The Corner

When the Dems Embraced the Party of Death

Looking to the other side of the aisle, so to speak, Mark Stricherz has a book out that is a fascinating political-science study on how the Dems became the party where feminists and abortion has a home. We have a Q&A up with him today. Here is a taste of it:

Lopez: Why are pro-abortion feminists so influential in the Democratic party?

Stricherz: … If the national parties in the late 1960s and early ‘70s had stayed the same, feminists likely would have aligned with the Republican party, which seemed to be their natural home. President Nixon in 1969 had signed an executive order allowing military hospitals overseas to perform abortions, while the Democratic party seemed to be run by male Catholic bosses.

But in 1969 the Democratic party was in the midst of an internal coup d’etat. Antiwar Democrats were enraged that at the 1968 convention not only had McCarthy been denied the party’s nomination, but also that the peace plank had been defeated. So a group of New Politics leaders used a reform commission, which was chaired by Senator George McGovern, to hijack the national party.

They had a major insight: to change the party’s support for the Vietnam War, you had to change the way delegates are selected. After all, delegates vote not only on the party’s presidential nominee, but also its platform. They also figured out that besides young people, the group most likely to oppose the war was women. So in 1969 this group succeeded in passing a proposal that required all 50 state Democratic parties to do the following: a “reasonable” percentage of your presidential delegates must be female. This mandate, as well as a few others, took the delegate selection process out of the hands of the bosses and into those of the New Politics activists.

In 1971, the National Women’s Political Caucus was founded. Its leaders found out about the McGovern Commission’s implied quotas, and they told their members to run as Democratic delegates. (By contrast, the GOP had no delegate quotas.) At the 1972 Democratic convention, 43 percent of all delegates in the hall were women, while in 1968 only 13 percent had been female. In 1978, the DNC, acting at the behest of feminists, required that 50 percent of each state party’s delegates must be female, which is the requirement that endures to this day.

Besides being antiwar, most of these female delegates supported abortion rights. And at the 1980 convention, they had sufficient numbers to approve a plank endorsing taxpayer funding abortions. The revolution in delegate selection had transformed its ideology, just as the handful of leaders on the McGovern Commission predicted.

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