"Retro Report" Examines Phyllis Schlafly's Legacy
It's safe to say that Republican nominee Donald Trump has had a hard time reaching women on the campaign trail. Time and again he has made comments about women that have only isolated their vote, making it hard to connect with this demographic of voters. However, there's one woman who has definitely been on board with Trump's campaign: Though younger Trump supporters may not be as familiar with this conservative woman, The New York Times gave us a look into the life and legacy of Phyllis Schlafly's anti-feminist movement in their first Retro Report segment, which they released on Sunday, Sept. 11.
Schlafly passed away on Sept. 5, but left behind a legacy of conservatism that reshaped the Republican party in the wake of the Equal Rights Amendment. The Retro Report segment sheds light on Schlafly's role in the party's move further to the right. Eleanor Smeal, the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, shared in her account of Schlafly's legacy: "They repositioned the [Republican] party to be the party against abortion, and the party against gay rights, and the party against the Equal Rights Amendment." According to The New York Times, Schlafly shared back in May that her greatest triumph was stopping the Equal Rights Amendment from passing in the 1970s.
Have a look at the full segment.
The proposed amendment stated that individuals could not be subjected to discrimination based on their sex. But Schlafly framed it as anti-family, suggesting that certain jobs were only suited for a man and that women didn't or shouldn't have to leave the home. Author Rick Perlstein told Retro Report, "I think she's probably the best political organizer we've seen in American history," drawing on Schlafly connecting the E.R.A with a narrative of the end of the family as we know it. Schlafly suggested that the Equal Rights Amendment would force women to leave the home, would promote non-traditional ideas of the family, and would promote abortion.
So where does Schlafly's legacy leave us now, in the wake of a seemingly anti-woman Trump campaign that stands in opposition to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who hopes to become the first female president of the United States? Trump has in some ways attempted to reshape his campaign as "good for women," as he's struggled to reach female voters. In July, a Morning Consult poll showed that just 36 percent of female respondents would consider supporting Trump.
During the Republican National Convention in July, the nominee had a "Women Vote Trump" event that didn't attract too many women. Likewise, the businessman's daughter Ivanka spoke at the convention to highlight the ways that Trump would allegedly be a good choice for women, speaking about the women who worked for the Trump company "before it was common place." But the support he received from Schlafly, who fervently opposed the E.R.A, alongside the image of his daughter who has worked hard to paint an image of the Trump campaign as good for working women exists within this new far-right leaning Republican party that Schlafly helped to create. And the irony is not lost on me.
"I think American women are the most fortunate people on the face of the earth," Schlafly told Retro Report, adding, "We don't need any legislation to say any more than that."