Good day Austin:
Phyllis Schlafly, one of the most consequential women in American politics since she wrote a thin volume – A Choice Not an Echo – in 1964 attacking Nelson Rockefeller and the Republican establishment in advance of Barry Goldwater toppling that establishment and seizing the party’s nomination on the way to losing in the Johnson landslide, has died at 92.
Schlafly’s death came the very day before her latest book was to be released – The Conservative Case for Donald Trump – a book that nicely book-ended her political life.
It was Schlafly’s certain and clear embrace of Trump over Sen. Ted Cruz for president that led to the unthinkable – an abortive coup within her organization, the Eagle Forum – and to Schlafly’s souring on Cruz, who she came to view as an establishment tool, and who she castigated for borrowing a choice, not an echo, in announcing his choice of Carly Fiorina as his running-mate in late April.
From Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch:
In his speech yesterday announcing Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate, Ted Cruz said that his campaign presents Republican voters with “a choice, not an echo,” a line he lifted directly from legendary conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who happens to be a prominent supporter of his GOP rival Donald Trump.
Schlafly, who is locked in a bitter war for control of her organization, Eagle Forum — a fight motivated in part by a split between Trump and Cruz supporters in the organization — told WorldNetDaily today that she didn’t like Cruz using her famous line.
“That’s my phrase, and Ted Cruz knows it,” Schlafly said. “But as far as I’m concerned, ‘a choice not an echo’ this year applies to Donald Trump, not Ted Cruz.”
Schlafly made her biggest mark by nearly single-handedly derailing approval of the Equal Rights Amendment by the requisite states in the 1970s.
From an article, Firebrand, by Elizabeth Kolbert in the New Yorker:
On October 12, 1971, the United States House of Representatives approved the Equal Rights Amendment by a vote of 354 to 23. Five months later, the same amendment was passed by the Senate by a margin very nearly as lopsided—84 to 8—at which point the E.R.A. was sent on to the states for ratification. Several legislatures vied to be the first to approve it. (So eager was the Delaware state senate that it voted to ratify an hour and forty minutes before the amendment had technically been submitted.) Typical was the debate in Topeka, which took approximately ten minutes. The E.R.A. was supported by Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter, and actively lobbied for by the First Ladies Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter. The A.F.L.-C.I.O., the League of Women Voters, and the National Education Association backed it; women’s magazines ranging from Redbook and Good Housekeeping to Cosmopolitan ran scores of positive articles on it, and its many celebrity champions included Patty Duke, Ann Landers, Erma Bombeck, Marlo Thomas, and Carol Burnett, the last of whom once pleaded, “I have three daughters. Unless they’re protected by the Constitution, what’s going to happen to them?”
Meanwhile, sitting in her living room in suburban St. Louis, Phyllis Schlafly had decided that the E.R.A. was a bad idea. Schlafly had no real organization to speak of, just a monthly newsletter that she mailed to a few thousand supporters, and it was there that she laid out her case against the amendment. American women, she wrote in the Phyllis Schlafly Report, were blessed to live in a country where Christian traditions of chivalry still held—“a man’s first significant purchase (after a car) is a diamond for his bride”—and where free enterprise was continually improving life for the weaker sex. “The great heroes of women’s liberation are not the straggly haired women on television talk shows and picket lines,” she asserted, but “geniuses” like “Clarence Birdseye, who invented the process for freezing foods.” Why, Schlafly demanded, should women “lower” themselves to equal rights “when we already have the status of special privilege?” Leaders of the pro-E.R.A. campaign found it hard to take such arguments seriously: according to one contemporary account, copies of the Report became collectors’ items among feminists, acquired for their comic value.
The larger significance of events is, of course, often obscure to those busy living them out. Exactly what seemed most ridiculous about Schlafly in the early seventies—her antiquarian views, her screwball logic, her God’s-on-our-side self-confidence—was by the end of the decade revealed to be her political strength. First the ratification process for the E.R.A. slowed, then it stalled out entirely. The last state to approve the amendment was Indiana, in January, 1977. Meanwhile, five states that had already voted to ratify rescinded their approval, a move of uncertain legal force but of ominous implications. As it became clear that the E.R.A. was going down, the tone of the Schlafly jokes began to sour.
“I just don’t see why some people don’t hit Phyllis Schlafly in the mouth,” a well-known feminist lawyer, Florence Kennedy, told a Miami radio station.
“I’d like to burn you at the stake,” Betty Friedan blurted out during a debate with Schlafly in Bloomington, Illinois. “I consider you a traitor to your sex. I consider you an Aunt Tom.
E.R.A. supporters tried at every opportunity to point out the inconsistency of Schlafly’s position. Here was a woman who insisted that a woman’s greatest satisfaction lay in caring for her family—in 1973, Schlafly still had four children at home—yet spent most of her time politicking. (In the middle of the STOP ERA campaign, Schlafly stunned everyone, including her husband, by announcing that, on top of everything else, she was going to start law school; she received her law degree a few years later.) But Schlafly’s personal life could just as easily be taken as proof of what she was arguing: that women had no need for the E.R.A.
“I think what Phyllis is doing is absolutely dreadful,” Karen DeCrow, who was the president of NOW in the mid-seventies, once said. “But I just can’t think of anyone who’s so together and tough. I mean, everything you should raise your daughter to be. . . . She’s an extremely liberated woman.”
From the New York Times obituary by Douglas Martin.
Many saw her ability to mobilize that citizens’ army as her greatest accomplishment. Angered by the cultural transformations of the 1960s, beginning with the 1962 Supreme Court ruling prohibiting state-sponsored prayer in public schools, her “little old ladies in tennis shoes,” as some called them, went from ringing doorbells for Goldwater to serving as foot soldiers for the “Reagan revolution.”
“Schlafly had discovered a genuine populist sentiment in a large female population that opposed the E.R.A., feminism and modern liberalism with the same intensity of emotion that feminists brought to their cause,” Donald T. Critchlow wrote in “Phyllis Schlafly and Grassroots Conservatism: A Woman’s Crusade” (2005).
Without her and her followers, Mr. Critchlow said, the conservative intellectuals, research organizations and foundations that are often credited with reshaping the contours of American politics might have failed.
The conservative theorist and organizer Paul Weyrich said that Mrs. Schlafly “dressed up the conservative movement for success at a time when absolutely no one thought we could win.”
Even liberals conceded her impact. “If political influence consists in transforming this huge and cantankerous country in one’s preferred direction,” the political scientist Alan Wolfe wrote in The New Republic in 2005, “Schlafly has to be regarded as one of the two or three most important Americans of the last half of the 20th century” — although he hastened to add that “every idea she ever had was scatterbrained, dangerous and hateful.”
For all her political heft, it was Phyllis Schlafly the person who often animated discussion. With her pearls, perfect posture and Daughters of the American Revolution pedigree, she basked in depictions of herself as the perfect wife and mother. She let it drop that she breast-fed all six of her babies and that she had taught all her children to read before they started school.
Feminists said it was her husband’s wealth — he was a lawyer from a rich Illinois family — that had liberated her to politick.
Her energy was formidable. She wrote or edited more than 20 books, published an influential monthly newsletter beginning in 1967, appeared daily on nearly 500 radio stations and delivered regular commentaries on CBS television in the 1970s and CNN in the ’80s. In 1972, she formed a volunteer organization called Stop ERA, which three years later became the Eagle Forum, to coordinate her campaigns.
In 1975, when she was living in Alton, Ill., Mrs. Schlafly announced to her family at dinner that she was going to enter law school at Washington University in nearby St. Louis. Her husband, by her account, disapproved of the idea at first, and she abandoned it, only to resurrect it when he changed his mind.
She received her law degree in 1978, ranked 27th in a class of 186, and passed the Illinois bar a few months later.
Some opponents called Mrs. Schlafly a hypocrite for pursuing so energetic a career while championing traditional female roles. She replied by calling her political career “a hobby” and saying she would never offer an opinion on whether women should or should not work outside the home.
Other detractors, like Karen DeCrow, a former president of the National Organization for Women, praised Mrs. Schlafly even as they castigated her politics.
“She’s an extremely liberated woman,” Ms. DeCrow said in an interview with Carol Felsenthal for her book “The Sweetheart of the Silent Majority: The Biography of Phyllis Schlafly” (1981). “She sets out to do something and she does it. To me, that’s liberation.”
Still, Mrs. Schlafly’s pronouncements drove her antagonists to distraction, though they suspected that her biting language was calculated precisely to provoke their outrage. She said that “sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women” and that “sex-education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions.” She called the atom bomb “a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God.”
In 1980, a protester threw an apple pie in her face at a Women’s National Republican Club reception in New York, painfully scratching an eye.
But Mrs. Schlafly was never outwardly ruffled. When Ms. Freidan, during a debate at Indiana University in 1973, recommended that she burn at the stake, Mrs. Schlafly replied in an even voice that she was pleased Ms. Friedan had said that because, she said, the comment had made it plain to the audience just how intolerant “intemperate, agitating proponents of the E.R.A.” were.
One might have thought that Ted Cruz would have been Schlafly’s obvious choice in 2016.
From my story from March 2013 on Cruz, in his third month in office, taking a star turn at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside D.C.
And Cruz’s first months in office have been an unremitting advertisement for his ability to mix it up in the Senate, making enemies and friends in equal measure.
“Cruz has a real instinct for the news cycle and the camera, so he’s going to be in the news, but I don’t think he’s going to be part of solving any problem in Washington, and I don’t expect him to build a national following except in the tea party wing, which loves the flame-throwing, as opposed to working on issues,” said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson.
But Phyllis Schlafly, at 88 the grand dame of conservative activism, effectively offered a rejoinder to Jillson in her speech, which followed Palin’s, noting that if there are those “blaming Ted Cruz for voting `no’ on everything that comes up, well, good for him.”
“We’ve needed someone who knows how to conduct an investigation, a hearing like Ted Cruz,” Schlafly said just before delivering her speech. “We have never had a Republican who was as good as (New York Sen.) Chuck Schumer. And I think Ted Cruz can do that – that’s what we’re looking for. We’re tired of them just standing around doing nothing.”
Here she is at CPAC.
Unfortunately, we let the Establishment pick another loser for us. The fight we have, and the fight I am asking you to engage in, is between the Establishment and the grass roots.
The Establishment has given us a whole series of losers. Bob Dole and John McCain and Mitt Romney and, even when they picked a winner – George W. Bush – the picked somebody who spent more money than the Democrats, he added new money that cost the taxpayers money, and he tried to give us open borders, first through the North American Union, and then through the amnesty he tried to line up with Ted Kennedy.
And so we need to have a grassroots takeover and elect the kind of candidate that Sarah Palin has been backing, like Ted Cruz.
But, Trump impressed her with his tough talk on immigration and on temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country, and his ability to mobilize the masses, and in March, she chose Trump over Cruz.
I think he has the courage and the energy — you know you have to have energy for that job — in order to bring some changes. To do what the grass roots want him to do because this is a grass-roots uprising. We’ve been following the losers for so long — now we’ve got a guy who’s going to lead us to victory.
Phyllis Schlafly is a conservative icon who led millions to action, reshaped the conservative movement, and fearlessly battled globalism and the ‘kingmakers’ on behalf of America’s workers and families. I was honored to spend time with her during this campaign as she waged one more great battle for national sovereignty. I was able to speak with her by phone only a few weeks ago, and she sounded as resilient as ever. Our deepest prayers go out to her family and all her loved ones. She was a patriot, a champion for women, and a symbol of strength. She fought every day right to the end for America First. Her legacy will live on in the movement she led and the millions she inspired.” – Donald J. Trump
From David Dewhurst:
Today, our nation and the conservative movement suffered a great loss with the passing of an extraordinary woman, Phyllis Schlafly.
Few will ever match Phyllis’ conviction and tenacity. She stood, literally, on the front lines fighting against forces that threatened to upend families and sought to undermine the Judeo-Christian values upon which our great nation was founded.
Phyllis Schlafly loved America. Her contributions to our country went far beyond her work exposing the illogic of liberalism: Phyllis led the charge to make the Republican Party pro-life and defended the sanctity of marriage. She was a passionate defender of U.S. sovereignty and championed Reagan’s policy of ‘peace through strength’ during a crucial time in American history.
Heidi’s and my prayers are with her family during their time of mourning. May she rest in peace.
Here is what she wrote only a few days ago:
Trump Battles the Globalists of Both Parties
Before heading to Cleveland to accept the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump paid a high-profile visit to Capitol Hill, where he hoped to unify Congressional Republicans behind his presidential campaign. Many of the 247 Republican Representatives and 54 Senators were cordial to their party’s presumptive nominee, but others remained hostile and weren’t shy about expressing it to reporters after leaving the closed-door meetings.
One Congressman reportedly demanded that Trump promise to protect Congress’ Article I powers if he is elected. Trump tactfully refrained from pointing out how many times the Republican Congress has unilaterally surrendered its Article I powers, including the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.”
Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona openly mocked Trump at the meeting and then bragged to reporters about their “tense” exchange. Flake, an unrepentant member of the Gang of Eight that produced the 2013 amnesty bill, has already announced plans to resurrect that discredited bill next year no matter who is elected president.
Trump’s next stop was a private meeting with Senator Ted Cruz, who inappropriately brought his campaign manager Jeff Roe to the meeting. Two months after suspending his campaign, why does Cruz still utilize a high-priced campaign manager to join high-level discussions with the presumptive nominee?
The answer is that Cruz never stopped running for president, and the people who spent $158 million — more than twice what Trump spent — to back Cruz in 2016 are not going away. Cruz recently set up two new nonprofit organizations to keep his key people employed, prematurely launching another run for president in 2020.
Cruz’s delays in endorsing Trump and his disloyal preparations to run for president in 2020 help only one person: Hillary Clinton. That’s what some Republican mega-donors actually prefer, because they are globalists who oppose Trump’s stances against immigration and free trade.
The globalists will never accept Trump or anyone else who puts Americans first, and they are using Cruz to undermine Trump’s campaign. Cruz’s mega-donors think they can buy their way to control of the Republican Party even if Trump wins the presidency this year, and they are already funding the takeover of several conservative organizations.
These globalist money-men are also hostile to our Constitution, which they want to rewrite in a new constitutional convention, also called “Convention of States.” Eric O’Keefe, who has close ties to the billionaire Koch brothers, backs the Never Trump movement and is a board member of the Convention of States project.
Justice Scalia in May 2015 called this attempt for a new constitutional convention a “horrible idea,” but several of its cheerleaders were able to get on the Republican platform committee. Cruz has praised the delusional proposal to add many amendments to the Constitution, and some of his donors are part of the same group that seeks to alter our Constitution.
Cruz earned support by many conservatives when he first came to D.C. four years ago. It is long overdue for Cruz to repudiate the support of these globalists who are working against Trump and against our national sovereignty.
“We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” Trump promised in his April 27 foreign policy speech in Washington. That sentiment is anathema to the globalists who provide much of the money for Republican candidates.
“I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down,” Trump continued. “Under my administration, we will never enter America into any agreement that reduces our ability to control our own affairs. Americans must know that we’re putting the American people first again.”
When Trump vows to “put Americans first” the globalists complain about “protectionism,” as if there’s something wrong with expecting our own government to protect American jobs and America’s economic interests.
“On trade, on immigration, on foreign policy, the jobs, incomes and security of the American worker will always be my first priority,” Trump said. “Both our friends and our enemies put their countries above ours, and we — while being fair to them — must start doing the same.”
In a June 22 speech in New York, Trump intensified his attack on the globalist money interests: “We’ll never be able to fix a rigged system by counting on the same people who have rigged it in the first place. The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money.”
“It’s not just the political system that’s rigged, it’s the whole economy,” Trump continued. “It’s rigged by big donors who want to keep wages down. It’s rigged by big businesses who want to leave our country, fire our workers, and sell their products back into the United States with absolutely no consequences for them.”
We’ve waited a long time for a Republican candidate to express these pro-American views, but Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential primaries proves they are what the voters want to hear.
Talk about going out with a bang. That wasn’t even her last tweet.
From Ann Coulter’s Schlafly obit:
For someone who spent so much time attacking liberal policies – and received so much abuse in return — Schlafly was remarkably free from ad hominem (or ad feminem) rhetoric. She was spat upon, burned in effigy and had a pie thrown in her face. Bomb threats were called in to her speeches. Feminist Betty Friedan once told her, “I’d like to burn you at the stake.” Feminist Midge Costanza said Schlafly and Anita Bryant would make “a fine set of bookends” for Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”
But Karen DeCrow, who debated Schlafly more than 50 times as president of the National Organization for Women from 1974-77, said she enjoyed those debates. “Phyllis is smart, so it was fun,” DeCrow said. “I never found Phyllis to be unpleasant, unfriendly or uncooperative.” Felsenthal reports that during an interview, feminists surrounded Schlafly, spat at her and shoved middle fingers in her face. She says Schlafly “didn’t pause, she didn’t even blink.”
Schlafly’s retorts were more subtle, once noting during a debate on the ERA before jeering Brown University coeds that “another sexist difference between men and women, is that women hiss.” But she never got personal or vicious — as they did with her. She was a true lady.
Though conservative women in later generations are often compared to Schlafly, all of us combined could never match the titanic accomplishments of this remarkable woman. Schlafly is unquestionably one of the most important people of in the twentieth century – and a good part of the twenty-first. Among her sex, she is rivaled only by Margaret Thatcher.
There was, in the reaction to Schlafly’s death, much mention of the irony of such a strong women emerging as the ultimate anti-feminist.
Tim Marchman’s lede at Deadspin.
Phyllis Schlafly, who spent her adult life encouraging the American courts, legislature, and public to oppress women, among others, died tonight, not a moment too soon. She was 92.
I can’t help but think that Phyllis Schlafly would be as delighted – even more delighted – by the angry and even hateful reactions to her death – at 92 – as by the encomiums, especially from the likes of Ted Cruz, who she left this Earth thinking of as a turncoat and a bum.
And if she ascended to heaven, we also now know thanks to Trump counsel, Michael “Sez Who” Cohen, which cloud she is perched on.