In April, conservative activist Christopher Rufo moved from his home near Seattle to Miami to meet with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and participate in the public signing of the Stop WOKE Act. A former documentary filmmaker and fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Rufo was the main protagonist of last year’s outrage over the teaching of “critical race theory” in public schools and helped the governor provide advice on Florida law aimed at limiting discussions. racial history and identity in schools and workplaces. Rufo in particular took a look at how DeSantis personally invested in politics. “He appears on the tarmac at 6:30 p.m. With a Red Bull energy drink, ready to release policy documents, “Rufo said. The bill did not come from the Governor’s advisers or bases:” He has driven it. “
Rufo also helped think that the problem — the National Conservative’s claim to progressive teaching and training on race and gender — was reaching a new and stronger phase. In the same legislature he introduced the Parental Rights in Education Bill, which his Democratic opponents denounced as the “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits schools from teaching anything about sexual orientation and gender identity to third-graders that anyone demands. such teaching at any age meets the requirements set by the state board of education, makes parental consent a prerequisite for a range of mental health counseling and interventions, and empowers parent groups to challenge school districts if deemed appropriate by teachers or administrators. they are not met. On Fox News, the story of transgender swimmer Lia Thomas of the University of Pennsylvania was broadcasting non-stop; for members of the conservative education movement, such as Rufo, the pivot from racial to gender issues — which combined parental control rhetoric with ancient sexual terror — seemed to offer tremendous political promise.
The parents ’rights movement was rooted in the Supreme Court last week in Roe v. Before the decision to cancel Wade. But the same model that has shaped the struggles for educational control within social conservatism — that is, the willingness to deliberately push for confrontational legislation, despite the numbers in the polls — is likely to reappear in the post-Roe struggles. Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, said the Florida bill will “be a card for conservative reform efforts in education” and described Rufo as “an icon of this movement”. A spokesman for Heritage Action for America, Roberts’ think tank policy advocacy area, told Reuters that among the basics, the issue “generated the most energy from the Tea Party (among Republicans).”
Supreme Court Obergefell v. After Hodges confirmed marriage equality in 2015, it was general political wisdom that issues related to gay rights were more or less resolved. Donald Trump also largely avoided the issue. Religious adherence is steadily declining in the United States, the white and Christian part of the country is declining, and there is no organization like the former Christian Coalition. In other words, this model is a little different: the policies of social conservatism are on the rise, without recognizing the cultural movement in favor of traditionalism.
Writing recently in the Times, Nate Hochman of the National Review argued that figures like DeSantis, Rufo, and Tucker Carlson were building a new brand of social conservatism that emerged from the ashes of religious issues and materially distanced itself. generation ago. “Instead of focusing specifically on issues such as school prayer, innocent divorce, and homosexuality, the new coalition focuses on issues of national identity, social integrity, and political alienation,” Hochman wrote. “We’re just starting to see its impact. The anti-racial law laws that have spread across the country in recent years, anti-transgender laws and parental rights laws are the initial plans for the movement. ”
In American politics, ideology tends to be the smoke screen of individual ambition. We have movements, but we really have movers. The situation is particularly noticeable on the right wing of the Republican Party, where the post-Trump chaos has left few permanent factions, and loyalties are constantly re-emerging. The most basic questions were also cloudy in Florida, including whether this type of anti-indoctrination campaign was deemed necessary by most voters. A non-partisan poll conducted by the University of Florida showed 40% in favor and 49% against. But another, from the Republican company Public Opinion Strategies, found a very different result: sixty-one percent in favor and twenty-nine percent against.
In this situation, the particular steps taken by DeSantis were important. One was obvious from a distance: he and his allies described their political opponents not only as leftists, but as “groomers” —a widespread word to suggest that he was an accomplice of the pedophile Democratic Party. On March 4, while discussions were still ongoing, DeSantis ’press secretary, Christina Pushaw, tweeted,“ If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you’re probably going to be a decorator or at least not denounce the 4’s decoration. In an official statement, DeSantis celebrated the signing of the bill, in part by saying that parents “should protect schools from those who use classroom instruction to sexualize children at age 5.” (Rhetoric has since spread: , tweeted that “conventional pedo-shapers” had not responded to the shortage of infant formula.
Since there is no evidence to support the widespread rise in sexual abuse in schools, and DeSantis and his allies described the problem so broadly, there was nothing specific to be denied by Democrats. Arguing that Grooming’s claims were baseless seemed to somehow raise their popularity. Some Democrats saw only a collection of well-known interest groups: Florida Progressive MP Anna Eskamani told me: “The school choice movement, for example, invests one hundred percent in things like this because they benefit public education. they consider it extreme or inappropriate because it leads parents to remove their children. ”
As a result, Democrat statements were also very general: calling the DeSantis program “authoritarianism and censorship”; Suggesting that it was a “homophobic” program; or that the campaign against school dressing was a “gaslight”. Meanwhile, the exact rhetoric of dressing was getting louder and louder. Referring to a new conservative group of people involved in school struggles, Carlos Guillermo Smith, a progressive legislator from around Orlando, told a reporter in early April: “Every day, my mother bombards me with baseless allegations of pedophilia. defenders. It’s unstructured. “
One popular way to see allegations of widespread grooming is that they function as a sign of conspiracy adherence in QAnon, denouncing a broad and secret network of pederasty organized by Democratic Party leaders. Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist associated with the Never Trump movement, told me that the decorum claims solved a more common political problem for Republicans as well. “There’s a very important psychological aspect to how you’re defending Donald Trump if you’re a Republican, and that means Democrats need to be worse off.” On Jan. 6, Trump’s coup attempt against the government, Longwell said, boosted his stakes. “You have to believe that Democrats are worse than trying to get rid of the government, and if it’s worse than that, it means men want to do it in women’s sports and are preparing young children.”
DeSantis made a second significant move in the bill debate, which Rufo particularly emphasized: the governor stepped up. C.E.O. Bob Chapek of the Walt Disney Company told shareholders in early March that he was opposed to the bill at the annual meeting and called DeSantisi to say so; DeSantis retaliated against Disney (the largest taxpayer in Central Florida) since its inception, half a century ago, with a new bill that removed some of its special legislative benefits. “At the time, I remember an interview,‘ Oh, DeSantis will never be able to defeat Disney, Disney is too powerful, too loved ’, and at the time Disney had a seventy-seven percent favor rating with the public,” Rufo said. he told me. He gave the Florida governor two ideas: “A, that the bill is popular, and B, that Disney is an economic and cultural power, is really a nascent political power, and, as many people say, put it aside. I think it’s great. ‘