Unity was the theme during the 1992 Democratic Convention, with nominee Bill Clinton, and his wife Hillary, joining hands with delegates as they sang an anthem called "Circle of Friends."
But there was a problem in the Pennsylvania delegation, where two-term Gov. Robert Casey was feeling excluded. An old-school Catholic Democrat, Casey had been denied a speaking slot during platform debates. On the convention floor, delegates were selling buttons showing him dressed as the pope -- since he opposed abortion.
Months later, a coalition formed to explore whether Casey should challenge President Clinton in 1996, running on progressive economics and cultural conservatism. Pro-life Democrats like Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver were involved, but Republican Jeffrey Bell -- Ronald Reagan's first full-time campaign staffer in 1976 -- emerged as a team leader.
Why would a Catholic Republican back a Democrat? In a 1995 interview, Bell told me that he was worried many religious voters -- especially evangelicals and Catholics -- had already decided they had no choice but to support GOP nominees.
"Republicans, unfortunately, have good reason to feel complacent," said Bell, after Casey's failing health prevented a White House run. As for evangelicals and traditional Catholics, Republican leaders "pat them on the head," and "buy them off easy," because cultural conservatives have few political alternatives.
"Why do Republicans have to address the concerns of moral conservatives? They have Bill Clinton. They have Hillary Clinton," he said. "They're right here in Washington, working full-time to make sure they have someone to vote against. …
"Someday, this is going to cause BIG problems for evangelicals and conservative Catholics."
Casey died in 2000, after major heart problems closed his career.
Bell died in February, after a career in which he ran for the U.S. Senate in New Jersey -- in 1978 and 2014 -- but was better known for work behind the scenes helping others, following beliefs that escaped easy political labels.