It is, perhaps, easier for conservative activists to become discouraged than for their liberal counterparts. Conservatism, as in its name, aims to conserve. Now, we all recognize that things inevitably change; history is dynamic, not static. Obviously, conservatism aims to preserve not the status quo, but rather, at least in its American form, aims to preserve the classical tenets of what used to be known as American patriotism. The concepts of individual liberty and freedom from government interference, rugged individualism and proud self-sufficiency, pride in American exceptionalism, and moral confidence (as opposed to moral relativism) are all values that today are no longer self-evident.
Yet, it is important for us not to forget that we have indeed won important victories. Some, such as the Hobby Lobby decision preserving religious liberty, or the Heller decision preserving the Second Amendment for citizens, were won at close quarters within the narrow confines of nine Supreme Court Justice offices. Others, such as the nineties welfare reform legislation or the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, were won in Congress on Capitol Hill. And, just as in real wars, the political battles had their generals, their officers, and their foot-soldiers. One of those officers, or perhaps, more precisely, generals, was the late Phyllis Schlafly.
On the face of it, the Equal Rights Amendment was an innocuous one, merely enshrining in the Constitution that “quality of rights under the law shall not be abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Who could be against that? Yet, Phyllis recognized that given the reality of intellectually dishonest judicial and executive interpretation of law, liberals would redefine the law to advance their own political aims (as, indeed, they have done on countless occasions.) Before Mrs. Schlafly came on the scene, passage of the ERA was practically a given. It had been approved by Congress, and, out of the requisite thirty-eight states necessary, twenty-eight had already ratified it. Yet, Mrs. Schlafly and her grass-roots organization, STOP ERA, reversed the trend and stopped the ERA in its tracks.
But in addition to merely stopping a specific piece of legislation, Mrs. Schlafly also performed a service to America by demonstrating that the liberal hubris was just that, hubris, and that the liberal emperor had no clothes. Richard Nixon had already referred to the Silent Majority, the quiet, unseen, and mostly ignored common Americans who did not, and do not, belong to the counterculture and who do not adhere to the moral relativism and radical liberal ethos of the Left. Following the greatest of traditions (see Proverbs 31:8), Mrs. Schlafly gave the Silent Majority a voice.
Rest in peace, Mrs. Schlafly.