It sounds like the plot of an over-the-top action movie or political satire: The mothers who join local school boards across the country are actually part of a radical network infiltrating the government from below, determined to take over. power, punish his opponents, and eventually rule with an iron fist. But this seemingly outlandish plot is actually an eerily accurate depiction of Moms for Liberty, a fast-growing nonprofit that has its members lobbying local school boards to ban LGBTQ and race-related materials, remove COVID-19 restrictions and take other conservative measures.
In a political climate marked by violent insurrection, unhinged conspiracy theories, voting restrictions, anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ censorship, and denial of basic history and science, a group of mothers attending meetings from the local school board seems to be the least threatening thing that comes up. the current conservative movement. However, the veneer of respectability and benevolence that accompanies the “concerned mothers” image is, in fact, a thin veil for a broader, more sinister movement. Moms for Liberty is an offshoot of the far-right movement that has come to dominate modern American conservatism, and its tactics represent a dangerous shift in strategy for this movement.
With a name that sounds fair to the group’s supporters and Orwellian to its detractors, Moms for Liberty’s early days were innocuous enough. The organization was founded by Tina Descovich, Tiffany Justice and Bridget Ziegler, three women who had been members of local school boards in Florida. Initially, the group focused on opposing mask mandates in Florida public schools. But as membership grew in Florida and spread to other states, Moms for Liberty quickly grew into a federation of local chapters across the country fighting a broader range of culture war-inspired issues. the group has pushed for critical race theory bans, bans that have been widely interpreted to essentially ban discussions of racism, and LGBTQ-friendly content.
The group’s leaders proudly tout their close relationship with the Republican Party. The party’s rising stars, including Governors Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, and Ron DeSantis of Florida, show off their close ties to and virulent support from Moms for Liberty. The group has launched several political action committees and has indicated a desire to go beyond school board elections to endorse political candidates in general.
Moms for Liberty has come under scrutiny not only for its right-wing agenda but also for its tactics. The organization has been blamed for loudly disrupting school board meetings, harassing officials in their homes, and even making false accusations of child abuse. One of the early targets of this treatment was Jennifer Jenkins, who defeated Moms for Liberty co-founder Descovich in a race for the local school board. Jenkins reports that Moms for Liberty began disrupting school board meetings, accusing board members of being “pedophiles” and making thinly veiled threats of violence against them. Jenkins’ cell phone number was released by a state senator linked to Moms for Liberty, and she was even falsely reported for child abuse, prompting an official investigation. Moms for Liberty, of course, denies any involvement in such aggressive and potentially illegal tactics, while openly defending the ideas behind them.
As Moms for Liberty expands in membership and influence, its agenda also becomes more comprehensive and aggressive. Members of the group aggressively advocated for the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that passed in Florida. A quick perusal of the group’s official Twitter accounts shows that it promises to “fight forced masking” in schools, harkening back to the organization’s original rallying cry. But the page is also littered with posts or retweets condemning “transgender indoctrination,” linking LGBTQ inclusion to pedophilia, and calling for jail terms and fines for teachers who teach critical racial theory, social-emotional learning, and other concepts that have been distorted. and demonized. on the right
In fact, since mask mandates, the group’s original mobilizing theme, have largely been scrapped, racial and LGBTQ issues are increasingly becoming the group’s main areas of focus. One new tactic, for example, has been to equate gender and sexuality-related content in schools with “preparing” children for sexual exploitation and abuse. Co-founder Justice rejects criticism of such inflammatory language. “If someone says they don’t like that label,” he says of the unsubstantiated grooming accusations, “then I say stop messing with our kids.”
Such increasingly radical stances place Moms for Liberty alongside other right-wing movements that were once fringe but have become mainstream within the Republican Party. In a sign of synergy between these various far-right movements, a prominent Moms for Liberty member who was appointed by DeSantis to the Florida Board of Education has shown support for the QAnon conspiracy theory and the Capitol Hill insurrection. .
In many ways, Moms for Freedom is a symptom of a larger pathology within the Republican Party, which has more and more courted and mobilized prejudiced and anti-democratic forces in a cynical attempt to seize and hold power at all costs. But while movements like QAnon and militias like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have gained influence and acceptance within conservative circles, they are still kept at arm’s length by mainstream Republicans, who fear being associated with the more radical elements of modern American conservatism.
Rather, Moms for Liberty’s danger stems not only from its far-right stances and aggressive tactics, but also from its ability to win mainstream acceptance in ways that other fringe elements of the GOP cannot. To the contrary, Moms for Liberty is already drawing comparisons to major conservative movements like the Moral Majority and the Tea Party. If a group with the radical Moms for Freedom agenda can gain the kind of sustained political influence these previous conservative movements have wielded, it could severely damage civil liberties, shut down political discourse, and further weaken democratic institutions that have come under attack in recent years.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.