Ever subtle, feminist groups last week launched the “Enraged and Engaged” campaign in anticipation of Senate hearings on Samuel Alito. The National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Feminist Majority pledged to mobilize their grassroots activists to warn the public and the vote-wielding senators about the danger Alito poses to America and American women in particular. The hyperbole is familiar to anyone who’s followed politics during the last decade: Feminist groups regularly proclaim that nominees, candidates or legislation spell doom for women.
Bush-administration appointees 0 from John Ashcroft and Tommy Thompson to appellate-court nominees Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owens, and Charles Pickering Sr., to name but a few- have all been targets. Consider that then NOW president Patricia Ireland declared the battle against Ashcroft’s nomination as a fight to stop “the savaging of everything we’ve worked for,” earnestly declaring that the fight was about “saving our rights and constitutional protections.” The Senate confirmed Ashcroft and Thompson despite the feminists’ dire warnings, and both men served four years. Yet most women would agree that, somehow, they emerged from that Dark Age with their rights intact.
The Chicken Littles of gender politics also have cast spurious aspersions against sensible legislation. In the days before President Clinton signed welfare reform, NOW members protested by fasting and picketing the White House in a “Hungry for Justice” campaign. Months earlier, Ireland hijacked Mother’s Day to argue that welfare reform would put women and children in peril: “Women are being handed an eviction notice with a painful message: If you are poor and on welfare, then you are not welcome in mainstream society.”
As welfare reform’s ten-year anniversary approaches, it’s clear that the legislation’s impact was the opposite of what NOW predicted. Instead of an eviction notice, woman received a ticket out of the humiliating cycle of government dependency. Millions have since regained self-respect through work and rejoined productive society. These women were not the helpless children described by feminists, but rather just needed a push toward self-sufficiency while receiving assistance. As a result of treating women like responsible adults, welfare caseloads, unemployment among single mothers and childhood poverty all have plummeted.
Feminists also demonized President Bush’s proposed tax cuts in 2001. NOW warned that tax-rate reductions would “hurt women’s physical and economic health as well as the safety of women and families.” Hindsight suggests that, again, such comments were off the mark. The Bush tax cuts have been critical in sustaining an economy rattled by terrorist attacks, hurricanes and corporate scandals and helped bring the steady economic growth and low unemployment America today enjoys.
Of course, feminists view George W. Bush himself as the biggest threat to women and so were at their hyperventilating best during the past two presidential elections. In 2004, current NOW president Kim Gandy warned that women’s very lives would be endangered by a Bush reelection: “We are in a state of emergency and NOW encourages everyone who cares about women’s rights, civil rights, and the constitution to help ensure that Bush does not have another four years to wreak havoc in the United States and around the globe.” This echoed earlier warnings from the 2000 campaign, when Ireland implored activists to “fight like women’s lives depended on it because they do.” In a Halloween event, she compared Bush to a vampire who “will suck our rights away.”
There are many on the far left who make the case that President Bush has lived up to this ghoulish characterization. Most mainstream women know that little has changed for them in the past five years, beyond seeing their pay rise through reduced taxes.
So here we go again, with Kim Gandy warning that a Justice Alito would be an unprecedented tragedy for women: “From sexual harassment on the job, to equal opportunities in education, to harassment in the schools, to violence against women, this is a justice who would shift the balance of the Court in the wrong direction.” American women have rationally responded with a collective yawn, weary of the increasingly shrill warnings of an anachronistic movement dedicated more to big government than women’s progress.
The “Enraged and Engaged” campaign will no doubt continue slurring Judge Alito as (the latest) Armageddon for women. Thankfully, most won’t buy it. As the mild-mannered and thoughtful judge has show this week, the feminist screeching is best tuned out.
Carrie Lukas, an NRO contributor, is the director of policy at the Independent Women’s Forum.