My feelings are hurt. Phyllis didn't invite me to the party.
I wouldn't have even known about it if Mary Lou Munts hadn't told me. Mary Lou Munts is a state rep from Wisconsin. She was invited, and she probably hasn't even met Phyllis.
Anyway, Mary Lou sent me the invitation for June 30: "Phyllis Schlafly and the members of Eagle Forum cordially invite you to participate in an Over the Rainbow Celebration." They're planning to fete "the expiration of the Equal Rights Amendment and the commencement of a new era of harmony between women and men."
Now I just don't think it's fair. After all, I'm the person who always said that Phyllis was somewhat over the rainbow. I am the one who said that her vision of America "sure doesn't look like Kansas." Besides, I am dying to meet all the Munchkins from the Eagle Forum. I would love to know which among the people on her list to be specially honored is the Real Strawman--Jeremiah Denton? Jerry Falwell? George Gilder? Paul Weyrich?
And I didn't even make the cut. Well, I guess I didn't want to go anyway. While I don't count myself among the cockeyed optimists about passage of the ERA, this invitation to the Wake of Oz is Tacky, Phyll, Tacky.
At this point there are only two weeks to go, and a dozen or so state legislators still to be converted. But the ERA workers are behaving less like mourners than like students cramming for finals. They still just aren't acting like losers. Last month the National Organization for Women signed up 16,000 new members. By June 30, the ERA will have raised and spent between $6 million and $8 million. They have also mobilized 300 paid staffers and roughly 6,700 regular volunteers and thousands more for one-shot events like the Sunday marches. Even broadcaster Paul Harvey has joined the pro-ERA bandwagon. If this is depression, I want to know what they're taking.
The obstacles to victory have been formidable and familiar: Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma and time. The ERA, already ratified in 35 states, needs just three more. But it's needed three more for years.
In Springfield, Ill., the ERA has had more reruns than Judy Garland. A majority of state legislators has long favored the ERA, but under a special rule, they need three-fifths of both houses to pass the amendment.
Gov. Jim Thompson, who says he is in favor of passage, has yet to throw his full support behind changing the rule back to a simple majority. Thompson is getting clobbered by women in the polls for this reluctance--there's a 23-point gender gap favoring his opponent. But he just can't get it together, Toto.
In North Carolina, Gov. Jim Hunt has been fully behind the ERA, as have the people. North Carolinians favor the amendment by 2 to 1 in the latest polls. But the senate recently tabled the amendment to death by a measly four votes.
In Florida a special session is to vote on the ERA. Once again it's expected to pass the House but it is still short of votes in the Senate.
Meanwhile out west, the governor of Oklahoma will call a special session of the legislature to consider the ERA only if it's passed in two other states.
What we have, then, is a rather small chorus of men standing between the women of this country and equality. One might even refer to them as mental Munchkins.
Still, at the risk of sounding a bit more like Pollyanna than Dorothy, the ERA supporters aren't behaving like losers because they are in a win-win situation. If the amendment should even pass in this photo finish, women will have a place in the Constitution. We will have won the baseline of equality, protection against being forced out, forced back. We'll be back to build lives on that turf.
But even if it fails, the amendment and the activism behind it aren't going to disappear in a puff of smoke. The ERA has organized and fueled the most lively political constituency in the country. It's hard to find a single quitter in that crowd. These women have learned how the system works and how it doesn't work. In politics the slogan is: don't get mad, get even. In ERA politics they know how to do both.
So if you get an invitation in the next few weeks to celebrate the defeat of equality, pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain.