Republicans were particularly proud of Specter for not submitting to the intimidation of the mob of the usual suspects of media, feminists and other liberals. Thomas rightly called his ordeal a "high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves." Popular sentiment swung dramatically to the nominee's side, and he won confirmation by a narrow, angry partisan vote of 52 to 48. The feminists quickly went to work to punish the senator, who they dubbed "Snarlin' Arlen." He was quickly tamed.
I encountered him at a reception a week or so after the vote, and he greeted me with a politician's practiced warmth and geniality. When I remarked on how he had stood up to the feminists, he couldn't get to the other side of the room fast enough. But even after he worked hard to enact the Violence Against Women Act, the radical feminists paid little mind. Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women, says her outrage remains unappeased, no matter what his current label.
Ironically, the Thomas nomination struggle became a flash point in feminist politics. Many women who weren't radicalized by the sight of Anita Hill at the mercy of an all-male panel, nevertheless worked to elect more women to Congress. Conservative women who stood firmly against the feminist mob began to organize themselves. As testimony to their success, the Women's Freedom Network, founded in 1993, recently went out of business, saying it was no longer needed. "The voices of radical feminists have become muted, and the overall atmosphere has changed such that affirmative action vis-a-vis women is no longer a major concern," says Rita Simon, who was the foundation's last president.
The Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, also founded in 1993, thrives in training conservative women for leadership on college campuses. Though still a minority voice on liberal college campuses, these women are now speaking up and speaking out in greater numbers, adding authenticity to the clamor for "diversity," which on most campuses means a clamor for more liberal and leftist voices.
The noise about Souter & Specter is noise about not very much. Justice Souter will be replaced by another liberal and the ideological tilt of the court won't change. Specter will still be the Old Unreliable. We'll all move on. Vaudeville is now only about nostalgia, after all.