ERA

Journalists (and clergy) fail to note that Schlafly won a political battle, but lost larger war

Journalists (and clergy) fail to note that Schlafly won a political battle, but lost larger war

You know that feeling you get when you are trying to think of a name -- a person or an institution, perhaps -- but you just can't get it to pop into focus? The hard drive in your mind spins and spins and you can see hints at the data you're seeking, but not the real thing.

Trust me, this happens more when you pass 60 years of age.

It's even more disconcerting when this happens while you are on the air doing radio or a podcast, as I was again earlier this week chatting with "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken. (Click here to tune that in.) We were talking about the late Phyllis Schlafly and the fact that she was the rare moral and cultural conservative who won a major political -- repeat "political" -- battle in the public square. However, she lost her larger war with the most powerful principalities and powers in our land. As I wrote in my earlier post:

... She won her battle against the ERA, but lost the much larger war with Hollywood, trends in public education and the all-powerful worldview of shopping malls from coast to coast.
Of course, Schlafly's other major accomplishment in life was helping create a large space for religious and cultural conservatives inside the big tent of the modern Republican Party. In many ways, she was -- as a wealthy Catholic woman who was Phi Beta Kappa in college and later earned a law degree -- a unique rebel against the GOP Country Club establishment that found many of her causes embarrassing (and still does).
This is one place where I thought the mainstream obits missed an opportunity to probe a bit deeper. No one is surprised that the left hated this woman.

Now, I was trying to think of a young, popular, post-feminist figure in American pop culture who stands for the whole concept that being "hot," "edgy" and even "nasty" is a sign of empowerment, if not enlightenment, for girls.

In other words, I was trying to think of Taylor Swift. Since I am old, what came out -- as you'll hear in the podcast -- was a reference to Madonna. Talk about embarrassing.

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Schlafly was hated by cultural left, which means her obits featured classic, 50-50 reporting

Schlafly was hated by cultural left, which means her obits featured classic, 50-50 reporting

If you want to learn how to write obituaries about controversial figures, all you need to do is pay close attention to articles written about leaders on the cultural and moral right. They are sure to include a 50-50 mix (or close to it) of warm quotes from the person's supporters and stinging attacks from critics.

This is not the approach that one sees when a controversial figure dies on the cultural left. If Gloria Steinem died today, one would see obituaries packed with tributes, stacked up against one or two (at most) quotes from her many critics. Most of all, the story would emphasize -- as it should -- her many victories in life, the times when she spoke out and was proven right.

We can leave all of that to another day, since, in this case, we are talking about the death of Phyllis Schlafly. That means we are looking at classic, 50-50 journalism about a figure who was truly and utterly loathed by the left and, thus, by most journalists and pundits. By the way, it's wise to avoid glancing at Twitter, where can find a wide and deep river of acidic speculations on the left about how Schlafly will fare in the afterlife.

But consider the top of The Washington Post obituary, which includes a highly ironic summary paragraph:

Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist, lawyer and author who is credited with almost single-handedly stopping the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and who helped move the Republican Party toward the right on family and religious issues, died Monday at her home in St. Louis. She was 92.
Her daughter, Anne Cori, said Mrs. Schlafly had been ill with cancer for some time.
A champion of traditional, stay-at-home roles for women, Mrs. Schlafly opposed the ERA because she believed it would open the door to same-sex marriage, abortion, the military draft for women, co-ed bathrooms and the end of labor laws that barred women from dangerous workplaces.

The Post team offered that list without comment. It would have been easy to find scholars and pundits willing to note that most of Schlafly's wild predictions don't sound quite as crazy these days.

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