Today is the 92nd birthday of Phyllis Schlafly, the godmother of the right-wing movement in America. Schlafly broke onto the national scene with “A Choice Not an Echo,” her 1964 book making the case for Barry Goldwater, and she solidified her leadership with her successful campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment. Decades later, she helped rally right-wing opposition to President Obama, hosting a “How To Take Back America” conference during his first year in office. She’s still hard at work, leading Eagle Forum and publishing her Phyllis Schlafly Report newsletter, whose June issue argued for putting Trump’s wall—“and yes, Mexico will pay”—in this year’s Republican platform. Mission accomplished.
It hasn’t been the happiest year for Schlafly, who has been embroiled in a power struggle with a group of Eagle Forum board members, including her own daughter. She also lost a trademark lawsuit against her nephew, who makes Schlafly beer.
On the other hand, Schlafly was an early and ardent backer of Donald Trump, standing up for him in the primaries against many of her Religious Right allies and Eagle Forum colleagues. At this year’s Republican National Convention, Schlafly hosted a “Life of the Party” event celebrating that the GOP has been officially anti-abortion since 1976; she told attendees that she endorsed Trump after he pledged loyalty to a pro-life platform. Party attendees were given copies of the most recent of her more than two dozen books, “How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life.” It’s a short paperback that feels as if it was thrown together after having Schlafly tell war stories about her GOP platform battles over the years.
Schlafly spends most of the book recounting stories of pro-life activists’ efforts to strengthen and protect anti-abortion language at every Republican convention since 1976. It includes the successful resistance led by Schlafly, Ralph Reed, Bay Buchanan and Gary Bauer to Bob Dole’s efforts to soften the anti-abortion language in 1996. (I was in San Diego with a People For the American Way team covering that convention; Reed was gleeful about demonstrating his power to humiliate Dole, which may well have contributed to his November defeat.)
After the quick march through convention history, Schlafly moves into a denunciation of “judicial supremacy,” calling on Republicans to repudiate the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. She also calls for nullification of 2015’s marriage equality ruling:
When supremacist judges presume to rewrite portions of our law, most especially if it is a law that we have had for millennia such as our law defining marriage, it’s time for the American people to speak up and say “No” just as Abe Lincoln did when supremacist judges ruled that blacks could be considered another man’s “property.” … All Americans must use every tool in the political process to reject judicial supremacy and return to government by “we the people.”
The book includes a short afterword by Kristan Hawkins, presidents of Students for Life, who calls Schlafly “a great American hero” and celebrates that, thanks to Schlafly and “her army,” there is today “no national Republican candidate who dares be anything other than pro-life!” The final 70 pages of the book, more than half its total length, is devoted to an appendix of anti-abortion and anti-marriage-equality references in Republican platforms and resolutions and excerpts from the 2012 platform.
Earlier this year, Schlafly urged Republican senators to hold firm in refusing to consider a Supreme Court nominee “until we have a Republican who will appoint somebody of the nature of Scalia,” telling her interviewer that the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency made her “scared to death.” Republican senators have done as she asked, and Schlafly got her wish in Cleveland with a solidly right-wing platform and the nomination of Donald Trump. But given what current polls suggest that November will bring, she may want to do her celebrating now.