The American right nominally has the support of half the country, but it is its own persistent self-inflicted curse that it appears far weaker and smaller than that. Despite having more than 70 million voters, the right struggles to get them outdoors holding a sign for virtually any cause. At the drop of a tweet, 5,000 liberals can be mustered in almost any city for even the most insane of causes: abolishing police, abolishing Trump, abolishing the internal combustion engine, pretty much anything. If you can think of it, a liberal has probably marched over it.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are rather languorous even for important issues and those that directly impact their lives. Cities turning into vast homeless camps? Illegal immigration? Overt racial discrimination in hiring and college admissions stretching back decades? At these, conservatives slumber. Only pro-life activism serves as a rare exception.
So suffice it to say that the Republican party owes an enormous debt to Christopher Rufo for at least temporarily shocking the party out of its doldrums. Sure, progressives have taught more or less explicitly that ‘white = bad’ and ‘not white = good’ for well over a decade now, but Rufo did the legwork to package the rhetoric into slick easily shared tweet chains and gave it all the memorable and sinister name ‘critical race theory’. But then Rufo did something remarkable: instead of simply doing his Fox News hits and then cashing out with a book or YouTube channel or something, he strongly and emphatically urged parents to do specific things to fight critical race theory.
And lo! Parents actually responded. They began making FOIA requests, and harassing administrators, and showing up at school board meetings, and lobbying state legislators, and all told being enormous bothers about critical race theory. Some have been so bothersome that deranged teachers have made enemies lists of them.
From critical race theory, the energy has grown. The same parents who have learned that, actually, you can complain about sinister race propaganda in public schools have also been emboldened to resist another new American cult, the cult of the mask. If this continues, Republicans might actually have genuine
But there are already ominous signs that the movement will be petering out. And by that, Cockburn means that school board meeting shenanigans have become a fad for conservative talking heads to join in.
On Tuesday night in Williamson County, Tennessee, Outkick.com proprietor and supposed Rush Limbaugh heir Clay Travis delivered a speech slamming a planned making policy for children, then pranced over to a TV studio to do a segment with Tucker Carlson.
Just a few miles to the north, Daily Wire blogger Matt Walsh showed up at a Nashville school board meeting to berate the board for two minutes, then upload the clip on Twitter to pick up 860,000 viewers (and counting).
Here is my speech to the Nashville School Board where I spoke out against the cruel and indefensible mask mandate for children pic.twitter.com/Eq5IFsKyja
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) August 12, 2021
But wait a minute! Walsh literally doesn’t have children in Nashville public schools. He is, very loudly, a homeschooler.
We do in fact homeschool our kids https://t.co/iYd3EORLnu
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) July 7, 2021
So, pardon Cockburn for saying it, but doesn’t that make Walsh’s entire viral bit a publicity stunt? He’s not protecting his children from overbearing teachers or the acolytes of the mask cult. In fact, he’s arguably imperiling the children of the parents who don’t homeschool, by giving school officials an excuse to dismiss the whole matter as an outsider’s politically-motivated intrusion into their business.
It’s not just media personalities. The same day, in Arizona, Senate candidate Blake Masters made his own appearance at a school board meeting.
At local school board meeting now.
Room at capacity, Sheriff’s deputies are managing an overflow room. Crowd is 70% anti-CRT, let-the-kids-smile patriots.
30% demand that the district violate AZ law, mandate masks for kids, and teach about systemic racism.
A preview of 2022… pic.twitter.com/Y2msHH25x7
— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) August 11, 2021
Hold up, hooooold up. According to his campaign website, Blake Masters also homeschools his kids. Now, Cockburn has no doubt that Walsh and Masters are both concerned parents. But they aren’t showing up at school board meetings to protect their children. They are doing it to raise their public profiles.
And this may be the greatest threat to the long-term success of the parental grassroots project. One reason the anti-CRT movement has had such force, and can command such sympathy, is precisely that it bubbled up from angry parents, with the attention span to keep pushing until they wring out actual concessions. If homeschooling Daily Wire interlopers become the public, viral face of anti-CRT and anti-mask protests, then this very real movement may be too easily dismissed as another astroturfed effort by brand-name conservatives. And we all know how well those end up.