vs. Family Values
Women at the 1992 Democratic and Republican Conventions
by Jo Freeman
in off our backs, January 1993, pp. 2-3, 10-17.
The 1992 Conventions of the Democratic and Republican Parties saw the
culmination of trends which have been developing for twenty years. The
two major political parties have now completely polarized around feminism
and the reaction to it. Each parties' position has become institutionalized
to the point where it is not seriously questioned within the national
party and where the differences are clearly evident to the voting public.
On feminist issues and concerns the parties are not following the traditional
pattern of presenting different versions of the same thing, or following
each other's lead into new territory.1
They are presenting two different and conflicting visions of how Americans
should engage in everyday life.
Although the party platforms and the speeches at the conventions devoted
many words to many issues, each parties' vision can be summed up in a
slogan. The Republicans articulated their's clearly in the phrase "family
values." While their platform does not define this slogan, both the
document and the speeches indicate that it stands for programs and policies
which strengthen the traditional two-parent, patriarchal family in which
the husband is the breadwinner, the wife is the caretaker, and children
are completely subject to parental authority. The Democrats attempted
their usual strategy of pre-emption and co-optation by borrowing the Republican's
phrase to use in a different context, but their very use of it belied
its content. In reality the Democrats have incorporated the feminist demand
that "the personal is political" and have put on the public
agenda issues which were once deemed to be purely personal. The most controversial
of these is abortion; the most recent is sexual harassment. In between
are a plethora of concerns ranging from wife abuse and incest, to ending
discrimination against gays, lesbians and others living nontraditional
lifestyles, to proposals to reduce the conflict between work and family
When the feminist movement emerged in the mid-sixties, the major parties
did not view women, let alone feminists, as worthy of notice. Support
for the Equal Rights Amendment had been removed from the Democratic Party's
Platform in 1960 and the Republican Party's in 1964. By 1968 the sole
reference in the Republican Platform was "concern for the unique
problems of citizens long disadvantaged in our total society by race,
color, national origin, creed or sex." The Democratic Platform didn't
go that far. The words "women" or "sex" did not appear
This changed in 1972. In 1970 the feminist movement became publicly known.
In 1971 the National Women's Political Caucus was founded specifically
to bring more women into mainstream politics, including the major political
parties. At the 1972 national nominating conventions its Democratic and
Republican Task Forces organized feminists to put their issues back into
the Platforms and to increase the number of women delegates. Although
feminist activities at the Democratic Convention were by far the more
public and the more publicized of the two, the Task Forces were about
equally successful in achieving their goals. The ERA was put back into
both parties' platforms; proposed planks on abortion were left out.3
Women's percent of delegates increased from 13 to 40 percent in the Democratic
Convention, and from 17 to 30 percent at the Republican's. The greater
increase at the former was because Democratic women were riding a reform
movement within the party to make it more accessible. While this movement
to write national rules which would curb the power of the local machines
was stimulated more by Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements than by incipient
feminism, it created an opportunity which the NWPC used to women's advantage.4
By 1976 feminists were strong enough within both parties to engage in
major battles, but they were very different battles. The fight within
the Democratic Party was over the "50-50" rule to require that
from 1980 on all delegations would have to be half women. This change
was proposed because there had been a sharp fall off of women delegates
from 40 to 34 percent at the 1976 Convention. It lost in the Rules Committee,
but with enough support for a minority report, and thus a potential floor
fight. The Carter campaign controlled a majority of the votes and did
not support the 50-50 rule. However, neither did it want a bloody floor
fight in a year in which the Democrats sensed victory. After several days
of negotiations Carter compromised by agreeing to promote equal
division in future conventions and a floor fight was avoided. In December
of 1979 the Democratic National Committee voted to require that all future
delegations be half women.
At the 1976 Republican Convention, the fight was over keeping the ERA
in the Republican Party platform. Although ostensibly between Phyllis
Schlafly's STOP ERA and Republican feminists affiliated with the NWPC,
this fight was a surrogate for the struggle between the Reagan and Ford
factions of the party, and it was ultimately these two campaigns which
decided what would be in the Platform. The Republican Party's Platform
Committee meets the week before its national convention, unlike the Democrats
who draft their platform in the Spring. In 1976, STOP ERA was gaining
momentum in state battles; it mobilized Reagan delegates to remove the
ERA clause from the Platform. Defeated in the subcommittee and barely
reinstated by 51 to 47 in the full Platform Committee, the ERA was ripe
for a major floor fight. However Reagan only wanted a floor debate on
two issues and this wasn't one of them. Thanks to candidates Ford and
Reagan, the ERA stayed in the Republican Platform until 1980.
In 1980 neither convention saw much fighting. Yet it was clear from reading
the platforms that the polarization over feminist issues that had emerged
in 1976 was escalating. Both feminists and anti-feminists had established
their hegemony over their respective parties' positions by 1980 and were
consolidating their power. The few remaining feminists in the Republican
Party had no ties to the victorious Reagan campaign and the ERA was removed
from the Platform by a full Committee vote of 90 to 9. Abortion actually
received more support than the ERA. A motion for neutral recognition of
the right to differ on the issue only lost by 75 to 18. For the Democratic
convention minority planks had been filed and floor fights scheduled on
both the ERA and abortion, but the issue was not support, but how much
support. Feminists wanted "the Democratic Party [to] offer no financial
support ... to candidates who do not support the ERA" and to go on
record in favor of government funding of abortions for poor women. Though
the Carter campaign supported neither of these, both were passed by the
Convention itself without much debate -- the former by acclamation and
the latter by a two to one margin.
By 1984, both feminists and anti feminists had so thoroughly permeated
the two national parties that they could truly be called insiders in the
dominant Presidential campaigns. NOW's Action Vice President was put on
the Democratic Platform Committee by Mondale's campaign with "sign
off" authority on all planks of interest to feminists. Phyllis Schlafly
sat on the national defense subcommittee of the Republican Platform Committee
but gave directions on the language she wanted in other subcommittees
through Eagle Forum supporters. Nothing on women was put in the platform
without her agreement. Feminists focused their energies on persuading
Mondale to run with a woman; once they succeeded, they celebrated at the
convention. Republican feminists boycotted their convention as futile;
the few who tried to testify on the ERA at the platform hearings were
questioned about Geraldine Ferraro's family finances. Outside the convention,
NOW did not even march in protest as it had in 1976 and 1980. 1,700 people
came to Schlafly's fundraiser, where prominent feminists were parodied.
Conflict re-emerged in the 1988 conventions, but it was subtle, muted
by the desires of feminists in both parties to win the Presidency and
to be on good terms with the winners. The Democrats wrote a feminist platform
in consultation with representatives of several national organizations,
but only after initial drafts that left out mention of the ERA and abortion.
NOW moved from being a powerful insider in 1984 to commenting from the
fringes that women were still being neglected; other women's organizations
told the press that women were now such insiders that they didn't have
to be catered to as in the past. At the Republican Convention, abortion,
which had been shunned by GOP feminists in the 1970s, became the
issue. However, most of the earlier Republican feminists were no longer
involved with the Party, or were part of the Bush team and more interested
in avoiding divisiveness than making policy. Thus it was mostly a new
group of women, and men, who opposed support for the human life amendment
in the Republican platform and tried to remove language which declared
that "the unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot
be infringed." They lost by 55 to 32. Instead of taking the issue
to the convention floor, several had a press conference in which they
lauded the "progressive platform" and declared their support
for George Bush.
The ease with which feminists and anti-feminists could have their respective
positions adopted by the two major parties was facilitated by major transformations
occurring within each party. The reform movement within the Democratic
Party changed it from a coalition of state parties and local machines
into one of national constituencies. Organized labor retained its traditional
clout, but over time it was joined by organized minority groups, women,
gays and lesbians and others who won acceptance within the party by their
ability to elect delegates, raise money and conduct quadrennial struggles
over platform planks and rules changes.
The Republican Party saw the emergence of a powerful interest group, the
New Christian Right, despite a political culture that was traditionally
hostile to organized interest groups within it. In the 1970s several well
known ministers were recruited by hard right Republicans looking for troops.
They in turn persuaded their deeply religious followers to overcome their
repugnance of party politics as well as their traditional Democratic voting
habits. Politicized by the legalization of abortion, evangelical Christians
began to move into the Republican Party in 1980 to support Ronald Reagan.
Pat Robertson's Presidential campaign organized them to become delegates
to the 1988 convention. Not warmly received by more traditional Republicans
who found them rather déclassé, their persistence, organization
and numbers compelled their reluctant acceptance. By 1992, the Christian
right had the same hegemony over social issues within the Republican Party
that the liberal constituency groups did in the Democratic Party. They
not only wrote the Platform, but the party line.
Despite running rapidly in the opposite directions, the Democratic and
Republican Parties had several themes in common at this year's Conventions.
Foremost was harmony on the inside.5
Most of the protests, and there were more than usual this year, were on
the outside by groups for whom the conventions were primarily a press
availability, not a chance to educate delegates from all over the country.
Abortion was the reigning issue; no longer seen as just a "women's
issue", or even a debatable one, it has become a deep moral conflict
on which elections can be won and lost and on which deviance from each
party's official line is tantamount to treason. To the women in the parties,
however, electing more of their own took up more time than talking about
the right to choose. Showcasing candidates and raising money to elect
more women were emphasized far more than in any previous convention. It
was female fundraisers who received the maximum honors, not spokeswomen.
Harmony. There was very little fighting in part because each convention's
most contentious delegates (except Jerry Brown's) either felt their concerns
were adequately met by the winning candidates, or there weren't enough
of them to mount an effective protest. The newest claimant in the Democratic
Party coalition, the Lesbian and Gay Caucus, with 104 "out"
delegates most of whom weren't pledged to Clinton, felt it had "tremendous
access."6 Feminists had no complaint.
They liked the platform. They liked the speeches. Unlike Dukakis in 1988,
Clinton honored the party's women by making his only off-the-floor speech
at their Tuesday morning gathering. NOW, which usually provided at least
a voice of disagreement, stayed outside. National President Patricia Ireland
was in Kenya that week. The only dissident voice was Jerry Brown's, and
his was largely ignored.
At the Republican Convention, there was a lot of press play over abortion,
but it was mostly smoke; the few pro-choice delegates did not come organized
or even inclined to oppose their President on this issue. "Embarrassing"
the President through public dissent is not considered proper behavior
for Republicans; it often results in ostracism. The Right kept quiet because
even before the convention began it had been given the platform, several
prime time spots on the program, frequent invitations to the Presidential
box, and Vice President Dan Quayle as the featured speaker at a God and
Country revival hosted by Rev. Pat Robertson. The most lively moments
at the GOP convention were the several occasions when ACT-UP activists,
disguised as press or Republicans, disrupted a speech or other event.
They were quickly dragged out.
Abortion. Internal harmony did not prevent abortion, pro- or con-,
from being a dominant motif, but only at the Republican Convention was
there even token dissent from established orthodoxy; Mass. Gov. William
Weld was allowed to leave a pro-choice line in his convention speech,
though he was booed for his boldness. As in the past, the Democrats permitted
a quiet floor demonstration with "Pro Choice, Pro Clinton" signs
passed to the delegates on the floor. This one was held while six pro-choice
Republican women endorsed Clinton from the podium. Their presence emphasized
the fact that the Democrats no longer see the issue as a matter of principle
or even as deference to one of its constituency groups. Democrats are
now convinced that it's the way to win elections. Convention chair Ann
Richards denied Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey's request to speak against
what he claimed was the Platform's support of "abortion on demand".7
She herself set the tone when she began her own opening remarks Monday
night by declaring "I'm Pro-Choice and I vote." Virtually every
speaker in the four day marathon pledged fealty to choice and received
thunderous applause. Just in case the Democrats lost, the National Abortion
Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood lobbied for the Freedom
of Choice Act, by which Congress would limit the state's ability to impose
restrictions on abortion.
At the Republican Convention, Phyllis Schlafly's STOP ERA was reincarnated
as the Republican National Coalition for Life. Although not a member of
the Platform Committee this time, Schlafly and her minions worked closely
with the Bush campaign to "Keep Our Winning Platform", as their
lapel stickers declared. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans debate
and modify the prepared draft of their platform the week before the convention
-- thus providing a bit more drama as well as more public exposure of
the process. After two days of subcommittee deliberations, the RNC-L held
a press conference down the hall from where the full platform committee
was to meet. There Schlafly displayed boxes marked with the name of each
state which she claimed contained pledges from 100,000 people, including
3,500 public and party officials, committed to the platform's extreme
pro-life position. Surrounded by several dozen young women wearing red
cowboy hats with RNC-L hatbands, Schlafly declared that "pro-life
is a winner for Republicans." "The Democrats", she went
on to state with a smile, "are in the death grip of the radical feminists.
Jesse Jackson and Dick Gephardt were pro-life until they got the Presidential
bug, then they had to toady to the special interest of the radical feminists."8
Later that afternoon, Richard Rosenbaum, former chair of the New York
Republican Party State Committee, held his own press conference at one
of the hotels to declare that "if our party doesn't take a pro-choice
position now, we will suffer for it in November." He said his request
for a room to make this statement in the headquarters hotel or in the
convention center where Schlafly held her press conference was denied
by the Republican National Committee -- whose convention office stored
the RNC-L pledge boxes. There were other reports of pro-choicers being
denied space, or even being removed as delegates.9
The full Platform deliberations of both parties each saw a futile motion
by one delegate to remove all language on abortion. The speeches that
followed could hardly be called debate; they were overwhelmingly in favor
of keeping the issue in both platforms, largely expressed in emotional
and personal terms. Of course the opinions were for the opposite positions,
as was the vote in each Platform Committee. However, the Republican's
refusal to remove their pro-life language got more press because they
voted in Houston the week before their convention, in full view of hungry
reporters, while Operation Rescue was blocking clinics around the city.
The Democratic Platform Committee voted in Washington a month before the
New York convention when no one was paying much attention. Thus, dissent
was less disruptive for the Democrats.
As usual, people came from all over the country to march in the streets
or stand outside the convention hall holding signs. And as has been true
since the bloody conflicts with police at the 1968 Democratic convention
in Chicago, the protests were tightly controlled. Demonstration pens were
set up outside each convention hall from which the protestors could see
the building, but the delegates, brought in by bus, couldn't see them.
Instead the demonstrators provided a little color for an otherwise bored
repertorial corps and an opportunity for those alienated from the two
major parties to show the flag in their shadow. The space allocated for
demonstrations at the Republican Convention was much bigger than that
at the Democrats', with three microphone sites, a first aid tent, water,
portapotties and free parking. Most of the time it was largely empty,
with only the strip facing the street lined with tables and signs, from
advocates for POW-MIAs to Bosnia to Khalistan. In New York, protestors
preferred to march. AIDS brought an estimated 20,000 past the convention
hall in New York while the Democrats were reading their Platform on Tuesday,
July 14. In Houston only a few hundred joined ACT-UP's AIDS march on Monday,
August 17, but a Unity march the day before brought 5,000 people from
one of Houston's poorest neighborhoods to one of its richest. However,
neither marches nor protests got quite the attention of a little ingenuity.
In Houston, a dozen women in antebellum hoopskirts identifying themselves
as the "Southern Belles for Safer Sex" got more coverage from
passing out condoms to the delegates than any of the protests.
Both NOW and NARAL used the Republican protest site for major rallies, the
former two days before the convention began, and the latter while President
Bush was being renominated inside. Neither organized marches at the Democratic
convention, though a committee of New York City NOW did. According to Jill
Ackerman, members of NOW-NYC's Women's Anti-Violence Committee were frustrated
at their inability to get an anti-violence plank into the Democratic Party
platform, or to even present testimony on it at the Platform Committee's
May hearing. Therefore they invited New York City's many feminist groups
to weekly meetings to plan a march around this theme, and its numerous feminist
luminaries to address the crowd. Over 6,000 marched a mile on July 13, during
the first convention session, to hear a very long list of speakers give
personal and political testimony late into the night.
National NOW's reason for coming to the cities where the national nominating
conventions were held was to face down Operation Rescue, which had sent
thousands of people to the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta to close
down abortion clinics. In the intervening four years, OR had mobilized adherents
from all over the country for "rescues" in different cities, some
of which occupied police and "defenders" for weeks at a time.
In anticipation of a repeat of 1988, NOW and its sister organization, the
Feminist Majority Foundation, a private non-membership organization founded
and headed by former NOW President Ellie Smeal, sent staff and funds to
New York and Houston to defend the clinics. The FMF led this effort in New
York; NOW did so in Houston.
As early as May FMF came to New York to prepare for the expected onslaught.
With help from the New York Clinic Defense Task Force, an already existing
coalition of feminist groups, it recruited 5,000 people for clinic defense
classes held in the Brooklyn YWCA and the Friends Meeting House in Manhattan.
Beginning a few days before the convention, from 200 to 2,000 defenders
met at 5:00 a.m. at ten clinics around the city designated as mobilization
sites. Here, facilitators wearing orange vests organized defenders into
drills and escort teams, while site leaders wearing yellow vests used cellular
phones to keep in contact with a secret headquarters. Caravaners roamed
the streets looking for OR, and reported all sightings to headquarters,
which in turn directed defenders to where they were needed. This elaborate
organization did not see much action in New York, as OR was largely a No
Show. An injunction obtained by New York States Attorney Robert Abrams ordered
its participants to keep at least 15 feet from any clinic door. Only a few
dozen rescuers, mostly locals, even showed at the clinics. The only action
which made the news was an attempt to hand Bill Clinton a fetus in a box.10
In Houston, National NOW worked with its local chapters and Planned Parenthood
to train 2,500 defenders. Since the platform deliberations lengthen the
time the GOP is in town, defenders met daily for two weeks at 5 mobilization
sites. OR was more numerous and better organized. Despite another injunction
specifying that they stay 100 feet away, several hundred rescuers mostly
from California OR, wearing special GOP Convention T-shirts, led by Rev.
Keith Tucci, marched, prayed and assaulted the clinics as their leaders
ordered. Despite the injunction, the police did not always keep the two
sides apart. At one clinic on Saturday, August 15, NOW's Ireland and FMF's
Kathy Spillar ducked under the one barricade and walked a few feet to confront
Tucci directly. After several minutes of cross yelling, he tore up the injunction
and put it on Ireland's head. Tucci was later asked why OR had failed in
NYC. Initially he said that "the bigger the city the harder it is to
get people to respond." Switching focus, he denied that OR ever intended
to stage a large operation in New York. "Our plan was to make them
think that we were going to New York but we never told our people to come.
We just wanted them to spend a lot of money."
Action at the Houston clinics got local headlines every day, but, unlike
New York, it did not get the local candidates. A march over the Brooklyn
bridge organized by NY-NARAL and WHAM (Women's Health Action Mobilization)
the week before the Democratic convention attracted only 500 supporters,
but three of the four candidates for the Democratic nomination for U.S.
Senate. Two of them, Geraldine Ferraro and Robert Abrams, even joined in
blocking traffic on the Manhattan side of the bridge. (Abrams is New York
State's highest law enforcement official). A dozen candidates from several
states, male and female, endorsed by NOW/PAC, joined in a clinic defense
on Tuesday, July 14. The only Republicans who did this in Houston were a
few young women affiliated with Republicans for Choice, and some of the
leaders of the National Republican Coalition for Choice. None of the pro-lifers
vocal at the platform meetings, or the 3,500 public and party officials
who supposedly signed Schlafly's pledges, were spotted at any of OR's events.
Among the Democrats, public officials and protestors, candidates, conventioneers
and demonstrators, insiders and outsiders, are part of the same universe.
At the Republican Convention, whether pro-choice or pro-life, they lived
in different worlds.
There is something about the national nominating conventions that attracts
even those activists who disdain party politics, and feminists are no exception.
Two groups -- artists and writers -- saw 1992 as the time to resurrect radical
feminist thought and action. Many were aroused by the Anita Hill / Clarence
Thomas hearings or "kicked out of their complacency" by the Supreme
Court's recent Casey decision upholding Pennsylvania's restrictions
on abortion. Additionally, as writer Jane O'Reilly put it, "there are
a lot of talented unemployed women these days."
The Women's Action Coalition (WAC) was started in January of 1992 by women
artists at a Soho Gallery, The Drawing Center, who "realized their
problems went beyond art." Quickly expanding beyond the artists community,
WAC plans actions at weekly meetings of several hundred people loosely guided
by "Roberta's" Rules of Order and revolving facilitators instead
of chairs. Inspired by the militant gay group ACT-UP, ad hoc committees
form to organize each action which usually combines the street theater and
zap actions of the sixties with sophisticated media presentations. Only
in June did WAC decide the Democratic Convention was a good target. Soon
it had plastered its "WAC Is Watching" literature with its CBS-like
eye for several blocks around Madison Square Garden, handed out pamphlets
-- full of facts, figures and footnotes -- to the pre-convention media party
and put them in the women's rooms at the Garden. It also organized a fifty
woman drum corps to lead 600 chanting women down Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile
while the delegates were visiting on free passes Tuesday afternoon.
WAC is a New York group, and going to Houston had not been on its agenda,
according to Lianna Tomcheson. But, high on the success of the Democratic
event and encouraged by Houston artists, WAC raised $35,000 from private
donors to send 40 women and equipment to the GOP convention. Unlike most
feminists, artists have longstanding relationships with wealthy individuals
who buy art. Thus WAC could find the funds to put on what became a performance
art event with a political focus. Joined by 75 Houston artists working out
of the Lawndale Art Center, WAC organized a three-night slide show on the
wall of a tall parking garage in downtown Houston. This was accompanied
by an open mike speak out, which often "became very personal"
and group singing. The Drum Corps, now a popular WAC institution, mounted
"Operation Dessert Storm". From a rented ice cream truck it toured
Houston to drum up attention at the clinic defenses, marches and rallies,
while passing out literature wrapped in a "menu" featuring such
flavors of the month as "Good 'Ole Boysenberry", the "Slush
Fund Slush" and the "Taxpayer Shakeout". As in New York,
the pamphlets were eyecatching but not superficial. Inside were cites all
the bill numbers -- federal and state -- that WAC wanted women to support.
Unlike the artists, New York women writers had not organized for action
prior to the conventions. However, they did have organizations and at one
meeting Pat Reuss, director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund,
suggested that a newsletter for women delegates be published at the Democratic
Convention. Word went out quickly on the publishing grapevine, and soon
a brownstone within walking distance of the convention and some money had
been donated to do it. Soon writer Jane O'Reilly found herself sitting in
Pat Reuss's office in Washington writing a memo to raise more money. That
office was next to the Women's Campaign Fund, where director Jane Danowitz
inspired the title of what became the Getting It Gazette. Its tone,
black ink on hot pink paper, was the brainchild of Susan McLane, a Republican
state representative from New Hampshire, who happened to be wandering by
at the time.
After raising $20,000 with the help of Gloria Steinem and John Kenneth
Galbraith, O'Reilly and 150 other women wrote, published and distributed
five daily tabloid sized sheets during the Democratic Convention. From
2,000 to 6,000 copies each day were distributed at women's caucus meetings
and at all the delegate hotels. Striking a much lighter tone than the
WAC pamphlets, the Gazette not only listed the daily parties and
protests, but "Confessions of a Political Junkie" by Linda Bird
Francke and tips on "Rabble-rousing" by Cong. Pat Shroeder.
As with WAC, GIGers had not intended to go to Houston, but the
momentum of success and support carried them there. Nine flew to Texas
at the last minute, where one couple let them take over "their home,
their cars and their cookie cupboard for days," and Houston Woman
magazine gave up its offices for the production of four tabloid sheets.
Since the Republicans do not have a daily women's caucus, about 2,500
copies were distributed to the press, protests, and pro-choice parties
each day. As in New York, Houston women literally walked through the door
to volunteer once they heard about the paper. "Women in Houston were
ready" summed up O'Reilly. "They are the most remarkable women
in the country."11
importance of running for office and winning was the one issue on which
Republicans and Democrats could agree, and the one issue which divided
feminists in the Democratic Party from pro-choice Republicans. The big
events at both conventions were receptions and press conferences to introduce
women candidates and parties to raise money for them. The NWPC held a
"Salute to Women of Color" for select Democratic candidates,
funded with $5,000 from Avon and AT&A, attended by hundreds, and a
press conference for Republican women attended by dozens. It wasn't alone.
DNC Vice Chair Lynn Cutler's office put out a three page Calendar of Women's
Events with 13 ones for candidates, some to raise money, some to introduce
candidates, and some to toast fundraisers. The 128,000 member National
Federation of Republican Women, which was founded in 1938 and has focused
on electing Republicans, not women, printed its own three pages with eight
candidate events, not including the NWPC's or those of pro-choice
By 1992 there were eleven national political action committees (PACs),
which gave money predominantly to women candidates or functioned with
a predominantly female donor base. The oldest is the bipartisan Women's
Campaign Fund (WCF), which started in 1974. The best known is Emily's
List (Early Money Is Like Yeast). Founded only in 1985 to support Democratic
women candidates for federal or statewide offices, it was a chief beneficiary
of women's anger at the 1991 Hill / Thomas hearings making it one of the
most powerful political organizations in Washington.12
Several had convention events. Emily's List said it raised $750,000 at
its convention reception. It's Republican counterpart, WISH (Women in
Senate and House), which was only formed in 1992, said it raised $200,000
for pro-choice Republican women.13
According to the NWPC, 29 of the 57 Republican women running for Congress
were pro-choice. Emily's List and WISH supported women who ran against
each other. In addition several organizations have PACS and even the Parties
are getting in on the act. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
has established a Women's Council and the Republicans have the Women's
Leadership Network and the Women's House Republican Victory Committee.14
the interest in raising money for women candidates rather than raising
feminist consciousness or even training women in political skills is the
fact that Emily's List boasted 15,000 "members", who paid $100
just to receive a newsletter and recommendations on which women should
receive donations to their campaigns. The NWPC, a bipartisan membership
organization committed to train women to run for office, only had 10,000
members in 1992, many of whom resent the national body's pre-emption of
candidate endorsements and lack of membership services. Both Emily's List
and the WCF made the Federal Election Commission's "top-50"
PAC list for the 1991-92 election cycle. Neither NOW nor the NWPC did.
Delegates. In the past, the convention press offices issued news
releases with statistics describing the delegates, usually written to
emphasize the diversity of the Democrats and hide the homogeneity of the
Republicans. Not in 1992. However the DNC delegate tracker did provide
a print out of delegates (but not alternates) on request. Although Party
rules mandate that half of all state delegations be women, the large number
of Superdelegates, who are public or party officials, creates some discrepancies.
Of the 4319 delegates to the Democratic Convention, 2146 were female and
2173 were male. Only those elected at the District level were truly 50-50;
the Superdelegates were 70 % male and the at-large delegates were 70 %
female. Racial breakdowns showed that the 70 % who were white and the
2.4 % who were Asian/Pacific were more likely to be male; The 7.6 % Hispanics,
1.2 % Native American and 18 % African Americans were more likely to be
female. Surveys by news organizations indicate, as has been true for many
decades, that Democratic delegates, even Superdelegates, are more liberal
than Democratic voters on both economic and social issues. Unfortunately,
the surveys did not provide delegate responses by sex. The 50-50 requirement
came at the time that women became a significant majority of Democratic
voters. Among those who identified themselves as Democrats in 1992, there
are 30 % more women than men.
The Republican convention press office would not even admit there was
a delegate tracker, let alone provide statistics in 1992. However, the
Associated Press contacted 2206 of the 2210 known delegates, and some
other news organizations did sample surveys. AP's figures show that 41
% of the GOP delegates were women; CBS estimated 43 %. Males predominated
in all racial groups, 83 % of whom were white (CBS says 86 %). Mirroring
the Democrats, the surveys showed that delegates were much more conservative
than Republican voters. CBS said they were "possibly the most conservative
since CBS began polling delegates on this question in 1976." A cursory
review of answers to the CBS poll questions indicates that the Platform
Committee members were much more conservative than the Republican
delegates, especially on abortion.
Speakers. Since the conventions are media events, the parties
use their speakers to create an image, as well reward important people
and acknowledge key players. It is sometimes difficult to know which role
is being played by whom. The Democratic Party emphasized it's pro-choice
position by bringing Republican women on to the podium and by showcasing
a large number of women candidates Tuesday night. The press dubbed this
Women's Night, joking that the Democrats were featuring women when men
would be watching the All-Star baseball game. More notable was the prominence
of women on Monday night when Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan and Barbara
Mikulski all spoke and the women Senate candidates were introduced. No
one said this was showcasing women; it was simply another Democratic show.
The Republicans also had a few key women speakers, but even those that
were pro-choice (e.g. Sect. of Labor Lynn Martin) carefully avoided any
reference to anything that might be identified as feminist. Instead the
Republicans staged a "family values" night, whose message was
conveyed through addresses by the first and second ladies on the importance
of electing their husbands. The Republicans used a nontraditional mode
(speeches by wives) to impress on viewers their concern with traditional
The feminist presence at the New York City gathering was notable both
for women's partial assimilation into the party at all levels, and the
resulting fragmentation into competing, but not conflicting, groups, attitudes
and priorities. Feminists were everywhere, inside and out, running the
convention and running the protests, but there was no unity and not a
great deal of communication. The two feminist marches took place outside
the convention at the same time that the two biggest receptions for women
candidates were going on inside. On the one hand, 1992 was a celebration
of women in somewhat the same way that the 1988 convention was for African-Americans.
On the other hand, that same success left many activists feeling alienated.
At the very time that feminist values have been incorporated into the
party culture to the point that they are taken for granted, feminists
who did not feel connected to the party took to the streets.
These different feelings were articulated by two women who have been major
participants in the feminist movement for many years. Alice Travis, currently
Director of Political Programs for the DNC and formerly Political Director
for the NWPC, claimed that "the Democratic Party is a feminist organization.
We don't have to lobby and march outside any more. We march together.
It's not Us v. Them. The Party stands for the same things the movement
stands for."15 After a press
conference in Houston on August 10 on defending clinics that had little
to say about the impending Republican convention, Patricia Ireland explained
that National NOW was boycotting the conventions because the "parties
are irrelevant". Instead NOW participated in the founding convention
of the new "Twenty-first Century Party" in Washington D.C. on
August 29-3016. NOW, which in 1984
sought to be a major player in the Democratic Party, has ceded the role
of feminist insider to the Washington women's establishment, and in particular
to NARAL which covets it and the NWPC which is officially bipartisan but
has few ties to the Republican Party and none to its primary players.
NOW is still undecided about whether to join other disaffected groups
as the Democrats' "radical flank", pushing the Party further
left, or to opt out of major party politics altogether.
The Women's Caucus. The DNC has a long history of working with
established women's groups -- even when it was not in agreement with them.
During the Spring before each convention there are regular meetings of
the Washington women's establishment to plan a women's caucus. Hosted
by Chair Lynn Cutler, the 1992 meetings decided that each of the four
daily caucus meetings should have a theme which would be co-ordinated
by different groups along with Cutler. Monday's session brought in experts
to analyze the woman's vote. Tuesday was candidates' day. Wednesday was
a rally for Choice and Thursday was A Call to Arms. These plans were adjusted
when the winning nominee, Bill Clinton, agreed to address the women's
caucus but on Tuesday, rather than the Thursday that had been requested.
According to Cutler, he had "touched base with other groups before
the convention but hadn't had a chance to talk with women."
The DNC has usually been the chief sponsor of the daily women's caucus
because it can requisition hotel space for the meetings and work space
for participating organizations. In 1992, the NWPC, the WCF and Emily's
List were given work space. NARAL paid for six hotel rooms and a staff
of 20 from which to run its own projects, and the rest of the groups fended
for themselves. Stickering the delegates was the most popular activity.
NARAL promoted "We Will Decide"; the NWPC's said "When
Women Run, Women Win". Despite NOWs professed disdain for the Democrats,
some members put purple "Elect Women for a Change" stickers
on any woman passing by and distributed placards on the convention floor.
At one time the DNC itself had a Women's Division. During the Roosevelt
Administration it organized Democratic Party women into one of the strongest
and most effective units of the Party. However, it was abolished as an
economy move in 1953 and not officially recreated until the Carter Administration.
Cutler was originally chosen as DNC Vice Chair specifically to head the
Women's Division, which had its own staff and budget and even a desk for
volunteers in DNC headquarters. However, in 1985 DNC Chair Paul Kirk abolished
it along with the six other recognized groups as part of his campaign
to rid the DNC of special interests. Five these groups still exist as
loose alliances, but none have staff or budgets from the DNC. Women are
one of several portfolios for which Cutler is responsible.
The daily meetings, to which anyone, not just delegates, could come, have
been a fixture of the Democratic convention since 1972. This year's, held
from 10:00 a.m. to noon, was different; each day was a rally, not a roundtable
in which to debate. For the first time there was no floor microphone and
no opportunity for participants to speak. Instead those attending were
presented with a program and ample opportunity to applaud all the Democratic
women moving through the political pipeline to higher and higher offices.
At past conventions, even when there was no conflict on an identifiable
feminist issue, there was still debate. For example, in 1988 the caucus
argued the merits of supporting the Jackson platform proposals. In 1992
neither the Brown nor Tsongas's issues received a hearing.
Despite the lack of controversy, the meetings were regularly attended
by the faithful (only a few of whom were actually delegates) where they
heard most of the prominent women (and some men) of both the Democratic
Party and of the feminist movement tell them this was their year.
At the entrance to the ballroom was a organizational fair. Numerous groups
piled tables with literature, buttons and posters while the Getting
It Gazette was hawked at the door. The highlight was Bill Clinton's
speech on Tuesday. He said all the right things and drew a much larger
audience than any other speaker, including Hillary who didn't come to
the caucus until Thursday. Caucus organizers claimed his appearance as
a first, a symbol of women's arrival in the party, but in reality 1988
was the only year in which candidates did not address the women's caucus.
The Platform. The Democratic Party's Platform writing process
is less public than that of the Republicans'. The Platform Committee finishes
its' work the month before the convention, while the Republicans have
continued the tradition of deliberating on a draft the week before. In
1992 the Democrats began later than usual, holding the first and only
hearing in Cleveland, Ohio on May 18. There was no open mike. Organizational
representatives and individuals who received permission to speak included
Bella Abzug, NARAL, NWPC, BPW and the YWCA. In past years these organizations
and others have joined together to negotiate specific language with the
platform committee or the campaign; occasionally individuals representing
feminist organizations have been appointed to the Platform Committee.
Neither happened in 1992. Instead most members of the Platform Committee
were sufficiently conscious of feminist issues to put them in automatically.
Half of the 15 person drafting committee was appointed by the Clinton
campaign, and half by DNC Chairman Ron Brown. The campaign had an especially
close working relationship with NARAL, and was particularly concerned
with health issues. Consequently, the women on the committee, such as
San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg, made a special effort to
put in planks on women's health issues, such as breast cancer, while more
traditional feminist issues, such as the ERA and pay equity, barely got
an honorable mention. This time there was no separate section on women,
though there were on "choice" and on "strengthening families".
Feminist concerns were blended into these paragraphs and those on worker's
rights, civil rights, health care, crime and community.
In the Republican Party feminism is a dirty word, but choice isn't. Indeed,
individual choice, and responsibility for making those choices, is the
essence of traditional Republican philosophy. Unlike the Democrats, Republican
women were not brought into the pro-choice fold out of concern for women's
rights; they believe in keeping the government out of their personal lives.
Thus they have been particularly appalled at how easily the party "sold
out its principles" to adopt the gospel of the New Christian Right.
Not all are willing to do something about it. According to a CBS survey,
only 45 % of the delegates to last summer's convention favored the extreme
language in the Platform; 67 % wanted an acknowledgement of diversity
of opinion, and 12 % were pro choice. Between 50 % and 70 % of Republican
voters support abortion rights, depending on how the question is asked.
However, party loyalty is a virtue among Republicans, much more than among
Democrats, so publicly deviating from any position supported by the leadership
is hard to do. In 1976 and 1980 when the candidates favored by Republican
feminists (Ford and Bush) opposed abortion their women avoided it. It
was only after a several ringers on the 1988 Platform Committee objected
to that document's extreme language and the Supreme Court's 1989 Webster
decision galvanized a strong public reaction, that pro-choice Republican
women decided the time had come to speak out.
The first to do so was Ann Stone, an unlikely candidate for spokeswoman
for any "liberal" cause. Although she describes herself as "almost
a libertarian", Stone has been a conservative since age 9 with long
and lengthy ties into the hard Right. After learning the direct-mail business
working for Richard Viguerie in the 70s, she formed her own company to
raise money for many conservative groups. In 1989 former RNC Chairman
Lee Atwater suggested she start a pro-choice PAC for the Republican Party.
Despite severe criticism from both her former colleagues on the right
and her new allies among pro-choicers, her Republicans for Choice has
raised more money and garnered more publicity than all the other pro-choice
Republican groups put together.17
Next to organize was the National Republican Coalition for Choice, headed
by Mary Dent Crisp. A Goldwater devotee from Arizona, Crisp was co-chair
of the Republican National Committee from 1977 until 1980, when she resigned
under pressure from Reagan operatives after expressing disagreement with
the removal of the ERA from the Republican Party Platform that year.18
The NRCC is tied into the network of pro-choice activists it's
convention staff were NOW members -- and it has made some effort to organize
the Republicans in this network into state chapters. Reflecting the realignment
that abortion has brought about within the major parties its Board members
range from the moderate Sen. Bob Packwood (OR) and (former) Cong. Bill
Green (NY), through Betty Ford to Barry Goldwater. The NRCC views Stone
as a fifth column, set up by the Right to siphon off funds and support
from their cause.19 The two
groups maintained a surface appearance of co-operation during the convention,
but did not really work together.
The people involved with these pro choice groups, including the elected
officials, are on the fringes of the national Republican party; few are
even delegates. Control of the national party has shifted so far to the
right that many who were once in its center (e.g. Ford) or even on its
right (e.g. Goldwater) can merely comment from the sidelines. Instrumental
in this shift was Pat Robertson, who turned the supporters of his losing
1988 Presidential bid into the building blocks of the Christian Coalition.
Aided by a $64,000 grant in October 1990 from the National Republican
Senatorial Committee, by 1992 the CC claimed 550 chapters in 50 states
with thirteen million dollars in donations from 250,000 members. Using
what executive director Ralph Reed Jr. described as "stealth"
tactics to avoid the stigma attached to religious activism, it claims
to have taken over the state Republican Party in at least a dozen states
and to have elected dozens of its candidates in state and local races.20
Its four Congressional candidates lost last November.21
However accurate its claims, it's influence at the 1992 convention was
unmistakable, as was its ability to command the attention of President
Bush. The CC claimed it had 300 delegates at the 1992 convention, including
20 members of the Platform Committee. Some journalists put the number
at 200, but that's still 10 % -- more than Robertson had in 1988. Pat
Buchanan, who ran for President in the 1992 primaries, only had 78 delegates.
Schlafly was not as major a player as she has been at previous conventions,
largely because she was not a Bush supporter until he became President.
When Reagan was in power she exercised influence through Ed Meese, but
has had no equivalent contact in the Bush administration. However, she
did put up a good front, holding press conferences during the Platform
deliberations to claim credit for holding off pro-choice attempts to sabotage
the platform. As a Catholic, she has no roots in the evangelical Christian
right but she does work with it. She had a walk-on role at Robertson's
God and Country Rally; Robertson and Falwell came to her usual fundraising
gala. Like Mary Dent Crisp, she was an early Goldwater supporter, though
she did not achieve national fame until the emergence of the feminist
movement gave her a platform, first through STOP ERA and, since 1990,
RNC-L. Foreign policy is still her favorite topic. Her column in the Christian
American's "Special Pro-Life Issue" was entitled "Beware
the New World Order". It attacked the United Nations, not feminism
Platform. Like the Democrats, the Republican Party has required that
members to the Platform Committee be half female since 1944. But unlike
the Democrats, they must also be delegates, and there can be no more than
two members per state.22 Also like
the Democrats, the GOP holds regional hearings in the Spring. In 1992
there were four; the one in Salt Lake City on May 26 allocated twenty
minutes to abortion, ten to each side. Crisp and Stone spoke for the two
Republican pro-choice groups; Phyllis Schlafly and Beverley LaHaye of
Concerned Women for America presented the pro-life position. Despite an
effort to minimize attention to the issue, the presence of demonstrations
meant it was the only one which made the headlines.23
Everyone thought the confrontation in Salt Lake foreordained Houston.
Stone announced to the press that she would have enough support for a
floor fight and sent out direct mail letters soliciting contributions
to change the party platform. In late July she sent a "pro-choice
caravan" from Washington to Houston intending to rally the faithful
along the way. It was a flop. The media and abortion opponents outnumbered
supporters. Stone explained the low turnout by disclaiming "Republicans
don't do rallies; that's not our thing."24
The Platform Committee, largely chosen after the hearings were over, was
so packed with pro-lifers that there was never any possibility that 27
members would sign a minority plank. Nor was there any great effort to
plan a Platform strategy. According to Eleanor S. Nussley, an outspoken
pro-choice Platform Committeewoman from New Jersey, none of the pro-choice
groups contacted her before coming to Houston. "I wrote Ann Stone,
but she didn't reply," she said. "We (the pro-choicers) found
each other after we got here.... The others didn't hear from anyone either."
John Carroll of Vermont had been asked to "carry the ball" by
Planned Parenthood, but he was on the wrong subcommittee and out of town
making a speech. While the pro-choice Platform Committee members did meet
with Stone and Crisp during the week, a minority report was never a possibility
and its discussion only a tease.
The GOP dispensed with the usual first day of hearings and went right
to subcommittee deliberation in hopes of wrapping up the platform early.
Abortion was in the Subcommittee on Family Values, Education and Health
Care, as was most of the press, but there were no surprises. The 1988
language was adopted by 17 to 3 after minimal discussion. The following
day the full committee voted 84 to 16 against removing the same language,
followed by voice votes on other changes in the wording, such as one exempting
victims of rape or incest.
Throughout the week a certain amount of drama was maintained by both sides,
who brought their supporters to hand out stickers. Spokeswomen regularly
retreated to the hallways to hold mini press conferences claiming that
"pro-choice delegates are being intimidated" (Stone) or "being
a turncoat is a loser" (Schlafly). Stone regularly told the press
how close she was to getting a commitment from six state delegations for
a minority plank, the other means of generating a floor fight, but this
was also not realistic. Bush operatives quickly dampened any sign of rebellion
and fed the few pro-choicers a tidbit from Barbara Bush that abortion
was "a personal decision" that should be omitted from the platform.
Everyone assumed the President was trying to have it both ways -- give
the Right the Platform and the pro-choicers a pat on the head.25
This did not smooth any feathers. After the Platform was finalized on
Thursday, August 13, New York pro-choice delegate Tanya Melich, who has
been to every GOP convention since 1952, turned in her credentials and
Some of the most interesting debate was in other subcommittees on such
subjects as AIDS, health and education. Outside the glare of public scrutiny,
many delegates were trying to think out what their values meant when applied
to concrete situations. Others appeared to be operating from a script,
sticking in such pat phrases as "Judeo-Christian heritage" every
place it could fit. The result was lauded by Pat Robertson as "the
most conservative platform ever." The final version, elegantly printed
with illustrations and photographs in striking contrast to the Democrats'
mimeo version, inverted the usual Republican priorities. The section on
"Uniting Our Family" came before national defense. Platforms
are read by few voters; they generally act more as a window through which
to view factional fights and a means to assess their relative strength.
If this holds true in 1992, the influence of the Christian Right is larger
than its acknowledged delegate strength would suggest. Fear of homosexuality,
which was not even mentioned in the 1988 platform, is pervasive. Concern
with maintaining parental authority over children is prominent. "[E]fforts
of the Democratic Party to redefine the traditional American family",
or "to include sexual preference as a protected minority receiving
preferential status" are denounced. Even traditional Republican issues
such as taxes, government and bureaucracy, and newer ones such as tort
reform, are discussed in terms of their impact on the family. The Party
which traditionally favored limited government urged "State legislatures
to explore ways to promote marital stability."
Symbolically and substantively the parties sent clear messages that they
represent distinct approaches to American politics. Long gone is the day
when they chased each other to occupy the middle road, becoming variations
on the same theme. The Democrats were heralded for nominating a team of
two Southern white males with strong ties to the moderate Democratic Leadership
Council. Yet in the platform and their speeches, this same team articulated
values and policy positions that only twenty years ago were viewed as
radical (abortion) or even unthinkable (gay rights), and did so as though
they really believed them.26 The
Republican slate combined a product of their old politics with a creature
of their new. Yet even their Eastern Establishment has learned to speak
with a Christian Right accent, however artificial it sounds, and many
of the contenders for the 1996 nomination will be native speakers.
Although the Republicans are running one, maybe two, election cycles behind
the Democrats, they too are being thoroughly transformed by the entry
of new players with their own agenda. But it was done by a somewhat different
process reflecting the different structures and the different cultures
of the parties.27 The Democratic
Party is pluralistic, with multiple power centers which compete for membership
support in order to make demands on, as well as determine, the leaders.
When challenged by the social movements of the sixties, it followed its
usual strategy of co-opting them into the Democratic coalition -- changing
the nature of the coalition in the process. These groups in turn were
sufficiently well organized and committed to claim hegemony over those
issues that were their primary concern. Feminists in particular, though
not in isolation, put the "personal" on the political agenda
and convinced the Democrats that government had a responsibility for righting
the wrongs of private life and balancing the burdens of an inequitable
The Republican Party is a hollow shell. Run by an economic and social
élite which uses money, professional expertise and institutional
position to elect its candidates and determine policy, its state organizations
are very weak, as reflected in their inability to control state legislatures
even while regularly electing a Republican President. In the late 70s
and early 80s Christian Right leaders were courted by the national Party,
not to curb challenges as the Democrats did, but to gain new workers and
voters sufficient to enable the Republican Party to challenge Democratic
dominance in Southern states. In exchange, Party leaders and the Reagan
and Bush administrations ceded authority over anything touching on issues
of family and sexuality, a policy arena unimportant to Party operatives
but central to evangelical religious doctrines. Initially tutored in political
strategy by more experienced hard Right leaders, Christian Right leaders
eventually became sufficiently sophisticated to demand that their issues
be placed at the top of the party's agenda; "family values"
became the major theme.28
During the last twenty years an élite realignment has taken place
within and between the major parties. New players were brought into the
national party coalitions, for different reasons and at different times,
with opposing agendas. Each succeeded in capturing control of those policy
arenas which were most important to it. Consequently the parties have
polarized around issues - gender roles, sexual behavior, reproduction,
care of children, family structure, intersection of work and family obligations,
military service -- which twenty years ago were either not considered
proper political issues, or were not partisan ones. Other issues which
already were on the public agenda -- race, welfare, education -- have
been transformed by the new ones. As a result, Presidential candidates
in both parties have changed their views to become politically correct.
Among ordinary party workers, dissidents from the dominant themes have
dropped out or been drummed out. And voters are beginning to switch: feminists
vote for Democrats and evangelicals vote for Republicans.
During the next twenty years, or less, these changes will work their way
down through the party and political structure, eventually realigning
the electorate. Feminists have a head start. Although not as well organized
on the local and state as on the national level, they nonetheless have
a lot of influence. A lot of women have been trained in political skills;
a lot of money has been raised to elect them; a lot of men run on feminist
issues -- or at least don't oppose them -- in order to win elections.
As was clear from the 1992 Democratic convention, electing women, preferably
feminists, to public office is high on the priority list. When women are
elected to state and local offices, some studies show, their issue priorities
are different. They are much more concerned with the same cluster of concerns
as are the evangelicals.
The Christian Right has also recognized the importance of electing sympathetic
public officials on the local level. Much more than feminists, it is seeking
to use the existing party structure to attain its policy goals. In 1989
Pat Robertson created the Christian Coalition to obtain "working
control" of the Republican Party from the bottom up. Access to Washington
only affected national policy; many matters of concern to Christians were
decided on the local level. Control of the Republican Party would provide
a respectable vehicle through which to "return America" to "her
Christian roots."29 To do this
the CC combined a traditional tactic of Democratic insurgents, grass-roots
organizing of committed ideologues through the network of evangelical
churches, with a Republican one, ties to prominent national figures. Given
the lack of participation in most local Republican bodies, and the pre-existing
network of evangelical churches, it has not been hard to take them over.
The more traditional Republicans who don't like the Christian Right's
style and agenda by and large have no troops.
"Family values" did not turn out to be a winning issue in 1992;
it was eclipsed by the sorry state of the economy. But for the Christian
Right, family values is not merely a slogan with which to win elections;
it summarized why they got into partisan politics in the first place.
The cluster of issues this slogan represents is fundamental to their religious
beliefs. Pat Buchanan, a Catholic who comes from the old hard right, not
the new religious right, best articulated their view when he told the
Republican delegates "this election is about much more than who gets
what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe, it is about
what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our
country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to
the kind of nation we will one day be - as was the Cold War itself....
[R]adical feminism [is] the agenda Clinton & Clinton would impose
on America - abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court,
homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in
combat - .... It is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation
that we still call God's country."
If Buchanan is right, and I think he is, the realignment of the next twenty
years will transform the nature of partisan competition from a mere fight
for office to a surrogate civil war. Each party, and its candidates, will
be the carrier of a conflicting cluster of values. The winner will get
to decide the role of government, or each of the many governments in our
federal system, in promulgating those values. Culture, not class or economics,
will define the great political debates of the twenty-first century.30
I would like to thank the following people for helping me cover the 1992
conventions: Nedda Allbray, Willem Bouwer, Katya Williams, Shauna Martin,
Kathleen Knight, Duane Oldfield.
Party platforms traditionally show a "cyclical movement"
in which one party leads on an issue, and the other follows within an
election or two. Polsby, Nelson W. and Aaron Wildavsky, Presidential
Elections, New York: Scribner's Sons, 6th edition, 1984, pp. 240,
258-9. Pomper, Gerald M., Elections in America: Control and Influence
in Democratic Politics, New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971, Chapters 7 and
Past Party platforms can be found in Donald Bruce Johnson and Kirk
H. Porter, National Party Platforms, Urbana: U. Ill. Press, multiple
dates. This failure to mention women was not because no one asked. Betty
Friedan testified on "A Bill of Rights for Women in 1968" at
both parties' platform hearings, and the National Women's Party asked
for an ERA endorsement. 3:3 NWP Bulletin, Fall 1968, 2-3, and Spring/Summer
1968, 2-3; Reel 158, NWP papers; Party Platforms, 734, 749.; minutes
of NOW Board meeting, Sept. 14-15, 1968, author's files.
At the time of the conventions abortion was still illegal in all
but a few states, though reform (not repeal) bills were under consideration
in many more. Roe v. Wade was not decided until January 23, 1973.
Shafer, Barry, The Quiet Revolution: Party Reform and the Shaping
of Post Reform Politics, New York: Basic Books, 1984, Chapter 17.
Jo Freeman, "Whom You Know Versus Whom You Represent: Feminist Influence
in the Democratic and Republican Parties" in Mary F. Katzenstein
and Carol M. Mueller, eds. The Women's Movements of the United States
and Western Europe Philadelphia: Temple U. Press, 1987,. pp. 222-5.
National Journal Convention Daily, July 14, 1992, p. 31. New
York Times, July 15, 1992, p. 1:6.
National Journal Convention Daily, July 14, 1992, pp. 10, 14.
National Journal Convention Daily, July 15, 1992, p. 22. Casey
did testify at the May 18 Democratic Platform Committee hearings in Cleveland,
Ohio; The Boston Globe, May 19, 1992, p. 8.
They weren't the only ones to change positions on abortion. In 1986
Clinton wrote a letter to the Arkansas Right to Life Committee saying
he was pro-life. New York Times, July 15, 1992, p. A11:6. When
Albert Gore was a member of the House, he regularly voted against government
funding of abortions. He changed his position when he advanced to the
Senate in 1985 and ran for President in 1988. National Journal Convention
Daily, July 13, 1992, p. 5. President Bush has also altered his view;
he once supported Planned Parenthood.
The National Journal Convention Daily, August 16, 1992, p. 16;
August 17, 1992, p. 1; August 19, 1992, p. 5.
New York Times, July 15, 1992, p. A11:6. OR member Harley David
Belew stopped Clinton outside a hotel under the pretense of requesting
an autograph. When Clinton saw what was in the box, he refused to accept
it. OR leader Terry Randall was convicted of criminal contempt for his
part in the violation of the injunction and sentenced to five months in
A list of volunteers and benefactors for each convention is listed
on the back of the Thursday Gazette -- July 16 for the Democrats
and August 20 for the Republicans.
The other national PACs are: ANA-PAC (American Nurses Association),
Hollywood Women's Political Committee, Leader Pac, National Federation
of Business and Professional Women's PAC, National Organization for Women
PAC, National Women's Political Caucus PAC, WISH List, Women's in Psychology
for Legislative Action, and the Women's Council for the Democratic Senatorial
Campaign Committee. There were also thirty-one state PACs. In 1992 the
Center for the American Woman and Politics at the Eagleton Institute asked
the 42 women's PACs how much money they had contributed to candidates.
Thirty-five reported giving $11,558,712 to women candidates. In 1990,
26 such PACs had given $2,695,354. 9:1 CAWP News and Notes, Winter
1993, p. 10-11. These do not include the many PACs who specifically support
Emily's List was widely reported as raising and contributing $6.2
million to Democratic women candidates in 1992. CAWP News and Notes
p. 13 and CQ Weekly Report, October 17, 1992, pp. 3270. However
the final report of the Federal Election Commission for the 1991-92 election
cycle showed that for federal candidates Emily's List reported
receiving $4,139,346 and contributing $365,318 to federal candidates out
of total disbursements of $3,389,276. The Women's Campaign Fund raised
$1,980,430 and disbursed $1,976,482, of which $512,067 went to federal
candidates. WISH List reported receiving $300,345 and disbursing $288,520
of which $67,191 went to federal candidates. Federal Election Commission
press release of April 29, 1993, and inquiry of the FEC Press Office on
August 23, 1993. Campaign money was also raised by state affiliates of
national organizations, none of which are included in these figures.
National Journal Convention Daily, August, 19, 1992, p. 23.
CAWP News and Notes p. 18 reports that the Women's Council "distributed
$1.5 million to 10 Democratic, pro-choice women candidates in the general
election." It didn't say whether these were federal, state or local
candidates, but the Women's Council is not on the FEC's top 50 PAC list
for any category.
Telephone interview with author, Nov.13, 1992.
National NOW Times, August 1992, p. 3.
"The GOP's Abortion-Rights Upstart", The Washington
Post, April 4, 1992, p. D-1. For the 1991-1992 election cycle Republicans
for Choice reported to the Federal Election Commission that it received
$617,446 and disbursed $619,793, though only $35,674 went to federal candidates.
By contrast, Phyllis Schlafley's Eagle Forum, which also has its own PAC,
raised $379,852 and disbursed $271,447, of which $148,361 was contributed
to federal candidates, and her Republican National Coalition for Life
PAC received $117,893, and disbursed $98,958 of which $85,750 was contributed
to federal candidates. Federal Election Commission press release
of April 29, 1993, pp. 23-25, 35-37 and inquiry of the FEC Press Office
made on August 23, 1993.
The New York Times, July 11, 1980, p. 14:4. The Washington
Post, July 11, 1980, p. B1.
See The Legal Times, March 16, 1992, p. 1.
Frederick Clarkson, "Inside the Covert Coalition", Church
& State, November 1992, pp. 220-223.
The Wall Street Journal, November 5, 1991. p. A18.
Rule 17, The Rules of the Republican Party, 1992. "State"
includes the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In addition Guam, American
Samoa and the Virgin Islands can send one delegate for a total of 107
The New York Times, May 27, 1992, p. 1:5. Kate Michaelman of
NARAL was not allowed to testify at the GOP hearing.
The New York Times, August 2, 1992, p. 24.
"Beyond Bush's Mixed Abortion Signals", The New York
Times, August 15, 1992, p. 1:3. "Anti-Abortion With an Asterisk",
National Journal Convention Daily, August 20, 1991, p. 6.
Many in the Party's left wing expressed satisfaction with Clinton's
agenda. Frank Watkins of the National Rainbow Coalition claimed his domestic
program was taken from the NRC platform; Salim Muwakkil, "Keeping
Clinton's Feet to the Fire", In These Times, Nov. 30 - Dec.
13, 1992. p. 20.
See my "Political Culture of the Democratic and Republicans
Parties" Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 101, No. 3, Fall
1986, pp. 327-356.
Duane Oldfield, The Right and the Righteous, Ph.D. Dissertation,
U.C. Berkeley, 1990.
Quoted in The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 1992, p. 1:3.
Byron Shafer came to a similar conclusion after observing the 1984
conventions. "The New Cultural Politics", PS,
Spring 1985, pp. 221-231.