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Phyllis Schlafly praises Trump as the change GOP needs

Longtime Republican stalwart Phyllis Schlafly said Donald Trump is "a choice not an echo," which references her long-ago support of Barry Goldwater.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly was on the convention floor Tuesday night and was pleased as punch, when Donald Trump — whom she endorsed months ago — officially became the Republican presidential nominee.

“He’s a take-charge person and he’s going to attack the establishment,” said Schlafly, who’s attending her 12th straight GOP convention. “And the establishment, as I’ve pointed out, has given us a whole series of losers.”

At 91, Schlafly says she knows what she’s talking about. She’s challenged the political establishment — in both parties — for decades. Although she emphasizes she’s a devout Republican, she believes that many of her party’s national leaders are off base when it comes to their fears that Trump could be headed toward defeat.

Schlafly lives in Ladue and is one of Missouri’s convention delegates. She takes pride that she was arguably the only prominent state Republican to endorse Trump early on. She contends that Trump’s nomination is a victory for rank-and-file Republicans who are tired of seeing their party nominating the wrong candidates for the White House.

Trump, said Schlafly, is willing to take on the topics that others have sought to avoid. “He has been hitting what I think is the major issue today, which is immigration. And nobody else was willing to touch that.”

Schlafly blames immigration for Europe’s recent series of terrorist attacks, saying too many European countries have “let these Muslims overrun their country.” “All you have to do is look at Europe and what it’s done to Europe,” Schlafly continued. “We don’t want that to happen here.”

She contends that Trump is the only presidential candidate gutsy enough to prevent more Muslims from entering the United States. “We’re the ‘land of the free and home of the brave,’” Schlafly said. “We don’t need to adopt Muslim policies.”

Committed to party platform

Also Tuesday, Schlafly hosted an event in Cleveland that she’s held every convention for decades, and that promotes the national Republican Party’s opposition to abortion.

She’s also out with a new book, entitled “How the Republican Party Became Pro-Life,” that zeroes in on the shift that took place in the 1980 convention, putting anti-abortion language into the party platform.

When Richard Nixon was president, the GOP supported abortion rights, Schlafly said, noting that he was in office when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Roe v Wade opinion in 1973 that legalized the procedure.

Schlafly first gained public attention in the early 1970s when she founded Eagle Forum and began the high-profile fight against the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

She’s protective of the Republican Party’s platform that once opposed the ERA and now lays out the party’s opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and its support for gun rights and a strong national defense.

Schlafly would like to see even stronger platform language in favor of “military superiority.”

“I’m not satisfied with mushy language about a strong national defense,” she said. “We have military superiority and then our friends will rely on us, and enemies will be afraid of us.”

She often has been on the platform committee, but was not for this convention. Even so, Schlafly said Trump’s support for the platform was a key factor in her move to his camp.

She said she decided to endorse him after a private meeting in March, while Trump was in St. Louis for a rally just days before the state’s primary.

“That’s when I asked him to promise to support the platform. And he did,’’ Schlafly said.

Lawsuit over Eagle Forum leadership

Some allies tie Schlafly’s support for Trump to a lawsuit filed in Madison County, Ill., that some critics – including one of her daughters – filed to force changes in the operations of Eagle Forum, which Schlafly founded 44 years ago.

The suit is not against Schlafly, but actually aimed at son John Schlafly and Forum president Ed Martin. The suit’s implication is that Martin and John Schlafly, who also are in Cleveland, are influencing Phyllis Schlafly to make poor decisions.

Some Eagle Forum activists had supported Ted Cruz for president, with dueling press releases going out this spring.

Schlafly said she’s hoping the suit is soon dismissed or otherwise resolved.

As she sees it: “There’s a small group of them who’ve decided that they can run Eagle Forum better than I can, and want to take it over. And I’m not ready to give it up.”

She added, “I think they were planning on me dying quickly so they could take it over and run it. But I didn’t accommodate them.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.