Phyllis Schlafly is dead at 92. The conservative activist had many lives in American politics. She got her start as a grassroots anti-communist organizer and rose to fame as a vocal opponent of feminism. She was a devout Roman Catholic and leader in the anti-abortion movement, and up to the last, her blessing was eagerly sought by conservatives. On Tuesday—the day after her death—her co-authored book, The Conservative Case for Trump, came out, which Trump happily promoted on Twitter.
As a tribute to the late, great Phyllis Schlafly, I hope everybody can go out and get her latest book, THE CONSERVATIVE CASE FOR TRUMP.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2016
Schlafly made a career out of proving that progressive consensus is a myth. She is perhaps most famous for leading the defeat of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s—“for really singlehandedly stopping what many people at the time felt was destiny,” said Melissa Deckman, a professor at Washington College. “She consistently defied expectations.” Her role in politics in 2016 is no different. Popular opinion has diverged from some of her views—especially LGBT issues—over time. But on other topics, she may well have predicted the groundswell for Trump back in 1964 when Goldwater was running for president. Phyllis Schlafly might be dead, but her America is alive and well, and Trump is proof that Schlafly’s political style and conservative values still resonate with a large portion of the American electorate.
This year, Trump has gotten credit—and derision—for how he’s acted on the campaign trail, supposedly contorting even the cynical game of politics by insulting other candidates, exaggerating and lying, and trying to discredit the media. But the Republican presidential nominee has nothing on Phyllis Schlafly. She was an extraordinary troll—not an insult, but a term for someone who is adept at provoking others to make a point. She could get thousands of women to swarm state capitols in a matter of days, bearing homemade jams and baked goods in protest of a constitutional amendment that would, they argued, threaten the homemaker’s way of life. She once angered Betty Friedan to the point that Friedan called her an “Aunt Tom” and said “I’d like to burn you at the stake.” Schlafly simply replied, “I’m glad you said that, because it just shows the intemperate nature of proponents of E.R.A.”