My, my, this is all so flattering. Ronnie and Jimmy are wooing women with more ardor than Valentino. Why, it's enough to turn a girl's head.
There was Ronnie last week down on bended knee with a gleam in his eyee and a promise in his hand. If we would only say "yes" this November, he would give us our very own Supreme Court justice.
Then, Jimmy come a-wooing after years of taking us for granted. Land sake's, if he hadn't been paying enough attention to our little old Equal Rights Amendment he would fix all that. He'd get more people in his own inner circle to deal with it.
Ronnie was just so upset by those anti-Reagan feminist pickets in South Dakota that he got "a lump in my throat."
Jimmy was so upset that the women's rights voters underestimated his love that he had his own reconstructed Hamilton Jordan speak about how important we were.
Well, I am just tickled pink to be wanted. But forgive me, I beg you, if I don't swoon into the arms of these gentlemen callers.
I feel a little bit as if all the guys in town who once rejected us just discovered we'd inherited an oil well. After years of denying that there was a women's vote, they've discovered we hold a pivotal mother lode. And now we are showered with proposals. It's worth a touch of skepticism.
I mean, if Ronnie has been a passionate women's rights advocate all these years, as he told NOW this week, he gave new meaning to the expression "secret admirer." Reagan is against the Equal Rights Amendment, against abortion rights, against affirmative action and against uppity First Ladies.
The platform he's running on is a 19th century love story. Any woman who wants more than life as Adam's rib hs been written off. As for his promise to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court, I keep remembering that Phyllis Schlafly went to law school.
Nor is the women's issue vote firmly betrothed to Jimmy. According to a New York Times-CBS poll last month, 45 percent of the voters said that Carter would do more for women, while 20 percent said Reagan would.
That is faint praise. Jimmy's been great on rhetoric, good on appointments and decent on some legislation. But he's been weak on ERA results, and weaker on abortion rights. He's alternated between ignoring and manhandling the women's rights constituency.
The "other man" courting us, John Anderson, looks great on paper. He's the only candidate who's been forthrightly prochoice.
Anybody who looked that good on paper in 1972 or 1976 would have won our hearts. But after Jimmy's promise in 1976 (he was going to be the Lyndon Johnson of the women's civil rights movement), the sadder but wiser women aren't as excited when a politician "says" the right thing.
It isn't that women voters are playing hard to get. They are hard to get. The mainstream of the movement is not Carter or Reagan or Anderson but Fed Up.
The largest women's rights organization, NOW, endorsed no candidate for president this year. As Ellie Smeal, the president, said: "The women's vote is part of the great apathy of this year. It's the feeling that you are not being heard that creates the Fed-Up Voter. That's the feeling women have had. The change-oriented people are not willing to go out there and work for what they see as politics as usual. They are Fed Up with male decision-making."
Fed Up, however, isn't running this year, and the women's rights vote, like so many others, is a constituency of undecideds.
Reagan, as head of the Republican vendetta against programs for women, won't entice many with baubles of justices. The Fed-Up voter may decide for protest: voting for Nobody or Anderson. But for the moment it seems to be reluctantly coalescing into a Stop-Reagan vote for the Democratic platform, if not the Democratic candidate.
As Smeal, one of Carter's most severe critics, said, "I think we have to vote against Reagan, and right now the way to do it is with Carter." Not exactly a love match.
One thing that's happened this election is that the women's rights constituency has gotten harder on its own issues. It's nice to be needed. It's nice to be a hotly pursued voting bloc.
But next time, it would be swell, neat and awfully keen to be wanted by someone we want.