If you know anyone looking for a perfect motto for the 1980 campaign, give her Alfred Kahn's phrase: "Anybody who isn't scizophorenic these days just isn't thinking clearly."
Kahn was talking abaout the economy, but his words would fit nicely on the bumper of a political wagon.
The women's movement activists in the Democratic Party are a perfect example of Kahn's rule. They are thinking clearly about their clout and their issues. So many are absolutely schizophrenic about their choice of candidates.
For the first time, a full 50 percent of the delegates at the Democratic National Convention are going to be female. They are likely to include women seasoned by experiences in two previous conventions, doused by reality and sprinkled by cynicism.
More to the point, they are vitally aware that this campaign is make-or-break time for a host of issues, including the ERA. Ten years of momentum in the women's movement may be riding on the campaign. So they are going into the primaries and the delegates selection process asking whether the candidate is "good on women's issues."
Exit clarity, enter schizophrenia. The two front-runners, Kennedy and Carter, are a classic study in what causes this disease.
When Carter was first a candidate, he said he wanted to be remembered as a president who brought full civil rights to women. That was impressive talk, but it hasn't quite worked out that way. Carter has lacked the spine of his commitment.
He has mishandled the women's movement leadership, misunderstood the bread-and-butter issues of women's everyday lives and misplaced the priority he promised to give the ERA. Right after the Florida caucus victory, women at a "Salute to the ERA" night at the White House grumbled that if he had fought for the ERA as mightily as for his reelection, we would need only two more states.
Carter has, however, done will on moving women into and up the government ladder. He has, in all probability, put more women in more important jobs and taken them more seriously (why does this still have to be said?) than any president before him.
Then you have Ted Kennedy. Kennedy has been very strong on the issues. He led the fight for the ERA extension and pushed for legislation on health, science and economic questions.
There is, moreover, a gut feeling that if Kennedy were president, he wouldn't let dozen state legislators stand between him and his promises. It should also be noted that he's had some first-hand experience at balancing heavy professional and family responsibilities.
On the other hand, the only women in the Kennedy inner circle are there by birthright. There is no Anne Wexler, or even any Sarah Weddington. Kennedy's press secretary said that the most powerful woman in the operation was Irene Emsellem, a well-respected counsel on the judiciary committee, but a woman who has been with the senator less than a year.
Emsellem's off-the-cuff response to being called most powerful was, "Me? I'm just amazed anyone recognized it." But she and other women in the office resent the general wisdom that Kennedy has "trouble dealing with women as people."
These comments persist. "He has the basic Boston Irish pol mentality toward women," says one former staffer. "He glazes whenever women talk about anything but their children," says a woman reporter. "It's not something he's personally comfortable with, Mr. Great Liberal," says a former Kennedy political worker.
To add to the Kennedy-Carter confusion still further, there is "the wife issue." If Rosalynn is out front lately, it isn't an accident or a power play on her part. It is a deliberate decision by the Carter people. She is a rather stark contrast with joan -- and a subtle, constant reminder of the differences in the psyches and life styles of the two candidates.
This is not just a difference between "lusting in your heart" and "womanizing," but between deep and personal attitudes. As one undecided woman said: "Carter, at least, begins by thinking of his wife as an equal."
The Schizophrenia, then, comes from having one candidate who is relatively better at dealing with women in government and personal life, and another who is relatively better and perhaps stronger on the issues.
With options like this, anyone could retire from the political business. But the campaign is young and the candidates are going to get some pretty sharp and constant reminders of the importance of the "woman vote" at the conventions.
In fact, if the women continue to think clearly, this is just maybe the year the candidates and not the electorate have to cure their schizophrenia.