The slogan "We don't co-parent with the government" has mobilized "an enormous and growing" number of Americans, writes Robert Pondiscio, who attended Moms for Liberty's “Joyful Warrior Summit” in Philadelphia.
Founded less than three years ago to fight masking mandates, the Moms for Liberty -- with 120,000 members and nearly 300 chapters in 45 U.S. states -- is now a political force, he writes. Members believe "malign forces in public schools — gender ideology, critical race theory, Marxism, anti-Americanism — have come for their children, and they’re having exactly none of it."
Republican presidential hopefuls showed up at the summit to woo members. No doubt they remember that “school choice moms” helped Ron DeSantis win in his first run for governor of Florida, and Democrat Terry McAuliffe lost the race for Virginia governor in 2021 after saying "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach."
In breakout sessions, Moms learned "how to run for school boards — and if they win, how to advance their agenda even when in the minority," Pondiscio writes. "More than half of the 500 candidates Moms for Liberty endorsed for local school board elections last year won their races."
Of course, the group has its critics.
The Nation described Moms for Liberty as “hateful fascist bigots.” The New Republic said the group has “created nightmares for schools across the country.” An article in Vice reported they have ties to the Proud Boys — a claim that co-founder Tiffany Justice strenuously denied to me. A story in The Washington Post led with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent designation of Moms for Liberty as an “extremist group” devoted to spreading “messages of anti-inclusion and hate.”
The National Parents Union (NPU) condemned its “evil and divisive” rival in a pre-conference rally, writes Pondiscio. "What Moms for Liberty insists are efforts to keep pornography out of school libraries and to combat 'indoctrination' about critical race theory and gender fluidity, NPU says are attempts to attack and marginalize children of color and LGBTQ youth."
"Some overly zealous members" have hurt Moms for Liberty's image, Pondiscio writes.
A Tennessee chapter "sued to remove an outstanding English curriculum, Wit & Wisdom, from their school district, on the grounds that its elementary school texts about civil rights icons Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King Jr. are too dark and disturbing for children and violate state laws against teaching critical race theory," he writes. "An Arkansas Mom was banned from school grounds after . . . saying 'if I had any mental issues, [school employees] would all be plowed down by a freaking gun right now'.”
But the Moms' views are mainstream, according to pollster Jim McLaughlin, who surveyed likely voters in the upcoming general election, writes Pondiscio. Two-thirds feel that K–12 public education is “on the wrong track,” including half of Democrats, he says. "Nearly three-fourths, including independents and Biden voters, think it’s more important for schools to teach children 'basics' like reading, writing, and math rather than 'issues of social justice, reproductive rights, sex education, and transgender issues'.”
"The basic thrust of Moms for Liberty’s advocacy — that parents, not the government, should have the ultimate say in what children are taught in public schools" — was supported by every group surveyed, including both Biden and Trump voters and white, black and Hispanic voters.
Parent groups haven't wielded much clout until now, says Colleen Dippel, the founder of Houston-based Families Empowered. Moms for Liberty "are doing things that other organizations have received millions of dollars to do and haven’t been able to get done.”