"To raise political money through direct mail, you need a 'devil'" That's the analysis of successful direct mailer Roger Craver, who has identified a few devils and lot more contributors for groups such as Common Cause and the American Civil Liberties Union. Interior Secretary James Watt is as credible a "devil" to most environmentalists as Sen. Edward Kennedy would be to the pen-pals of conservative Sen. Jesse Helms. The more visible and recognizable the villain, the better the chances of getting a check back.
One Craver client, the National Organization for Women--with slim prospects for success, a fast-approaching deadline, and only Phyllis Schlafly as an identifiable devil--has been raising funds at a record clip since it began last December to concentrate almost exclusively on the uphill fight for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment before the June 30 expiration date.
All of which raises a couple of questions about what went wrong in the ERA ratification fight and what lies ahead politically for the movement. The political corollary to the devil theory of fund raising holds that in order to enlist political support for an issue or a cause, it is required that there be victims and villains, both of whom are identifiable. During the civil rights struggle, the Birmingham police commissioner, Eugene (Bull) Connor used his attack dogs and fire hoses to make himself a believable villain and civil rights nearly everybody's cause. Throughout, the ERA movement has lacked an identifiable villain, a Bull Connor.
In search of that galvanizing object, a minority of feminists foolishly sought to cast Man as the villain. Forgetting that politics is a matter of addition rather than subtraction, those people also ignored a couple of realities: 20 percent of the contributors to the ERA fund are men, and, more importantly, so are more than 90 percent of legislators. If the ERA advocates were short on villains, they also suffered from a lack of widely perceived victimizing. Women in general seemed to be making progress. There were women astronauts and governors. The problem, was that there were no attack dogs or fire hoses in contemporary offices or factories. The evening news never filmed the subtle discrimination against women.
The ERA opposition, both shrewd and formidable, deserves some credit. Given the opening by the anti- male rhetoric of the proponents, the ERA foes effectively raised doubts about the femininity of the feminists. And the debate over legalized abortion became merged with that over ERA, undoubtedly to the detriment of ratification chances.
One committed feminist and accomplished politican is the gifted Liz Carpenter. No one has fought harder or more effectively for ERA ratification than that able Texan. She remains confident that regardless of the outcome on June 30, women are here to stay in leadership roles in politics. They have learned too much about raising issues, money and hell ever to go back.