Susan B. Anthony
The makers of historical documentaries seldom seek to challenge the received opinions of their audiences. Even the most talented filmmakers tend to exalt the already exalted and shovel dirt on the thankfully deceased. One can, one should be moved by a production like Freedom Riders, which PBS aired this summer on the fiftieth anniversary of that dramatic, violent episode in the civil rights saga.
Anti-abortion views first entered presidential politics in 1980, seven years after Roe v. Wade, when Ronald Reagan embraced a “family values” agenda to run against Jimmy Carter. They’ve been the stock-in-trade of Republican candidates ever since, and, this year, a pro-life group called the Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List—more about them in a minute—has instituted an early gut-check, a “Pro-Life Presidential Leadership Pledge.” All of the candidates, except Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson, have signed it.
This isn’t good. The New York Daily News reports that the cops were called on Hoffman supporters “yelling anti-choice stuff at voters” in St. Lawrence county. A spokesperson for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List is saying that police were called on a few of the 200 volunteers the group is providing for him today. The state’s former Democratic Chairwoman June O’Neill isn’t having it. “This is not the way we roll in the North Country,” she told the paper.
American Feminism, Still vigorous in its latest run of thirty years, is also old enough to produce its own vexed family dynamics. In the political unconscious of the women's movement, the mothers, beset by anxieties about age and the fate of their boldest dreams, fret at their offspring's backsliding ways. And the young bridle at the old guard's faith that a politics devised thirty years ago retains its potency today.