Alan Cranston, John Glenn, Gary Hart, Ernest Hollings and Walter Mondale--were in San Antonio last weekend to present personally their feminist credentials to the convention of the National Womens' Political Caucus. There was much wooing by the candidates of the voters in attendance. On the question of support for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, the Democrats' positions proceeded from all-out endorsement to slavish groveling. The winner of the very dubious designation as the convention's giant panderer was California's Alan Cranston.
All five publicly pledged to use their political skill and muscle, as president, to persuade resisting state legislatures to ratify ERA. Hollings and Mondale talked of political trading and, presumably, nonviolent arm-twisting to win state passage of the amendment. Hart raised the ante to include bargaining with "specific federal projects . . . to bring around people who are on the fence." But Cranston went beyond the established limits. So profound is the man's commitment to the ratification of ERA that a President Cranston would "consider withholding federal funds for bridge repairs" from states that fail to ratify ERA.
That's right, "withholding federal funds for bridge repairs." Please ignore the Federal Highway Administration's report that close to half of the nation's 564,499 bridges are either functionally "obsolete" or "structurally deficient." Also, forget, if you will, a truckdriver named Harold Bracy who died two weeks ago when a 100-foot section of a bridge collapsed into the Mianus River in Connecticut.
Just imagine, for a moment, that the featured principals were not Alan Cranston and ERA but President Reagan and the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize school prayer. Reagan stands squarely with the 75 percent of grown-up Americans who support that amendment. What would be the reaction to the president's announcement that, because he felt so strongly the need for prayer in the schools, his administration was actively considering the withholding of federal funds for school lunches and milk from children in those states which fail to ratify the school prayer amendment? "Bigoted tyrant," "bullying blackmailer" and "un-American dictator" would be among the nicer things such a president would be called.
Maybe an imaginative panderer would not be limited to threats about bridge work. Perhaps we can expect future candidate vows to deny to unratified states --in the event of enemy invasion--any protection by the U.S. Marines. Or how about cutting food stamps to states with right-to-work laws? We have a lot to look forward to in the campaign of 1984.