and pleasing pro-lifers and infuriating pro-abortion feminists by signing the Hyde Amendment in 1977.
assigned to the rights of unborn infants. Reading from a prepared statement, the
archbishop stressed the prelates’ insistence on a constitutional amendment that
‘will give the maximum protection possible to the unborn.” As Bernardin
explained, “If there is agreement that aobriotn is a moral evil because it
violated a person’s most basic right, then the only logical conclusion is that
something must be done to correct the evil; and the only remedy is a
constitutional amendment….Indeed without such a remedy, the effort to promote
other human life causes for individual and social betterment, about which we are
concerned, is seirously weakened.”
In 1980, Carter and his supporters worked against pro-gay rights and pro-abortion rights planks in the platform but were handily defeated, on the latter, by a margin of 2-1 voting in support of planks supporting unrestricted abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion, the vote achieved in great part by maneuverings and decisions made over the previous years to enact a quota requiring a 50-50 female-male split on delegates.
And then came Reagan.
Gee. I wonder why the pro-life activists starting doubting the Democratic party was open to their concerns?