The Decline of Moms for Liberty and the Future of Education Issues in Republican Politics
Moms for Liberty: From Advocacy Group to Controversial Powerhouse
Moms for Liberty, a national right-wing advocacy group, emerged in Florida during the Covid-19 pandemic as a response to school closures and mask mandates. However, it quickly gained notoriety for its policies that opponents labeled as anti-L.G.B.T.Q. Despite its influence, the group now faces scrutiny and diminished power due to a scandal involving one of its founders, Bridget Ziegler.
Ziegler’s recent revelation of a consensual sexual encounter with another woman, amidst her husband’s criminal investigation for sexual assault, has sparked public outrage. The perceived hypocrisy between her personal life and public stances has led to intense pressure for her resignation from the Sarasota County School Board.
During a school board meeting, Sarasota resident Sally Sells confronted Ziegler, highlighting the perceived disconnect between her actions and her advocacy work. However, Ziegler chose not to resign, further fueling the controversy.
Fading Influence and Electoral Losses
Moms for Liberty’s meteoric rise to power has been followed by a decline in influence. Candidates endorsed by the group suffered significant defeats in key school board races in 2023. These losses raise questions about the future of education issues as a driving force in Republican politics.
Even Donald J. Trump, the Republican front-runner for the presidential nomination, only briefly mentions “parental rights” in his campaign speeches. Issues such as school curriculums, transgender students’ rights, and teaching about race have taken a backseat to other concerns like abortion, foreign policy, and the economy in the Republican primary debates.
Moreover, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, the leading conservative voice on education, has struggled to rally conservatives behind his presidential bid. The prominence of these education-related issues appears to be waning.
A Shift in Priorities: Math, Science, and Reading
John Fredericks, a Trump ally, believes that the focus of Moms for Liberty should shift away from contentious issues, such as critical race theory and gender identity, and instead concentrate on core subjects like math, science, and reading. Fredericks dismisses the group’s previous causes as “nonsense” and emphasizes the importance of redirecting attention to fundamental educational needs.
The Divide Within Moms for Liberty
The scandal surrounding Bridget Ziegler has caused divisions within Moms for Liberty. Co-founders Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice have distanced themselves from Ziegler, clarifying that she has not been an officer in the national organization since early 2021. They reject claims of hypocrisy and emphasize the group’s commitment to parental rights in education.
However, the electoral losses of Moms for Liberty-endorsed candidates paint a different picture. An analysis by Ballotpedia reveals that nearly 60% of the group’s endorsed school board candidates were defeated in contested races across ten states in 2023. This trend indicates that the group’s influence may be waning.
A Changing Political Landscape
Researchers have observed a shift in the political landscape, with Moms for Liberty losing ground in battleground and liberal counties. Policies championed by the group, such as book bans, curtailment of L.G.B.T.Q. teachings, and controlling how race is discussed in schools, have become unpopular among voters.
Anne Pogue Donohue, a school board candidate in Virginia, witnessed this shift firsthand. While facing personal insults and accusations on social media, Donohue discovered that most parents were more concerned with practical issues like math and reading scores, special education support, and vocational programs. Donohue’s victory in the election reflects a growing resistance to culture-war-type issues espoused by Moms for Liberty.
Florida: A Last Stronghold
Moms for Liberty maintains a stronger foothold in Florida, where the group has aligned itself with Governor Ron DeSantis. Backing DeSantis’ parental-rights-in-education law, which restricts classroom instruction on L.G.B.T.Q. topics, has solidified the group’s influence. DeSantis has campaigned for conservative school board candidates, resulting in the ousting of superintendents in several districts.
However, even in Florida, the group is not without controversy. Jennifer Jenkins, a school board member critical of Moms for Liberty, faced harassment and threats from the group’s members. Despite their vocal presence in school board meetings, the organization’s extreme positions have alienated voters and tarnished its image.
The Future of Moms for Liberty
The recent scandals, electoral losses, and changing political landscape have cast doubt on the future of Moms for Liberty. As voters prioritize practical educational concerns over culture-war issues, the group’s influence is diminishing. Only time will tell if Moms for Liberty can regain its former power and reshape the education debate within Republican politics.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2023-12-16 10:01:57
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