Voters Reject ‘Moms for Liberty’ as Group Intensifies Far-Right Ties, Harmful Strategies

At the Moms for Liberty national summit in Philadelphia this summer, attendees reveled in attention from right-wing leaders, with multiple Republican presidential hopefuls and far-right activists telling them they were the secret to saving America from Marxists, teachers unions, the LGBTQ equality movement, and “the left” in general. Just a few months later, voters across the country said “not so fast,” rejecting most of Moms for Liberty’s endorsed school board candidates.

Moms for Liberty started in Florida as a protest against COVID-19 pandemic school closings and mask and vaccine requirements. The group’s leaders parlayed their Republican connections and fawning coverage from right-wing media into partnerships with some of the most powerful parts of the right-wing political infrastructure that hoped “parental rights” would be a winning political message this year and next. They embraced an authoritarian right-wing agenda, promoting book bans, attacks on teaching about race and sexuality, and joined a nationwide project by religious-right and right-wing groups to take over local school boards and get the power to impose their ideological agenda on teachers and students.

While Moms for Liberty propaganda says it is about uniting parents to save America, the impact of the group’s censorship and school board campaigns has disrupted school systems and divided communities. The shock-and-awe approach to governing displayed after Moms for Liberty candidates take over school boards—firing successful and popular superintendents, censoring books and curricula, reversing policies supporting LGBTQ students—have created turmoil.

That destructive turmoil has sparked energetic resistance from students, parents and educators who have organized to defend public schools and the freedom to learn – including People For the American Way’s Grandparents for Truth organizing project, which was launched during this summer’s Moms for Liberty summit.

In its report on Election Day defeats for Moms for Liberty candidates, Forbes magazine examined how this dynamic played out in Bucks County, Pennsylvania:

Pennridge is in Bucks County, near Philadelphia, a county that has been ground zero for the Moms for Liberty style installation of far right policies in school boards. Since acquiring a majority, Pennridge has pursued a host of right wing policies. They had trouble telling creationism from science. They banned Banned Books Week. They tried to clamp down on student expression. And they removed DEI policies).

Pennridge’s conservative board also hired [Jordan] Adams, with close ties to conservative Christian Hillsdale College, to scour through their curriculum and remove all things woke. This was a new business model, a proof of concept for retooling a school’s curriculum along more conservative lines. He was, he told the Moms for Liberty crowd, the “fox in the henhouse.

Now the henhouse is under new management. As of this morning, it appears that all five open seats on the board were won by candidates who ran on opposition to culture wars, secret agreements, poor policies, and the adoption of the curriculum recommended by Adams.

After this month’s elections, University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato told Washington Post education columnist Valerie Strauss, “‘Parental rights’ is an appealing term, but voters have caught on to the reality that it is fueling book bans, anti-LGBT efforts, pressure on teachers not to discuss race and gender, whitewashing history, and so on. Parents may want more input in the schools, but as a group they certainly aren’t as extreme as many in the Moms for Liberty.”

Moms for Liberty put a brave face on recent election results. It claimed in a social media post that 50 endorsed candidates won school board seats in November, adding, “We’re just getting started.”  Co-founder Tina Descovich told Strauss that the group was “thrilled” with about a 40 percent success rate on Election Day given that most of its endorsees were first-time political candidates.

Tiffany Justice told far-right political operative Steve Bannon that there is a bigger story of its successes: 365 of the group’s endorsed candidates won elections in 2022 and 2023. But the group’s 60 percent failure rate on Election Day is a big drop from its successes last year, when 275 of its 500 endorsed candidates—55 percent— reportedly won their races.

The ideologically aligned 1776 Project PAC, which also backs right-wing school board candidates, is claiming about a 60 percent victory rate in the most recent elections, bringing the number of winning school board candidates it has backed since 2021 to over 200.

Backed by some of the right-wing movement’s deep-pocketed political powerhouses, including the Heritage Foundation and Leadership Institute, Moms for Liberty is not planning to go away.

Indeed, the group may be doubling down on its far-right agenda and authoritarian intimidation tactics. Moms for Liberty activists in Florida have reported librarians to local law enforcement, pointing to popular young adult literature to claim that librarians were distributing “pornography” to minors. “To see the orchestrated campaign to remove books from schools escalate to a police station is shocking,” said Kasey Meehan of PEN America.

And later this week, Moms for Liberty National Outreach Director Catalina Stubbe will be speaking at an international gathering of far-right anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ public officials and activists. Stubbe is attending a “transatlantic summit” hosted by the Political Network for Values, a group that brings far-right legislators and public officials together with activists pushing governments to criminalize abortion and enforce “traditional” gender roles and family structures. Previous PNV summits have been promoted with the slogan, “How far can we get?”

In advance of this week’s summit, the global reproductive justice organization Ipas published an in-depth report, “The Political Network for Values: Global Far-Right at the United Nations.” It is a revealing look at the anti-freedom political movements that Moms for Liberty has chosen to align itself with. Here’s a brief excerpt:

In addition to developing and promoting regressive policies in state and national legislatures around the world, the PnfV network directly attacks multilateralism and the UN sustainable development agenda. PNfV and its partners have dedicated themselves to subverting the UN system and human rights standards; they promote initiatives that bypass the UN, like the Geneva Consensus Declaration; and they platform individuals and organizations who want to deny human rights to historically marginalized groups, including women, girls, LGBTQ+ populations, and young people.

Moms for Liberty has taken part in other anti-freedom religious-right gatherings. Stubbe was among Moms for Liberty leaders who participated in the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, where she called teachers unions “enemies” and claimed that public schools are “abusing” and “indoctrinating” children.

If you want to get involved with the growing movement to resist far-right attacks on public education and the freedom to learn, sign up with People For the American Way’s Grandparents for Truth. You don’t have to be a grandparent!

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