Phyllis Schlafly, RIP

I extend my sincere condolences for the death of Phyllis Schlafly to her family and followers.

Mrs. Schlafly could rise to greatness. Her book, A Choice Not An Echo, became a standard of the conservative movement. Her successful campaign against the poorly drafted “Equal Rights Amendment” was a classic instance of how a single individual can sweep back a seemingly-irresistible tide.

However, political judgment sometimes failed her, and her mistakes could severely damage the very causes she espoused. The most notable example, of course, was her opposition to an Article V convention for proposing amendments. In the 1980s, her opposition hamstrung, and possibly doomed, the effort to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. True, you can argue that her opposition was justifiable then because amendments conventions were widely mischaracterized. But Mrs. Schlafly continued it long after her factual and legal case had been discredited—also to the damage to the causes she espoused.

Mrs. Schlafly came to fame as an opponent of liberal-establishment Republicans. That’s how I came to admire her. But in the last two decades she sometimes endorsed them over respectable conservative opponents for reasons that were never clear. Moreover, those who disagreed with her—as I did on two occasions—found that her response could be nasty and very personal.

Those seeking positive and negative female role models would do well to look past the usual collection of politically-correct figures to that of Phyllis Schlafly. They would find a powerful role model of both kinds in this brave, complicated, and impactful woman.