Why Democrats Should Thank Phyllis Schlafly

Yesterday I thanked Bill O’Reilly for contributing to the chaotic mess that is now the Republican Party. Today I want to thank the venerable Phyllis Schlafly.

Schlafly, born right here in Missouri, will be 90 years old this year. She hit the national political radar way back in 1964, after writing a book supporting the candidacy of Barry Goldwater. Conservapedia—the right-wing version of Wikipedia—says that the book, A Choice, Not An Echo,

detailed how the liberal “Rockefeller Republican” wing of the Republican Party had manipulated the Republican Party’s choice of nominees in several elections to nominate people like Wendell Willkie and Dwight Eisenhower, and called on conservatives to rally against the liberal wing and offer a true conservative for the nomination.

Sound familiar? Yes. After 50 years these people are still fighting the Republican establishment. You gotta hand it to ’em, they never give up!

By the way, speaking of Conservapedia (which calls itself a “trustworthy encyclopedia”), it was founded by Schlafly’s son, Andrew. Reactionary politics runs in the family.

File:Phyllis Schlafly by Gage Skidmore.jpgThe fight over the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s made Schlafly famous. In 1972 she founded Eagle Forum, an anti-feminist, evangelical Christian, “pro-family” (!) lobbying group that does all it can to make the country safe for white people who vote Republican. A fact that leads me to why Democrats should thank her for her latest efforts.

Last year, after Republicans began talking—and so far it has all been talk—about being kinder to Latinos, Schlafly said on a conservative radio show that it was “a great myth” that Hispanics who come into the country would vote for Republicans. “There is not the slightest bit of evidence that they’re gonna vote Republican,” she said. Then she added:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them. I think when you have an establishment-run nomination system, they give us a series of losers, which they’ve given us with Dole and McCain and Romney, and they use people who don’t connect with the grass roots. So, I think the propagandists are leading us down the wrong path. There is not any evidence at all that these Hispanics coming in from Mexico will vote Republican.

Well, well, well. So much is revealed in that short comment.

First, how strange it is that a “pro-family” evangelical Christian, leading hordes of other like-minded followers of Jesus, doesn’t really give a damn about Hispanic families because some significant portion of them might want to vote for Democrats. Is that what Jesus would do? Or is that only what GOP Jesus would do?

Second, because lots of folks out there still don’t believe the Tea Party-controlled GOP is consciously fashioning itself as the last refuge of white folks worried about their cultural dominance, Schlafly does us all a favor by making it clear what, or whom, the Republican Party stands for: “white voters.” In August of last year she came out in favor of Republican-enacted voting restrictions in North Carolina, the logic of which Miranda Blue of Right Wing Watch explained:

The new law is not politically motivated and won’t keep Democrats from voting, Schlafly claims…before adding that the law’s main virtue is that it is politically motivated and will keep Democrats from voting.

And if Schlafly had stopped there, she would have done enough to deserve the thanks of liberals and Democrats around the country for shining a bright light on conservative motivations. But nope. She makes another contribution to understanding what makes right-wingers tick, especially as the debate heats up in the Republican Party over what should be done about our broken immigration system. Eagle Forum has published a new report:

eagle forum immigration report

It should come as no surprise that Eagle Forum’s report reached exactly the same conclusions about immigration that Phyllis Schlafly had already reached. And I suppose it should come as no surprise that the Tea Party right has embraced those conclusions. The first publication I saw feature the anti-immigration report was National Review, which posted an article by Schlafly highlighting Eagle Forum’s America-shattering finding:

There is nothing controversial about the report’s conclusion that both Hispanics and Asians, who account for about three-fourth of today’s immigrants, generally agree with the Democrats’ big-government agenda. It is for this reason that they vote two-to-one for Democrats.

And that is what is driving the right’s nuttiness on the immigration issue. She says,

While it seems that much of the Republican-party leadership has not actually looked at the policy preferences of immigrants, everyone else who has looked at the polls comes to the conclusion that significant majorities of immigrants and their children are big-government liberals.

Mind you, Schlafly is not just talking about undocumented folks here. She is talking about all immigrants, those who come here legally and those who don’t. And she is talking about Latinos and Asian-Americans. But wait. Don’t go and get the idea that she is just picking on pigmented people here. She wants you to know that ain’t so:

Immigration in general — not race — is the issue. The limited data for other immigrants — including Europeans and Muslims — indicate that they, too, generally hold views well to the left of the average American voter. In fact, as discussed in our new report, for reasons largely outside the control of conservatives, immigrants and their children gravitate to left-wing parties in almost all Western countries. The problem for conservatives is not race or ethnicity but immigration as such.

So, you see? Race isn’t the issue at all, despite what she said last year:

The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white votes…the white voters who didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them.

Schlafly really isn’t fooling anyone, except those already fooled. This is all about the browning of America, a phenomenon that is increasingly driving white conservatives crazy, and a phenomeon that can’t be stopped, although Schlafly is adamant there is a way to stop it:

Our new report makes clear that for conservatives, there is no issue more important than reducing the number of immigrants allowed into the country each year. If legal immigration is not reduced, it will be nearly impossible for conservatives to be successful on the issues we care about.

If the Republican party is to remain a party that is conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and any proposed increases in legal immigration. Further, we must work to significantly reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country from the current level of 1.1 million a year. There is nothing inevitable about immigration. The level and selection criteria can be changed by Congress.

Looking at the political motivation of the groups pushing higher immigration and amnesty, it’s obvious that the Democrats promote large-scale immigration because it produces more Democratic votes. If the Republican party is to remain conservative and nationally competitive, it must defeat amnesty and proposed increases in legal immigration.

That last line, which was (accidentally?) repeated in those concluding paragraphs, is a problem for the Republican Party. The truth is that if the GOP wants to remain “nationally competitive,” it has to abandon the kind of conservatism that people like Phyllis Schlafly are promoting. And the so-called establishment Republicans, who are only slightly less extreme at present, know that, which is what makes this intraparty fight so enjoyable to watch.

And that is why I am grateful that this nearly 90-year-old conservative activist from St. Louis is still around to do her part.

[photo: Gage Skidmore]


  1. I find it ironic that Schlafly and her cohorts in the party of big business should favor restricting even legal immigration when, clearly, a large labor supply of immigrants has been useful and even necessary to fill the nation’s labor pool at the bottom of the working pyramid. The irony would only deepen if the 90-year-old Ms. Schlafly should soon find herself in the tender care of Hispanic nurses aides.


    • Jim,

      I guess, as a former evangelical Christian, that what bothers me most about these older evangelicals is that they are so dismissive of the humanity of these immigrants, particularly the ones here without documentation. Perhaps the younger generation of conservative believers won’t be so harsh. At least we can hope.



      • King Beauregard

         /  February 6, 2014

        That’s not as idle a hope as you make it sound; the younger generation really, really has a problem with the hateful bitter nature of older religious folks. Kids these days all have gay friends or minority friends, and when their elders are telling them that their gay friends are going to hell or their minority friends are trying to take their jobs, well, can you guess which side the kids are going to take?

        I don’t know if you remember NC Amendment 1 the other year, the “screw LGBTs over extra hard for no good reason” amendment; some blogger (don’t ask me to find it again) noticed that his or her friends older than 40 were very typically pleased with the passage of NCA1, while the under-40 crowd were pretty uniformly angry about it. (At 47 I am proud to be an outlier.)


        • I do remember that redundant Amendment. And I do think that you are right about younger folks in general. Things are changing and changing fast. Heck, even 60% of Republicans favor a path to citizenship for undocumented folks. But I was specifically talking about younger evangelicals. I can’t find any recent polling data on how much less conservative they are, although I assume they are significantly less conservative than their parents and certainly less conservative than their grandparents.

          I think, though, that because a significant number of Hispanics are evangelicals, many of whom are filling up pews in American evangelical churches, that such interaction will have a positive effect at least on this issue.



          • King Beauregard

             /  February 6, 2014

            From what I’ve read it’s happening in the evangelical community too — a awful lot of young folks want to get away from gay-hating and get back to washing feet. The obsessions of older fundamentalists are driving the young away to a degree that is considered a full-blown crisis.

            It’s easy for a lot of lefties to condemn Christianity and religion altogether, but I am not one of those lefties; I’ve got my theological leanings and I also see a real-world good in a lot of religion. But I condemn the Religious Right because they are no different from the Pharisees of old, and if their theology is right, every last one of them will be burning in hell. (Fortunately, their theology is the faith of simpletons, and God is doubtless a classier act than they can begin to imagine.)


            • King B,

              As a former evangelical Christian, I have been a fierce critic of fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity, that’s for sure. But I don’t at all condemn Christianity in particular or religion in general, except to the extent that absolute certainty and dogmatism prevail (that goes for militant atheists, too; they can be just as obnoxious). I agree there is a lot of “real-world good” in some forms of religious belief and expression. In the old days on this blog we used to talk about how to weigh the obvious good of religious belief versus the obvious bad involved. That isn’t easy to do. I’ve often thought about writing on this subject, but the problem is that so much of the available data, whether it be from history or from current events or from one’s own life experiences, are not easy to analyze. Some of the same people who do good also contribute to the bad; see, for instance, The Catholic Church.

              I agree that the Religious Right may be in for some surprises, should their doctrine of hell prove correct. But one of the biggest problems here in this world, which may have repercussions in the next (if there is a next), for the Religious Right is that it has almost exclusively come to be identified with the Republican Party. I’m guessing that God, if he has any interest in preserving the integrity of what all Christians call the Good News, isn’t too happy about the politicization of his message by people who seem to have so much hate and vitriol in their hearts, at least as they express it against Democrats.



              • King Beauregard

                 /  February 7, 2014

                A lot of vitriol against women who get married out of wedlock too, and have little bastard children. Jesus just might take personal offense at that, being a bastard himself. An almighty bastard I grant you, but a bastard all the same.

                (“But he’s not technically a bastard since his father was …” Yeah, like Republicans would ever believe it if it happened today.)


          • King Beauregard

             /  February 7, 2014

            This will please you:


            By the way, because I am a party pooper, I have a different take on why Amendment 1 won. It’s easy to blame it on conservative jackasses, but I place at least equal blame on THE TWO OUT OF THREE “PROGRESSIVES” WHO COULDN’T BE TROUBLED TO VOTE. Overall voter turnout was 33%, if memory serves, with the greatest proportional turnout coming from conservatives. North Carolina is a state that’s very “purple”, there’s no shortage of “Progressives” in urban areas, and Romney won by only 2% there, so it’s not like “Progressives” are in short supply. I ran some numbers at the time, and according to my ciphering “Progressives” could have even defeated Amendment 1 if they’d managed a 75% turnout. Now 75% is a bit much to hope for, I am just realistic enough to realize that “Progressives” would not have actually won the day. What bothers me is that THEY DIDN’T EVEN PUT UP A FIGHT. This was an absolutely perfect issue for “Progressives”: one side was very clearly in the right and the other was very clearly in the wrong. There was no way to blame this on Obama or the lack of a public option. This was plainly a matter of “Progressives” going to a tiny bit of trouble for a cause they allegedly believe in … and two out of three of them couldn’t even roll out of bed.

            So, to hell with them, almost literally. (Yes I think they deserve to suffer, but not for all eternity.) To hell with every one of them who comes up with facile excuses for not voting. To hell with every one of them who votes for Jill Stein or Pinkie Pie or whatever other fictional character they favor. To hell with every one of them who thinks that America owes them a general election candidate that meets their little purity tests. To hell with every one of them who refuses to shoulder the one responsibility imposed by democracy, taking the vote seriously.

            I’m not sure whether I have made this clear enough to express where I stand, but to hell with “Progressives”. Some of us actually want change badly enough to work at it — or failing that, we at least bother to vote.


            • I agree, King B, and the Rachel Evans link is very interesting. The gay/anti-gay generation divide appears to be a cathartic social reaction to what should be an obvious inconsistency between the bedrock message of the NT, i.e., the Golden Rule, and the OT (notably Leviticus). Social cognitive dissonance is what it is. This schism would appear to be cultural change that is permanent rather than just a difference between young and old.

              I also agree about the lack of voting passion among the 47%. There are a lot of slugs among them and that often makes it hard to defend progressive politics. However, one could say that the changing attitudes on gay rights is a sign that the cause is not hopeless and that the slothful might be deserving only of purgatory and not hell. 🙂


              • King Beauregard

                 /  February 8, 2014

                I can’t even blame Leviticus for anti-gay beliefs. There are 613 Mosaic Laws, and only one of them addresses homosexuality. It’s very very convenient that right-wingers have embraced that one rule, while ignoring the great bulk of the rest of them, for example the one about garments made of two fabrics. And picking up sticks on the Sabbath (which btw is Saturday) … ? That earns you a stoning, the kind you don’t get better from, yet you don’t see right-wingers showing a lick of honor to the Sabbath.

                On the other hand, taking care of the poor, the widow, and the foreigner (i.e. IMMIGRANT) is a major theme in the Old Testament. That whole Jubilee section is dedicated to the proposition that you cancel all debts every seven years, so that people aren’t stuck with more debt than they can handle; let’s see the Religious Right back that sort of thing.


                • Ah, you bring up the jubilee! I was taught quite a bit about the jubilee and have often thought about writing about it here. Even when I was a conservative I wondered how the economics of the jubilee comported with the laissez-faire economics I championed at the time. How remarkable was not only the mandatory forgiveness of debts, the emancipation of slaves and prisoners, and the return of the land, but the fact that folks could take a whole year off work! Try selling that to Paul Ryan and the teapartiers!


            • I couldn’t agree more about voter apathy on our side. I have written about it, especially after that damned 2010 nightmare. There is simply no excuse for it, especially when so many on our side have so much to lose—again, I point you to 2010.

              But I will say that the people who are generally apathetic aren’t really “progressives.” Oh, sure, they tend to support progressive causes, but they aren’t really committed to the various tenets of progressivism. That’s not to say that there isn’t a whole lot of truth in what you said about real progressives:

              To hell with every one of them who thinks that America owes them a general election candidate that meets their little purity tests. To hell with every one of them who refuses to shoulder the one responsibility imposed by democracy, taking the vote seriously.

              I admit there are too many of those kind of misguided and (to be honest) arrogant progressives out there (I have from time to time severely criticized them myself), but not enough to turn the election in the case you reference. Mostly it is just people who, for one reason or another, don’t bother with elections (if they bother at all) until it is time to elect the president. They are simply ignorant about the way our system of government works and don’t understand that mid-term elections are crucial these days for getting anything meaningful done, or to keep something that has been done from disintegrating (see: ObamaCare).

              As for that excellent blog post you linked to, I must say that more people like her need to speak up and speak up not just on blogs but, more important, in church on Sundays and when they are with their friends and relatives at church-related and family events. Perhaps that would make some difference, although I suspect that time and mortality will take care of the biggest part of the problem.

              I don’t think I have ever mentioned this before, but as I was drifting slowly away from my evangelical faith, the issue of homosexuality had a lot to do with the final steps. I was very influenced by a man (and minister) named Mel White, who was a ghost writer for Pat Robertson (to whom I used to donate money in the early 1980s), Jerry Falwell, and Billy Graham (to whom my mom gave money). I read a book White wrote in the 1990s called, “Stranger at the Gate: To be Gay and Christian in America,” in which he revealed that he was gay and that he had tried all kinds of horrible things, as a Christian who believed the message about homosexuality, to get rid of his attraction to men. Needless to say it didn’t work.

              What struck me about that book, and what significantly helped me to see how wrong it was for me and others to be so judgmental in our “faith,” was the fact that this man was actually there on the inside of the Religious Right. He tried his best to be someone he was not born to be. And he did it because he had a genuine faith in the things he was taught about the Bible, about God, and about himself. At the time I was finally coming to terms with the fact that the things I had been taught, the things I had once fervently believed, were not true and that I would eventually have to abandon them. So I guess I can say that the culture wars had something to do with my retreat from Bible-inspired bigotry.



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