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Republicans see an opportunity to create ‘the biggest block of single issue voters’ as they pit parents against schools

Feb 25, 2022, 00:35 IST
Business Insider
Amy Jahr sings the Star Spangled Banner after a Loudoun County School Board meeting was halted by the school board because the crowd refused to quiet down.Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
  • Republicans want to be considered the "party of parents" during the midterm election cycle.
  • At an opening session at CPAC, parents discussed ways to challenge school boards.
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Republicans are betting big on angry parents turning out for them this election cycle, just as they helped flip Virginia in the November governor's race.

"The establishment is scared," the leader of a political action committee, fighting to recall school board members in Loudoun County, Virginia, told attendees at the conservative CPAC conference on Thursday. And he said they know "their power structure has a very real risk of collapsing if you build a coalition of parents across partisanship" focused on the welfare and education of their children.

"So I think that we are looking at a moment where we have the potential to build the biggest block of single-issue voters in the history of American politics," Ian Prior, executive director of Fight for Schools and a senior advisor at America First Legal, said to applause.

Republicans are seizing on parental anger over controversial books and the teaching of race and gender to turn concerns about the public education system into conservative votes. Single-issue voters can be a powerful force in politics: In the 2016 presidential election, former President Donald Trump benefited from voters who believed he would appoint judges who oppose abortion.

Prior's comments, echoing those of other Republicans, came during one of the conference's opening sessions: "Domestic Terrorists Unite: Lessons from Virginia Parents. The title is a reference to a memo from the National School Boards Association that compared threats at school board meetings to "a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes."

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Prior noted that the letter, requesting federal assistance, cited the arrest of a father on disorderly conduct charges at a Loudoun County School Board meeting when he tried to confront the members about his daughter being sexually assaulted in school.

Prior said he realized that "the establishment is scared" when Attorney General Merrick Garland quickly produced a memo that considered "looking at parents at school board meetings under domestic terrorism statute." Garland's memo, however, called on the FBI to address illegal threats against public servants and does not cite the law.

Prior worked at the Department of Justice during the Trump administration and for the National Republican Congressional Committee from 2013 to 2015.

He described Loudoun County as the "Lexington and Concord of the parents revolution" and led the discussion with three Loudoun County mothers who said they became engaged because of "inappropriate books," COVID policies and critical race theory.

The mothers urged other parents to organize, speak out at school board meetings and demand information from their school districts under information laws.

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"My biggest message would be don't give up," Amy Jahr said. "There were a lot of times I wanted to give up. There were times my kids were saying 'Please don't embarrass us again at the school board meeting. Please don't go on TV,' which, I did not listen to them."

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