At the end of 2007, a new book evaluating the hopes for a pro-life
revival in the Democratic Party was published. The author, Mark
Stricherz, graciously granted a telephone interview to 4marks.com to
discuss his book, Why The Democrats Are Blue. Part One of the review was published in February and explores the historical process
of how the party arrived where it's at today. Part Two examines the
prospects and hopes for renewal. You can visit
Mr. Stricherz's website
to read more reviews and buy his book.
Stricherz book contains two key strengths—the first, as discussed in Part One, is that he does not merely recite the history of how the party changed, but shows the concrete moves that took place to make it happen, changes that were done away from the glare of the media spotlight. His book’s second strength is a byproduct of the first—he does not merely lament the passing of the pre-1968 Democratic Party, but offers both hope that it can be revitalized and concrete steps for doing so.
In researching Why The Democrats Are Blue, the author went into areas that would seem to be naturals for Democrats on many issues, but where they keep losing elections. Westmoreland County in Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, is a prime example. Working-to-middle class and heavily Catholic, “they’ve handed Lynn Swann its votes over Ed Rendell, a black pro-life Republican over a white pro-choice Democrat", he notes. “They’ve voted for Bush twice.” Is the Democratic brand name irrevocably damaged in areas such as this, or can the party heal the wounds that the actions its national leadership have caused?
“For some voters who are older, it wouldn’t take much", Stricherz offered. “Then there’s the consistent ethic of life voters who weigh the pros and cons in a very academic fashion. Then there’s those who just see the Democrats as the party of abortion and gay marriage.” While the latter group will not likely vote Democratic anytime soon, the author’s analysis suggest the other two blocs could be salvaged.
Changing the party has to be done through the nominating process, and ultimately that means the rules rigging the process in favor of the abortion industry’s candidates have to change. Stricherz offers several steps aimed at opening the windows of the Democratic presidential primaries. He proposes abolishing state conventions and caucuses, events that are dominated by hard-core political activists—which, in the Democratic Party, means very left-wing, very pro-abortion/pro-gay rights types. He goes on to suggest opening up the primaries to allow independents to participate in more of the early voting, and also seeks to have the larger battleground states in the Midwest have their primaries early in the process. Under the current format, “The reflexive opposition from the secularists is just too intense, and they control the nominating process.”
The changes would be aimed at getting disaffected Catholics and other voters with similar values voting in the Democratic primary. I posed to the author the scenario that the effect could be the reverse—the result could be increased participation by socially liberal, but economically conservative yuppies, which would further entrench the Democrats as the party of abortion and the wealthy elite, while eliminating the virtues the party currently has. Stricherz acknowledged that “the effects are uncertain”, but the current system is “too controlled by activists. The key is to expand participation and hope for better things.” Part One of this article, recalled a loyal Democrat from Boston who wished his party would change, but felt he lacked the time to change things due to family obligations. The reforms proposed by Stricherz aim at the net effect of giving Democratic voters like this man greater say over and above the voices of left-wing political junkies who tend to be absorbed in political activism above all else. Which is a delicate way of saying these proposals would favor voters who have balanced lives over those that are politically obsessed.
What kind of candidate would best capitalize on a new openness from the Democrats? Would be it one who was pro-life, and also appealing to southerners with a rightward shift on guns and national security? Or would it be one who was reliably liberal across the board, but strong on life and other moral issues? Stricherz sees it as the latter. “There’s just not a market for a pro-gun, pro-hawk candidate in the Democratic Party. A pro-life Bobby Kennedy type would have the best chance”, as he invoked the name of JFK’s younger brother who appeared to be leading the antiwar movement to victory in 1968 before an assassin’s bullet tragically cut his life short.
Stricherz’s travels and encounters with ordinary voters have convinced him that there is market for the type of change he envisions. “I run into two groups, disaffected Catholics and disaffected Republicans.” Forthcoming changes in the political landscape will also favor the pro-life Democratic cause. “The most hopeful sign is that Roe vs. Wade is on its last legs. There’s four or five pro-life movies out, that are influencing the crisis centers. I still think the Republicans are going to win in November because of the life issue.”
The latter fact would spur decisive change. In fact, to head off such a conclusion, Hillary Clinton has already made rhetorical nods of acceptance towards acknowledging the good intentions of the pro-life movement and telling the author that she would allow Casey’s son, Robert Jr, now a senator from Pennsylvania to address the convention, though it was not indicated if he could talk about the pro-life cause per se. Stricherz speculated that just as it took the renowned anti-communist Richard Nixon to open the door to China, it may take a candidate such as Senator Clinton to unlock the doors of her party to the pro-life movement. At this writing, Clinton’s nomination looks considerably less likely then when the author and I spoke, but her comments reveal that the party establishment knows it’s being hurt by their radical pro-abortion posture.
One thing can be certain—change must come to the current political landscape. Even pro-lifers who are reliably Republican on economic and foreign policy issues would surely acknowledge that it’s not a sustainable state of affairs to have one party completely in the throes of the abortion industry, and that everyone’s interest is served by encouraging pro-life voters with otherwise liberal views, who want to speak up and instigate change on the Democratic side of the aisle.
In the classic Spencer Tracy film The Last Hurrah , an old-time Democratic politician makes his last run for the mayoralty of a fictional city that is presumably Boston. The story is set in the late 1940s/early 1950s timeframe. In discussing the weaknesses of his opponent, an adviser derides him as “a member of the Planned Parenthood Association. And he wants to be mayor of this city? An Arab would have a better chance of becoming mayor of Tel Aviv.” Times changed in a hurry in Boston, and the party at-large. Stricherz’s book shows how it changed, and also shows how it might change back with equal speed. The Berlin Wall collapsed without notice and the abortion industry's hold on Democratic presidential politics can too. All it takes is for the Democratic Party’s version of Ronald Reagan to stand up and speak. The reforms offered by Why The Democrats Are Blue make it a little more likely that will happen.