After a 70-year journey, Phyllis Schlafly came up just short of seeing a major life goal fulfilled. The longtime conservative activist died at age 92 Monday after spending seven decades fighting to wrest control of the Republican Party from the establishment, or “kingmakers,” as she called them.
Her fellow conservative activist Richard Viguerie, a pioneer of direct mail fundraising, noted the sad irony of Schlafly dying just two months before the 2016 election.
“Somewhat like Moses, although she had seen the Republican Party adopt in her words ‘the most conservative platform ever’ and she was unapologetic in her belief that Trump would finally realize her vision and break the kingmakers, Phyllis would not live to see the campaign she inspired win,” Viguerie wrote on his website ConservativeHQ.com Tuesday.
Schlafly cemented her place as a national icon with her 1964 book “A Choice Not an Echo,” which called for a populist conservative uprising against the GOP “kingmakers.” She wrote the book to support the presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater in his primary battle against the more liberal Republican Nelson Rockefeller.
“In ‘A Choice Not An Echo’ Phyllis Schlafly was perhaps the first person to set forth the argument that the first and greatest impediment to governing America according to conservative principles is not the Democrats and the left, it is the corrupt and feckless Republican establishment,” Viguerie wrote.
“The premise of the book was that the ‘kingmakers’ using every trick of politics ‘dictated the choice of the Republican presidential nominee just as completely as the Paris dressmakers control the length of women’s skirts.'”
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Viguerie, author of “Takeover: The 100-Year War for the Soul of the GOP and How Conservatives Can Finally Win It,” affectionately refers to Schlafly as conservative No. 001 because she had been active at the national level of the conservative movement longer than any other living conservative. Viguerie himself is 003, having been active in the movement for more than 50 years.
The man Viguerie calls 002 is Lee Edwards, now the distinguished fellow in conservative thought at the Heritage Foundation’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics. In a commentary for The Daily Signal Tuesday, Edwards explained the massive impact Schlafly’s “A Choice Not an Echo” had on not just the conservative movement, but the entire country.
“In the late spring of , Barry Goldwater was on his way to winning the Republican nomination for president, but had yet to win a major primary,” Edwards wrote. “That made the California primary pitting the conservative Goldwater and the liberal Nelson Rockefeller of New York all the more important. Even Goldwater had suggested privately that if he did not win California he might withdraw from the race.”
Early polls in California favored Rockefeller, but according to Edwards, Goldwater narrowed the gap with the help of an army of volunteers armed with copies of “A Choice Not an Echo.” The volunteers distributed more than 50,000 copies of Schlafly’s book in key precincts all over the state. Post-election surveys revealed Goldwater had narrowly edged Rockefeller in many of those precincts, allowing him to win the state.
“What difference did ‘A Choice Not an Echo’ make?” Edwards asked. “If Goldwater had not won the California primary, he might not have won the Republican presidential nomination. If Goldwater had not been the 1964 nominee, Ronald Reagan would not have been given the opportunity to make his historic TV address ‘A Time for Choosing.’ If Reagan had not delivered that talk, he would not have been asked to run for governor of California. If he had not been governor of California, there would have been no President Reagan, no Reagan Revolution and no end to the Cold War without a shot being fired.”
Not only did Schlafly give birth to the Reagan Revolution, but she touched individual lives as well. One such life was that of Gina Loudon, the host of “America Trends” on the YTA cable network and a political, social and psychological commentator who has appeared on numerous TV and radio networks.
Loudon told WND Schlafly was her mentor right from the moment she left college. Later, when her husband, John Loudon, was elected a state representative in Missouri, Schlafly wanted to make sure the couple truly understood conservatism.
“Without her, we never would have understood the complexities of why we believe what we believe from such a young age, and how to fight for it,” Loudon said.
“I recall how we had only to say her name and the doors flew open for us,” Loudon said. “She had total access, not based on big donations, but based upon her activism and that of her organization. That is how I learned what an impact an activist could have on our legislative process.”
Loudon said Schlafly was often in the Missouri Capitol, where her husband worked as a senator. The conservative icon knew John Loudon would vote the right way on every issue, so she didn’t need to visit his office for business purposes. However, she always stopped by when Gina had a new baby.
“Babies transformed this ‘all business’ woman into a doting, sparkling, gaga and gooing baby lover!” Loudon enthused. “I always loved watching her transform, and it told me something about her heart.”
Morgan Brittany, a longtime actress and Loudon’s coauthor of “What Women Really Want,” did not know Schlafly as well as did Loudon, but she admired the woman nonetheless.
“I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Phyllis Schlafly a few years ago while attending CPAC,” Brittany told WND. “Upon meeting her, I was struck by her amazing presence. She was the epitome of class, elegance and brilliance: qualities that are vanishing in today’s world. She was kind enough to discuss some of the events going on in the world with me and I savored every second. She was so honest and passionate in her beliefs and you could feel the love that she had for this country and the people in it.
“If there was one thing I took away from my meeting with Mrs. Schlafly, it was the honesty, strength and integrity that she exuded. She never wavered, she never faltered, she never hesitated to stand up for what she believed to be right and true. There was never any doubt; you could see it in her eyes and hear it in her heart.”
Viguerie, for his part, called Schlafly the conservative movement’s “most principled and effective leader” and “a true Renaissance Woman.” He noted 001’s drive to dethrone the kingmakers was the reason she became the first major movement conservative figure to endorse Donald Trump for president.
“Schlafly was unapologetic for the choice of Trump over other candidates with stronger conservative, especially cultural conservative, bona fides,” Viguerie wrote.
“[She said] ‘Trump is the only hope to defeat the kingmakers… Because everybody else will fall in line. The kingmakers have so much money behind them.'”
Indeed, Trump’s burgeoning candidacy seemed to excite Schlafly during her final year. Last December she told WND Trump is the “last hope” for America. In March she said Trump has the “energy to punch the kingmakers in the nose.”
If Trump follows through on his promises, he would be the very type of anti-establishment conservative president Schlafly has longed for her entire life. That is why, even at the age of 92, she wrote “The Conservative Case for Trump,” which was released the day after she passed away.
And yet, as Viguerie pointed out, Schlafly met the same fate as Moses. After leading conservatives to the brink of the promised land of a Trump presidency, she died before she could enter the Promised Land herself (or before she could find out if the Promised Land will come to fruition).
Just like the book of Deuteronomy says “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses,” Viguerie said no conservative leader like Schlafly will arise again.
“We will not see her like again in our lifetimes,” he wrote. “Phyllis, you will always be No. 1 with us, may God receive you kindly and may he continue to watch over the America you loved so deeply.”
Loudon also sang Schlafly’s praises.
“She was a role model, an icon, and a bona fide American hero,” she said. “Patriots who want to honor her should read her books, especially ‘A Choice Not an Echo.’ They should fight to protect the Republican Party platform as she did, especially the ‘life’ plank. And finally, they should work to elect Donald Trump for president. I can’t speak for her, but knowing my former mentor and friend as well as I did, I am pretty sure that would honor her well.”