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Liberal and Conservative Visions in United States Politics since 1945: Cultural Politics, the Politics of Inclusion, and Two California Cases

Les visions libérale et conservatrice dans la politique américaine depuis 1945 : les politiques culturelles, les politiques de l'inclusion et deux affaires liées à la Californie
William Issel

Résumés

La culture politique américaine contemporaine est pleine de complexité, elle met au défi les classifications simples et manifeste une tension forte entre reconnaître (voire honorer) la diversité culturelle et pratiquer (voire célébrer) l’inégalité de classe. La croyance dans l’absence de discrimination sociale, de même que la croyance dans la démocratie directe, ont augmenté, alors que dans le même temps un nombre croissant d’Américains ont perdu la foi dans le gouvernement et se sont convertis à la religion du marché libre. Le demi-siècle qui a suivi les années 1960, une décennie associée à l’hyper-libéralisme, a été le témoin d’une montée constante de l’attrait pour le conservatisme. Au nom de la liberté individuelle, des Américains mettent en cause le droit du gouvernement à contrôler la discrimination raciale, tandis que d’autres contestent le droit du gouvernement à légaliser le mariage homosexuel. Cet article étudie, dans un premier temps, les politiques culturelles et le conservatisme dans la culture politique américaine, puis il analyse, dans un second temps, les recherches récentes sur l’usage de la démocratie directe par les opposants et les partisans de la discrimination positive et du mariage homosexuel, en s’attachant plus particulièrement à l’expérience californienne. En conclusion est proposée une réflexion sur les liens pouvant exister entre ces contestations et la théorie et pratique de la citoyenneté multiculturelle aux États-Unis et dans les autres démocraties pluralistes.

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Introduction

  • 1 See Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition: A Political-Philosophical Exchang (...)
  • 2 John Kenneth White, The Values Divide: American Politics and Culture in Transition (Washington, D.C (...)

1Contemporary American political culture defies simple characterizations. Belief in social inclusivity has increased along with the cultural diversity of the nation, and liberals and conservatives have clashed as they campaigned for and against government recognition of social diversity (including protection against discrimination), and redistribution of resources (insuring “equality of condition”).1 As increasing numbers of voters have lost faith in government and converted to the religion of the free market in recent years, they have once again demonstrated the degree to which commitments to religious worldviews, codes of moral behavior, and visions of future social order have moved Americans to political action throughout the history of the nation. Cultural commitments, rooted in attachments to values and beliefs, principles and ideologies, have periodically rivaled economic self-interest as motivating forces in American public life.2

  • 3 Alan I. Abramowitz, The Polarized Public? Why American Government is So Dysfunctional (Boston: Pear (...)

2Since World War II, competing cultural visions have energized all aspects of American politics, including presidential campaigns, congressional policy-making, state and federal court deliberations, protest demonstrations, and state and local direct democracy measures such as the recall, the referendum, and the initiative. From the late 1930s to the mid-1960s, critics of New Deal and post-New Deal liberalism sought to preserve their vision of an ideal America from what they regarded as socialist and anti-capitalist doctrines and practices. Invoking Revolutionary patriot Tom Paine, they argued that eternal vigilance against liberal legislation was the necessary price for protecting American liberties. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed political turmoil generated by civil rights advocates, members of the “counterculture” and the New Left, supporters of environmental regulation, feminists, and proponents of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights. These social movements demanded, to use the language of social theorists such as Charles Taylor, Jürgen Habermas, Axel Honneth, and Nancy Fraser, both recognition and redistribution: affirmative action, protection of the rights of cultural minorities of various kinds, both religious and secular, and social policies requiring government expenditures on behalf of immigrants, the poor, and the disadvantaged. These tussles have produced a political culture that has become more ideologically divided, especially among political party activists. Among Republicans and Democrats alike, the proportion of moderates has declined significantly. And liberals have increased from 38 to 55 percent in the Democratic Party, while conservatives have increased from 55 to 78 percent in the Republican Party. In addition, as political scientist Alan Abramowitz puts it in a recent assessment, “there clearly is a battle raging for the hearts and minds of American voters, and cultural issues . . . have become major weapons in that battle . . . because there is a deep cultural divide in the American electorate.”3

Cultural Politics and the Politics of Inclusion

3Today, in the name of individual freedom, some conservative Americans question liberal beliefs in government’s right to monitor racial discrimination and environmental protection. And, in the name of moral absolutism, other conservatives challenge liberal beliefs in government’s right to legalize same sex marriages. Today’s polarized public has roots in the early post World War II years; at the time, conservatism owed as much to the reaction against the New Deal as to the attraction of the philosophical tradition associated with Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre. Critics of federal economic and social welfare legislation of the Roosevelt and Truman Democratic Party policies demanded a return to laissez-faire practices in industrial relations to begin the restoration of their version of personal liberty. Government activism, according to this vision, fostered an unhealthy dependence on the state, and that sapped the initiative and enterprise from American citizens. Opponents of the Democratic coalition – labor unions, white ethnic urban workers, and black voters – opposed Truman’s civil rights and full employment legislation and demanded that both parties rededicate themselves to minimal government. Conservatives wanted a Congress dominated by business-oriented advocates of free enterprise, rather than a by a strong president of liberal persuasion. In their reckoning, state and local government autonomy was more compatible with individual rights than a strong central government. State’s rights, local control, personal liberty and preservation of traditional moral values: these were the principles of conservative critics of postwar liberalism.

4From the conservative point of view, as articulated in journals like Human Events and American Mercury, Democratic Party public officials who pushed for additional federal social and economic policies were counterfeit liberals. True liberalism regarded government regulation and social policy planning as a misuse of state power, and to the extent that such statist imperatives became an integral feature of American institutional life, conservatives sensed an ominous similarity between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Happy to end the temporary wartime alliance between the two nations, influential commentators on the right warned of Stalin’s appetite for territory in Central and Eastern Europe. Roman Catholic leaders and former president Herbert Hoover inveighed against “Godless Russia” and the “Communism and Creeping Socialism sweeping over Europe.”

5Few episodes during the first decade after the war illustrated the complex nature of the liberal versus conservative dynamic as clearly as McCarthyism. The term “McCarthyism” was frequently on the front pages of American newspapers from early 1950 to the end of 1954. It came to signify all of the disruptive consequences to public life occasioned by charges made by Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy of communists in high federal government positions. Although they were vague, contradictory, and unsubstantiated, the charges were seized upon by conservative Republicans in Congress in order to weaken the Democratic administration of Harry Truman and pave the way for a Republican victory in 1952. Investigative hearings into McCarthy’s charges did not turn up communist cadres committing treason and espionage, but they did allow anti-New Deal and Fair Deal critics to pillory the Democrats for allegedly enhancing U.S. vulnerability to external threat and internal subversion. Although McCarthy’s Wisconsin constituency provided him with little more than a perfunctory majority in his reelection, and although Republican president Eisenhower did not sanction the Senator’s demagogic tirades against “atheistic Communism,” McCarthy received vigorous support from numerous veterans’ organizations and from right-wing Congressmen and the right-wing press. During most of his four years in the national spotlight, public opinion polls showed that more Americans disliked his crude blustering campaign than approved of his activities. Except for a brief period in 1954, just before his demise, Republicans were about equally divided in their opinion of the Senator, and Democrats, by a two to one margin, opposed him. McCarthy was of Irish Catholic background, but Catholics did not support him en masse; like Protestants, they were divided along party lines, and the Catholic press and the Catholic hierarchy were also divided. McCarthy’s ability to capture national attention was due more to the fact that his rhetoric and bombast fit the Truman administration’s own Democratic Party anti-Communism than to any surge of conservative grassroots mass activism.

6Having paved the way for “red baiting” and charges of “guilt by association” during the 1948 campaign against Progressive Party candidate Henry A. Wallace, Truman and both conservative and moderate Democrats had already familiarized journalists and the reading public with dire warnings against “Reds, phonies, and parlor pinks.” During McCarthy’s four years of flailing away at supposed saboteurs the media routinely sensationalized his activities. They also consistently overestimated his support among the public. McCarthy’s congressional colleagues, as well as presidents Truman and Eisenhower, refused directly to criticize his public speeches or his senate investigations. It was the live television coverage of McCarthy’s investigation of communism in the U.S. Army that provided the Senate with an excuse to condemn him. Emboldened by their sense that McCarthy’s vulgar behavior on national television would disgust the viewers, Democrats and moderate Republicans overcame their fear of his power and censured him for breaking Senate rules and bringing their institution into disrepute.

  • 4 Donald T. Critchlow, The Conservative Ascendancy: How the Republican Right Rose to Power in Modern (...)

7McCarthy’s personal decline did not signal the demise of conservatism, nor did it provide liberalism with a new lease on life, though the Democratic Party did strengthen its hold on national politics, made itself the majority party by the late 1950s, and recaptured the White House in 1960. The Democrats, however, were a deeply divided party. Most southern Democrats opposed the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decision in 1954 and condemned President Eisenhower’s decision to send National Guard troops to force the integration of the Little Rock, Arkansas, Central High School in 1954. In 1956, the state of Mississippi established a State Sovereignty Commission charged with protecting the state’s white supremacist vision of American freedom from federal government interference. By 1963, in the South and across the nation, defenders of traditional values of white supremacy were actively opposing government regulation and social policy planning on behalf of reforms that promoted recognition and redistribution. This was evident in the reaction against President Kennedy’s order that the Justice Department enforce racial equality in education. Southern white supremacists now discovered common ground with Sunbelt libertarians as well as White ethnics throughout the country. Many of the latter were conservative Catholics, who refused to accept a government-imposed future marked by the racial integration of their neighborhoods and the use of their tax monies for the redistribution of resources premised on social inclusion.4

  • 5 Critchlow, Conservative Ascendancy, 68.

8Republicans Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and Democrat George Wallace made themselves national spokesmen for populist, conservative cultural politics during the 1960s. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1952, Goldwater campaigned against “creeping socialism” by denouncing Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers Union as an agent of international communism. In 1960, he published The Conscience of a Conservative, expressing his concern that “in spite of a Conservative revival among the people the radical ideas that were promoted by the New and Fair Deals under the guise of Liberalism still dominate the councils of our national government.” Two Catholic public intellectuals, L. Brent Bozell, a former aide and speechwriter for Joe McCarthy, and his brother in law William F. Buckley were the ghost writers for Goldwater’s book. By 1964, three and a half million copies had been sold, and Goldwater gathered around himself the leading lights of the nation’s conservative intelligentsia.5

9Goldwater, joined by Alabama’s Democratic Party governor George Wallace, provided nationally publicized endorsement of white supremacist values when they declared themselves unalterably opposed to the federal government’s imposition of racial desegregation. In 1964, Goldwater defeated liberal Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican nomination for president, and Wallace competed in the Democratic Party primaries; both Goldwater and Wallace also stressed the need to enforce “law and order” in the face of assertive demonstrations in favor of civil rights and against U.S. escalation of the Vietnam War. Wallace captured a third of the votes in primary contests in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Maryland; Goldwater won not quite 39 percent of the vote in the general election against Lyndon Johnson. He won Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and his home state of Arizona, but he lost urban voters inside and outside the South except for Birmingham and Mobile, Alabama, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Jacksonville, Florida.

10Goldwater’s defeat and Wallace’s limited success in 1964 did not represent a repudiation of the cultural values with which they were associated. In 1966, Ronald Reagan won the governor’s office in California after campaigning on a platform centered on traditional values and condemnation of federal government activism, one similar to those of Goldwater and Wallace. And when President Johnson signed into law a series of civil rights, equal opportunity, and anti-poverty measures, forthrightly calling for a “Second Reconstruction” that would at long last provide recognition of the racial equality of Black Americans and redistribute resources to overcome the legacy of slavery and racism, large segments of Democrats abandoned the party. In 1968 George Wallace, running as the American Independent Party candidate against Johnson’s vice president Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon, won 10 million popular votes and carried five states. Humphrey was limited to thirteen states and the District of Columbia, losing New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, and California by less than four percentage points. Wallace’s success, limited to the five Deep South states as it was, and Nixon’s own successful values-based appeal to voters nationwide foreshadowed the slipping fortunes of the Democrats in the 1970s. Increasing numbers of voters now believed that the Democratic Party was hostile to the alleged “traditional values” of those Americans who regarded racial segregation and limited governmentas positive mainstream principles. President Nixon claimed that these were the values of Americans he famously characterized as “the Silent Majority.”

  • 6 Ben J. Wattenberg and Richard M. Scammon, The Real Majority (New York: Coward-McCann, 1970).

11Given the way that television and the movies lavished attention on Hippies, the New Left, Feminists, and sexual liberationists in the LGBT campaigns of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it is not surprising that some uncritical pundits were tempted to conclude that the nation was in the throes of a cultural revolution. In reality, as sociologists Ben J. Wattenberg and Richard M. Scammon demonstrated in their 1970 study The Real Majority, the popularity of long hair for men and short skirts for women did not signify that Americans were joyfully partying their way into a countercultural “Age of Aquarius.”6 The thesis that conservatism had not only remained a potent political force but also grown in strength received powerful support with the overwhelming defeat of Democrat George McGovern in the presidential election of 1972. McGovern ran as the tribune of a “new politics” dedicated to unprecedented efforts on behalf of recognition and redistribution – bringing nonwhites, women, and LGBT activists into party deliberations from the grassroots to the national leadership positions. Voters responded by reelecting Richard Nixon by the widest margin in the nation’s history; McGovern won 17 electoral votes to Nixon’s 520 and Nixon carried every state except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

12By the mid-1970s, it was clear that a reformulation of the landscape of American political culture was underway. Public exposure of the crimes of Richard Nixon, and his resignation in order to avoid being impeached generated demands that “law and order” be enforced “inside the Beltway” (of Washington, D.C.), as well as on the streets of America’s big cities. The nationwide hue and cry against “Washington Insiders” encouraged Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia to challenge left liberal Democrats for the party’s nomination in 1976. Carter’s victory in the election of 1976 against Gerald Ford was a testimony to both the post-Watergate populist distrust of big government, as well as to the Georgian’s appeal to those voters who appreciated his Evangelical Protestant religious bona fides as a Southern Baptist who taught Sunday school. No Democratic Party candidate since 1976 has been able to match Carter’s level of support among Southern voters, large numbers of whom refused to support candidates and policies associated with federal government activism on behalf of affirmative action, feminism, and equal rights for LGBT Americans.

  • 7 Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice Not an Echo, Third edition (Pere Marquette Press, 1964); see also Schlaf (...)

13In 1972, Catholic activist Phyllis Schlafly, author in 1964 of A Choice Not an Echo, a bestselling book promoting the Goldwater candidacy, organized a highly successful campaign against ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that Congress had passed that year.7 Two years later, Schlafly joined other Catholic critics who mobilized with various grassroots “right to life” organizations to protest and undo the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that held state laws prohibiting abortion to be unconstitutional. In the 1978 congressional and the 1980 presidential election campaigns, Evangelical groups such as Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, anti-LGBT rights activists in groups like Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign, pro-family groups such as Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, and free enterprise advocates such as beer manufacturer Joseph Coors worked together to defeat more than a dozen liberal Democratic Party senators and representatives. Ronald Reagan’s capture of the White House in 1980 and again in 1984 also benefited from such conservative coalition building. The Republican Party’s promise in its 1980 platform to seek a constitutional amendment banning most abortions attracted traditionalist Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants who agitated for “the rights of the unborn.”

14If the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 and 1990 signaled the beginning of the end of the Cold War, the two-term presidency of Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989 testified to the eroding of the Democratic Party’s ability to continue the programs of recognition and redistribution central to Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society. Together, Reagan and Congress instituted measures of tax reform and business deregulation that were high on the agenda of free enterprise conservatives; his budgets made significant cuts in the funding of federally-supported redistribution of resources in education, housing, and welfare intended to benefit ethno-racial minorities; his Justice Department’s civil rights agencies adopted less aggressive policies regarding the enforcement of racial and gender equality in the workplace. However, Reagan disappointed those conservatives who placed a high priority on such issues as ending so-called “abortion on demand” and reinstituting prayers in public schools.

  • 8 Burton Yale Pines, Back to Basics: The Traditionalist Movement That Is Sweeping Grass-Roots America (...)
  • 9 Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republic (...)

15National politics in the 1990s demonstrated the prescience of Burton Yale Pines’ 1982 book Back to Basics, which argued that a cultural politics conservative movement was now “challenging liberalism on every major front and ending the liberal monopoly of the agenda setting process.”8 In 1992, voters elected Bill Clinton, the first Democrat to serve since Jimmy Carter left office at the end of 1980. Clinton’s victory was possible partly because he was a self-styled “New Democrat” who had embraced the conservative critique of “Big Government,” partly because he proudly proclaimed his devotion to his Baptist religious convictions, partly because he promised to support the “Law and Order” priorities that conservatives had demanded since the 1960s, and partly because he promised to “end welfare as we know it.” Once in office, Clinton appealed to cultural liberals among Democrats, especially to his LGBT constituency; he attempted to keep a campaign promise to overturn the nation’s ban against homosexuals in the military services. When his proposed Congressional legislation failed, he issued a Presidential Defense Directive 1304.26 that put in place a halfway measure known as the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Conservative opposition to this policy, combined with widespread opposition to Clinton’s national health care proposal, and to criticism of First Lady Hilary Rodham Clinton’s leading role in the process that created that proposal, generated a Republican landslide in the 1994 Congressional elections. Clinton managed to hold on to the presidency in the 1996 election, but Republicans gained strength in congressional and state elections during the late 1990s. George W. Bush’s victory in 2000 and 2004 was also a victory for conservative cultural politics, and the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the first non-Southern Democrat to win the presidency since John F. Kennedy in 1960, triggered the Tea Party movement – a negative reaction fueled by both conservative cultural politics and populist economic discontent. This negative reaction – and it has come from the grassroots as well as from conservative elites – should not surprise us given the historical context we have just reviewed. Recent research on the ideology and the social character of Tea Party supporters makes it clear that both values-related and economic-related grievances animate them and this dual dynamic is also evident in the current campaign.9

Cultural Politics in the Golden State

  • 10 Catholics did not vote as a bloc anywhere in California, but they comprised a majority of church me (...)
  • 11 Legislator for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, and Public Health,” an interview with William Byron (...)
  • 12 Two Views of Fair Housing Bill,” Monitor April 26, 1963, 9; Donovan Bess, “Behind Rumford Struggle (...)
  • 13 Two Views of the Fair Housing Bill,” Monitor, April 26, 1963; “On Racial Harmony,” a statement app (...)

16Proponents of conservative cultural politics have been especially active in California in the half century since 1962, when the Golden State surpassed New York to become the most populous state in the union. A striking illustration is how activists on the Right have used the state’s Progressive Era direct democracy mechanisms to stymie liberal attempts to grant state government the power to ban racial discrimination in housing (Proposition 14 in 1964), and to prohibit the legalization of same sex marriage (Proposition 8 in 2008). The changing character of cultural politics, as conservatism grew from an anemic marginal presence into a potent mainstream dynamic, can be seen in the differences between Catholic participation in the Proposition 14 (Prop 14) and Proposition 8 campaigns in California.10 The events associated with Prop 14 began in 1959 when California passed its first fair housing laws.11 Four years later, Assemblyman Byron Rumford introduced AB 1240 in April, 1963. This proposed ordinance aimed to prohibit owners from inquiring as to the race, color, religion, national origin or ancestry of prospective buyers/tenants, and expanded existing law to include about 70 percent of the state’s housing. Transactions involving realtors and brokers were also to be included.12 Shortly after Assemblyman Rumford introduced the legislation, the official San Francisco Catholic newspaper the Monitor ran an expansive article supporting the proposed legislation. The Monitor’s support for racial equality in housing was followed two months later by a pastoral letter from the American Bishops entitled “On Racial Harmony.” The Bishops declared unambiguously that racial segregation was a violation of Christian teaching and argued that “respect for personal rights is both a moral duty, and a civic one.”13

  • 14 For Governor Brown’s role, see Martin Schiesl, “The Struggle for Equality: Racial Reform and Party (...)

17By the end of September, the California Assembly and Senate approved the Rumford Fair Housing Act, and liberal Democratic Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown signed it into law. Immediately, the California Real Estate Association announced a direct democracy campaign to gather signatures for a ballot initiative leading to a constitutional amendment to nullify the new law. Californians opposed to the fair housing legislation avidly signed the petitions, and by February 25, 1964, enough signatures, half of them from Los Angeles County alone, were confirmed to put the measure on the ballot. Governor Brown, a San Franciscan and a practicing Catholic, tried to derail the future success of the measure by convincing lawmakers to place it on the fall, rather than the spring, ballot. Brown imagined (wrongly, as it turned out) that the larger liberal turnout expected in the November presidential election would condemn the measure to defeat. As did the San Francisco Catholic Interracial Council, Brown realized the potential significance of repeal of the Rumford Act. If California approved a constitutional amendment barring further local or state legislation on behalf of housing rights regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin, the forces of conservative reaction would win a substantial national victory.14

  • 15 Burns, “Postconciliar Church as Unfamiliar Sky,” 71-74, 76-77; “Cardinal Stays Out of Politics,” Ch (...)
  • 16 Ibid.
  • 17 McGucken Calls Rumford Repeal Immoral,” Examiner, May 27, 1964, 1.

18Most of the Catholic bishops of California went on record in opposition to Prop 14, but Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles refused to condemn the measure, declaring that “the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t take a stand on political matters.”15 In San Francisco, Archbishop McGucken announced that “clergy did not take the forefront in these matters” (the Prop 14 fight), but it was “right for the Church to be involved but with prudence and moderation.” McGucken therefore declined invitations to appear in person and declare his position forthrightly and instead designated or allowed those who would speak uncompromisingly against Prop 14 to represent the Church. When McGucken did act, or speak, he avoided outright attacks on the supporters of Prop 14 while arguing that the measure deserved repudiation. He insisted that newspaper ads asking voters not to sign the petition to get the measure on the ballot avoid all “accusation” of the real estate industry. At the same time, he insisted on strengthening the language of the ads so as to make explicit that “the initiative now proposed would not only kill existing California law, but would prohibit legislative, and other agencies of state and local government, including the courts, from dealing with acts of religious or social discrimination in housing.”16 The changes were made; the full page ad ran in the New York Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and the San Francisco Chronicle on December 23, 1963.17

  • 18 Eugene T. Boyle, “Introduction of Dr. King,” May 26, 1964, Civil Rights file, Chancery Archives.
  • 19 McGucken Calls Rumford Repeal Immoral,” Examiner, May 27, 1964, 1.
  • 20 McGucken Assailed Over Fair Housing Initiative,” Chronicle, June 11, 1964, 2.

19McGucken was invited to give the invocation when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared at an anti-14 rally at San Francisco’s Cow Palace auditorium on May 26, 1964. Following past practice, he declined, sending Father Eugene Boyle in his place. Boyle condemned Prop 14 as representing “an alien, un-American and unchristian concept of property which must be rejected.”18 In late May, the Archbishop himself was quoted as saying that Catholics who supported Prop 14 made “errors in conscience” (in Catholic parlance, meaning that a person can perform an objectively immoral act while remaining subjectively free of guilt because his conscience is sincere and free of immoral intent).19 He was personally opposed to repeal, but he would not go so far as to say that Catholics had a moral duty to vote against it. Edward Keating, publisher of the local left-wing Catholic magazine Ramparts publicly criticized the Archbishop, calling him “derelict in his duties” for opposing the measure on constitutional, rather than on moral grounds.20

  • 21 Church and Race,” Monitor, Aug. 27, 1964, 16.
  • 22 Need for Understanding,” Monitor, Oct. 22, 1964, 22.

20Archbishop McGucken did not provide public leadership in the campaign against Prop 14, and he did not speak out directly in official capacity until two weeks before the election, but he made no attempt to restrain or moderate the editorial content or the reportage on the controversy over fair housing by the official diocesan newspaper. By late August, 1964, with Barry Goldwater campaigning for president and the Prop 14 campaign in high gear, the Monitor editorialized that “no California voter should vote ‘yes’ on 14,” citing the authority of Bishop Floyd L. Begin of Oakland that “Prop. 14 contradicts what is clear and universal Catholic social teaching.”21 Then on October 22, Archbishop McGucken spoke out strongly against Prop 14 in a pastoral letter, and the accompanying editorial instructed readers that although the measure “has split the state and has also created differences within the Church” the Archbishop spoke for the Church and “The Church does not use authority recklessly.”22

  • 23 Realtor Forms ‘Yes on 14’ Group for Catholics,” Monitor, Sept. 24, 1964, 5.

21Catholics who objected to sermons against Prop 14 and the distribution of anti-Prop 14 literature after Mass gave tacit approval to the point of view announced by Robert Miller, head of the Northern California Committee for “Yes on 14.” Miller insisted that the issue was political, not religious, and discussion of its merits did not belong in the pulpit. In Los Gatos, a Santa Clara County town 60 miles south of San Francisco, Catholics claiming to represent 60 parishes organized a “Yes on 14” group, but such organized support for the measure did not exist in San Francisco.23

  • 24 Boyle, “Personal Reflections,” 15, Chancery Archives.

22On November 3, 1964 California voters passed Prop 14, thereby overturning the state fair housing legislation, by a two-to-one majority. Prop 14 passed even in San Francisco, but by a much narrower margin: 150,314 “yes” votes; 134,611 “no” votes. Governor Brown declared that he would not enforce the new constitutional amendment until its constitutionality was verified and the California Secretary of State refused to certify the vote. The federal government threatened to hold further federal funds for slum clearance in view of the victory of Prop 14. John Delury of the Catholic Interracial Council and Catholic Social Justice Commission and Earl Raab of the San Francisco Human Relations Clearing House immediately set to work in support of the ultimately successful legal campaign to overturn the voter mandate in the courts. Eventually the California State Supreme Court declared Prop 14 unconstitutional, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling.24

  • 25 See Rick Santorum, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, (...)

23Soon after the courts overturned the California electorate’s resounding 2 to 1 nullification of the legislature’s fair housing regulations, voters refused to give liberal governor Edmund G. Brown a third term and elected conservative Ronald Reagan. During Reagan’s eight years in office and beyond, the politics of inclusion continued to thrive in the competition produced by ethno-racial and economic class interest groups, feminists, LGBT residents, and many others, including those representing poor elderly residents, the homeless, and the disabled. At the same time, large numbers of conservative Catholics rejected John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 insistence that religion should be practiced in private. They demanded that religion be deprivatized, and many Catholics coalesced with Protestant evangelicals such as Billy Graham and later Jerry Falwell who rejected the liberal prescription that the common good should be premised on unlimited individual rights and unbounded individual freedom of choice.25 Two years after Reagan became governor of California, Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Humane Vitae, which reasserted the Church’s traditional prohibition of artificial birth control. From then on, and especially since 1973 when leading Catholics began to mobilize against the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion rights, the Catholic Church hierarchy and conservative Catholic lay men and women have played increasingly active roles in direct democracy cultural politics. California was the site of one of the first direct democracy campaigns related to same sex marriage when San Francisco, in 1982, passed the nation’s first municipal law extending to “domestic partners” of city employees benefits historically available only to married spouses. Archbishop John R. Quinn (served 1977–1995) wrote to Mayor Feinstein urging her to veto the city’s pioneering domestic partners legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors (San Francisco’s city council) in 1982. Quinn’s letter was generally acknowledged to have convinced the mayor to issue the veto, which the board did not overturn. And when the board unanimously passed a second version seven years later, it was the Church and Catholic activists who led a successful referendum vote that rendered the legislation null and void. Then, in 1990 city voters reestablished domestic partners legislation by initiative, and this time the Catholic-supported repeal measure went down to a solid defeat. The Archbishop made no apology for his political activism.

  • 26 San Francisco Examiner, December 9, 10, 13, 1982, January 4, 1983; New York Times, December 10, 198 (...)

“Sometimes, powerful people do not want to be contradicted with opposing views that show the moral weakness of their position. They want the church to be silent unless it agrees with them. . . [but] it’s my right and obligation to speak on the moral dimensions of these public issues.”26

  • 27 Statement of the Catholic Bishops of California in support of Proposition 8: A constitutional amen (...)
  • 28 E.J. Dionne Jr., “Return of the Culture Wars?” San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 14, 2012; San Francisc (...)

24Two years after San Francisco’s mayor vetoed the city’s first domestic partners ordinance, another northern California city, Berkeley, established the first such legislation in the United States. Since then, same sex marriage issues gradually became a new frontier in the nation’s politics of inclusion. In 1996 conservatives succeeded in passing a federal Defense of Marriage Act aimed at preventing LGBT efforts to legalize same sex marriage in any state of the union. Four years later, opponents of same sex marriage placed Proposition 22 on the ballot in California, specifying that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Voters approved the measure in a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent. When Mayor Gavin Newsom in February 2004 announced that San Francisco would violate state law and issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, he set in motion a battle that continues today. In May 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same sex couples had a constitutional right to marry, but in November 2008 voters approved Proposition 8, which added prohibition of same sex marriage to the state constitution. The Catholic Church and Catholic lay organizations actively campaigned in favor of Proposition 8, even making a controversial alliance with Protestant evangelicals and Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) activists who were also opposed to same sex marriage.27 In contrast to the Proposition 22 vote, this time opponents of same sex marriage won by only 4 percentage points (52 percent versus 48 percent); with conservative Black and Latino voters contributing to the margin of victory. Legal challenges seeking to overturn the results of this exercise in direct democracy commenced immediately after passage of Proposition 8 and are still ongoing; in February 2012, a federal district court panel ruled 2 to 1 that the measure was unconstitutional and as of this writing, appeals of that latest decision by opponents of same sex marriage are still pending.28

Conclusion

  • 29 David Harvey, Social Justice and the City, Revised Edition (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 20 (...)
  • 30 Michel Rosenfeld, Law, Justice, Democracy, and the Clash of Cultures: A Pluralist Account (New York (...)

25Californians have debated the pros and cons of fair housing and same sex marriage in the context of more than a half-century of contests between liberal and conservative visions regarding the constitutional rights of individuals and the duties of government toward groups historically excluded from participation in policy-making. The politics of inclusion since the 1960s has produced undeniable progress in human rights legislation, but debate continues as to the extent of the practical consequences of formal equality. As David Harvey, Michael J. Sandel, David Hollinger, Daniel R. Pinello, and Miriam Smith have shown, de jure political inclusion has not guaranteed economic security, political equality, or generated the social solidarity necessary for “us and them” to become “we the people.”29 Californians have joined the national debate about the role that religious tradition and faith-based activism should play in politics; advocates of a “comprehensive pluralism” continue to push back against the post-1980s “deprivatization” of religion by those who demand increasing “the power of religion in the public sphere.”30

  • 31 Gregory B. Lewis and Charles W. Gossett, “Changing Public Opinion on Same Sex Marriage: The Case of (...)

26Catholic involvement in the Proposition 14 and Proposition 8 campaigns in California demonstrates cases in which cultural politics linked to values linked to competing liberal and conservative visions have manifested themselves in the largest state in the nation. In the future, Catholic conservatives and other conservative Americans who have joined them in the nation’s cultural politics will continue to demand that public policy should derive from a foundation of faith-based morality, that individual rights have God-given limits, and that government has a duty to require citizens to learn and practice a religious-based civic creed. But as the evidence of the Proposition 8 controversy and of several flare ups in the 2012 presidential campaign suggest, their power will be limited by liberal and moderate Americans who demand that the public sphere be open to all, and that public policy recognize, honor, and encourage multiple conceptions of the common good, not enshrine a single tradition-based vision of the public interest. By all indications, competing liberal and conservative visions expressed through the medium of cultural politics will continue to powerfully mark California – and national – politics today and in the foreseeable future.31

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Notes

1 See Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth, Redistribution or Recognition: A Political-Philosophical Exchange (London: Verso, 2003); Axel Honneth, The Struggle for Recognition: The Moral Grammar of Social Conflicts (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995) and Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser Debates Her Critics, edited by Kevin Olson (London: Verso, 2008).

2 John Kenneth White, The Values Divide: American Politics and Culture in Transition (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2003); Christopher Ellis and James A. Stimson, Ideology in America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

3 Alan I. Abramowitz, The Polarized Public? Why American Government is So Dysfunctional (Boston: Pearson Education, 2013), 44, 63.

4 Donald T. Critchlow, The Conservative Ascendancy: How the Republican Right Rose to Power in Modern America, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011), 45, 49, 88; George J. Marlin, The American Catholic Voter: 200 Years of Political Impact (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2004), 261-284; John C. Green, The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2007), 21-64.

5 Critchlow, Conservative Ascendancy, 68.

6 Ben J. Wattenberg and Richard M. Scammon, The Real Majority (New York: Coward-McCann, 1970).

7 Phyllis Schlafly, A Choice Not an Echo, Third edition (Pere Marquette Press, 1964); see also Schlafly, The Power of the Positive Woman (New York: Arlington House, 1977).

8 Burton Yale Pines, Back to Basics: The Traditionalist Movement That Is Sweeping Grass-Roots America (New York: William Morrow, 1982), 308, 331.

9 Geoffrey Kabaservice, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party (NY: Oxford University Press, 2012), 363-402; Eric Alterman and Kevin Mattson, The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama (New York: Viking, 2012), 384-460; Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Lawrence Rosenthal and Christine Trost, Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).

10 Catholics did not vote as a bloc anywhere in California, but they comprised a majority of church members throughout the state and were especially active in electoral politics in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the state’s two largest cities, where they were some 20 percent of voters. See Issel, Church and State in The City: Catholics and Politics in Twentieth Century San Francisco (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012), chapters 7 and 11.

11 Legislator for Fair Employment, Fair Housing, and Public Health,” an interview with William Byron Rumford conducted in 1971 by Joyce A. Henderson, Amelia Fry, Edward France, Regional Oral History Office, BLUCB, 112-133.

12 Two Views of Fair Housing Bill,” Monitor April 26, 1963, 9; Donovan Bess, “Behind Rumford Struggle,” San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 1964, 1, 9.

13 Two Views of the Fair Housing Bill,” Monitor, April 26, 1963; “On Racial Harmony,” a statement approved by the Administrative Board, National Catholic Welfare Conference, August 23, 1963.

14 For Governor Brown’s role, see Martin Schiesl, “The Struggle for Equality: Racial Reform and Party Politics in California,” in Responsible Liberalism: Edmund G. “Pat” Brown and Reform Government in California, 1958-1967, edited by Martin Schiesl (Los Angeles: Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute for Public Affairs, 2003), 107-117.

15 Burns, “Postconciliar Church as Unfamiliar Sky,” 71-74, 76-77; “Cardinal Stays Out of Politics,” Chronicle, July 29, 1964, 9; Francis J. Weber, “The California Bishops and Proposition 14,” in Past is Prologue: Some Historical Reflections, 1961-1991 (Mission Hills, CA: St. Francis Historical Society, 1992), 119-126.

16 Ibid.

17 McGucken Calls Rumford Repeal Immoral,” Examiner, May 27, 1964, 1.

18 Eugene T. Boyle, “Introduction of Dr. King,” May 26, 1964, Civil Rights file, Chancery Archives.

19 McGucken Calls Rumford Repeal Immoral,” Examiner, May 27, 1964, 1.

20 McGucken Assailed Over Fair Housing Initiative,” Chronicle, June 11, 1964, 2.

21 Church and Race,” Monitor, Aug. 27, 1964, 16.

22 Need for Understanding,” Monitor, Oct. 22, 1964, 22.

23 Realtor Forms ‘Yes on 14’ Group for Catholics,” Monitor, Sept. 24, 1964, 5.

24 Boyle, “Personal Reflections,” 15, Chancery Archives.

25 See Rick Santorum, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006); Daniel K. Williams, God’s Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); E.J. Dionne, Jr., Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012); Critchlow, Conservative Ascendancy, 134-136.

26 San Francisco Examiner, December 9, 10, 13, 1982, January 4, 1983; New York Times, December 10, 1982; Archbishop Quinn quotation from Don Lattin, “The Diplomat,” San Francisco Examiner Image (Sunday Magazine), August 30, 1987, 12-18, at 18.

27 Statement of the Catholic Bishops of California in support of Proposition 8: A constitutional amendment to restore the definition of marriage,” San Francisco Catholic, August 6th, 2008, http://catholic-sf.org/news_select.php?newsid=29&id=264; “Archbishop Niederauer explains Catholic involvement in Prop. 8,” Catholic News Agency, December 4, 2008, http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/archbishop_niederauer_explains_catholic_involvement_in_prop._8/; “Marriage and the Laity’s Responsibility,” Catholics and the Common Good: A New Catholic Action, http://ccgaction.org/family/standwithchildren/principles/ca/pastoralmessage08-05-16.

28 E.J. Dionne Jr., “Return of the Culture Wars?” San Francisco Chronicle, Feb. 14, 2012; San Francisco Chronicle, June 6, 2012, July 6, 2012; New York Times, June 6, 2012, June 23, 2012.

29 David Harvey, Social Justice and the City, Revised Edition (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008); Michael J. Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996); David Hollinger, Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism, tenth anniversary expanded edition (New York: Basic Books, 2006); Daniel R. Pinello, America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Miriam Smith, Political Institutions and Lesbian and Gay Rights in the United States and Canada (New York: Routledge, 2008).

30 Michel Rosenfeld, Law, Justice, Democracy, and the Clash of Cultures: A Pluralist Account (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, edited by Craig Calhoun (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), 109-142; Nancy Fraser, Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalizing World (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010); Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, Cornel West, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Jürgen Habermas, An Awareness of What is Missing: Faith and Reason in a Post-Secular Age (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2011).

31 Gregory B. Lewis and Charles W. Gossett, “Changing Public Opinion on Same Sex Marriage: The Case of California,” Politics & Policy, 36, 1 (2008), 4-30; Patrick J. Egan and Kenneth Sherrill, “California’s Proposition 8: What Happened, and What Does the Future Hold?” (2009), A Report Commissioned by the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in San Francisco, http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/reports/pi_prop8_1_6_09.pdf, accessed March 14, 2012; Michael Barbaro, “Santorum Makes Case for Religion in Public Sphere,” New York Times, February 27, 2012; Robert Pear “House Republicans Hesitate on Birth Control Fight,” New York Times, March 16, 2012; Brian Cahill, “Catholic Church’s Resistance is Futile,” San Francisco Chronicle, August 6, 2012; Joe Garofoli, “Democrats poised to make history with embrace of same-sex marriage,” San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 3, 2012.

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William Issel, « Liberal and Conservative Visions in United States Politics since 1945: Cultural Politics, the Politics of Inclusion, and Two California Cases », Siècles [En ligne], 37 | 2013, mis en ligne le 12 décembre 2013, consulté le 27 mai 2017. URL : http://siecles.revues.org/1156

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William Issel

Professor emeritus of History
San Francisco State University

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