The American leftist magazine Mother Jones published an article on August 22 entitled “The Most Powerful Moms in America Are the New Face of the Republican Party.” In the piece, senior editor Kiera Butler compared parental rights group Moms for Liberty‘s tactics and concern for children’s well-being to those allegedly used and expressed both by segregationists during the civil rights movement and conspiratorial anti-Semites in premodern Europe.
Butler criticizes Moms for Liberty’s allegedly selective support for parental rights. Butler suggested the group is unconcerned “with a parent’s right to ensure that their gender nonconforming child is safe at school, for instance, or that their immunocompromised child is protected from Covid.” Instead, she argued the group is keen on countering critical race theory, “LGBTQ-friendly books,” accommodations for transsexuals, and mask mandates. Butler also intimated that the group is fixated on Second Amendment rights “that have allowed school shooters to obtain weapons.”
Although Butler is convinced that Moms for Liberty is fueled by an ancient “moral panic” and “hysteria,” keen also to arm school shooters, she does not discount the group’s power as a political phenomenon. In fact, she admits its efficacy in “their leveraging of local school boards to flex political power.”
Jeffrey Henig, a professor of political science and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, told Butler: “A lot of people felt like local school politics were kind of backwaters, and the real action was in state capitals, and in Washington, D.C. … Folks on the right had a little bit of an awakening,” realizing that it’s a “three-dimensional game — it’s local, state, and national, and those aren’t separate games anymore. They’re interrelated.”
Moms for Liberty, though only created in 2021, now boasts over 100,000 members across over 195 chapters in 38 states. Butler suggested it would be “a mistake to underestimate their power or the possibility they could be a deciding factor in the midterm elections.” After all, so called “mama bears” played a role in helping Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin win in 2021 on a platform of parental rights.
Gubernatorial and midterm elections are only part of the aforementioned three-dimensional game, however. Butler argued that the group and the conservative “heavy hitters” and Republican strategists who support them have one primary goal: Take over school boards.
Earlier this year at CPAC, Republican Florida Rep. Byron Donalds claimed, “The battle for our future, the battle for our country, the battle for our economy is in every public school, every private school, every charter school, and every homeschool across America.”
At the same conference, Republican Illinois Rep. Mary Miller, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said “They’re openly hostile to our American values and it’s time to fight back.”
This week in Florida, there were school board elections in which 30 candidates had been endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; 21 won. DeSantis stated ahead of the elections: “If I could have a conservative majority on every school board in the country, we would be in such good shape.”
“We neglected our duty to stay involved on what school districts are passing and doing,” said Moms for Liberty co-founder Tina Descovich in July. “And I think when parents are awake, they’ll never go back to sleep again.”
Butler intimated that the real reason Moms for Liberty and similar groups want to take over school boards is not just to counter CRT, “indoctrination,” mask mandates, the sexualization of children “through lessons on gender fluidity,” and pornography, but rather out of a desire to get rid of public schools altogether.
Despite the group identifying the “woke left,” “government bureaucrats,” and “socialists” as their foes, Butler suggested that in the meantime, Moms for Liberty will continue to target “people who have been marginalized.”
Nicole Neily, president of another parental rights group named Parents Defending Education, suggested that parental activism of the kind Moms for Liberty engages in is actually an antidote to marginalization and discrimination. “From coast to coast, disenchanted parents have found each other and coalesced around a few simple, discrete ideas: Parents should be involved in their children’s education. … Children should not face discrimination on the basis of immutable characteristics like race or sex. Students should be taught how to think, not what to think.”