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Editorial: Tom Reed benefits country and party with new push for ERA

Rep. Tom Reed is not only doing the right thing as a thoughtful member of Congress, but also the smart thing as a thinking Republican. By backing a renewed push to enact the Equal Rights Amendment, Reed is standing up for the interests of roughly half of Americans, while also recognizing the need to stem the politically disastrous outflow of women from the Republican Party.

It’s the sweet spot where the public interest intersects with those of his party and himself.

It’s too bad Reed was the only Republican – and the only man – to show up at a recent Capitol Hill news conference that kicked off the renewed fight for the amendment.

This would be the second go-round for the ERA, which Congress approved in 1972, but expired 10 years later when only 35 of the required 38 states voted to approve it. The amendment, which performed the valuable task of codifying women’s equality in American society, died from a combination of alarmist and sexist objections that had little connection to reality.

Now, a new effort to pass the amendment is underway and Reed is on board. “It is time for us in the U.S. Constitution to pass on to our sons and daughters the message that all people are created equal, that all women are created equal,” the Corning Republican said.

It’s not what you would call a controversial idea, yet Reed, alone, had the good sense among men and among Republicans to stand up for it. He said he will work to persuade other Republicans to support the new ERA, and we hope he succeeds.

For a variety of reasons, including a reaction to President Trump’s record, millions of women have fled the Republican Party, helping Democrats to win control of the House of Representatives and changing the calculus in many state governments, as well. It’s a sign of decline that ill serves both the party and the country.

Plenty of American women want to feel at home in a conservative political party. So, for that matter, do many African-Americans, Hispanics, gays and other minorities. Many don’t and it’s because the Republican Party makes little effort to deliver a conservative message that appeals to them. Whether the party means it or not, the message received is too often hostile. If the Republican Party becomes merely a refuge for aging and angry white men, then failure is foreordained.

Contrast Reed’s welcoming approach to recent comments by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He complained last week that Democrats’ proposal to make Election Day a national holiday is simply a maneuver to tilt elections in their direction. The subtext was inescapable: If too many people vote, he believes, Republicans will lose. But “Poor me” isn’t a winning slogan.

Reed has the right approach. Rather than fearing voters, the party needs to broaden its appeal. Supporting the ERA makes for a good start. It’s also the right thing.

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