Tag Archives: “Moms for Liberty

Where’s George Soros When We Need Him?

Despite all the accusations prompted by MAGA fever dreamers (George Soros paid for those Jewish space lasers over California!), normal Americans don’t have anything remotely commensurate with the funding sources and highly sophisticated organizational infrastructure of the far Right. That worries me.

A recent report from the Tampa Bay Times began by following just one of the many astroturf groups masquerading as spontaneous grassroots organizations.

This one was “Moms for Liberty.” Much like similarly misnamed organizations (“Patriots for Truth, Justice & the American Way,” or “Grandmas for Cuddly Kittens”), “Moms for Liberty” emerged pretty much full grown during the most recent assault on public education. The author applied a four-part test to determine whether any particular educational group was legitimate or contrived.

The first part of the test is financial: has the organization grown at a pace that only an undisclosed donor’s monetary resources could manage?

Moms for Liberty incorporated as an Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(4) organization, a form that lends itself to dark money political shenanigans. It exploded on the scene with its leaders being guests on Fox News and breaking into the Washington Post. It has a well-developed website and extensive social media reach. Moms for Liberty has formed three federal and one state political action committees, one of which is a SuperPAC able to accept unlimited donations. Its careers page is seeking state coordinators to work with the chapter chair coordinator, and a communications officer.

This “grassroots” group of “just-your-average-mom” members also managed to hold a fund raiser with Megyn Kelly (top ticket $20,000), and to co-host The American Dream Conference featuring former Trump Cabinet secretary Ben Carson. An upcoming national summit (presenting sponsorships for $50,000 are sold out), will feature Ron DeSantis, Carson, Sen. Rick Scott and Betsy DeVos.

Just your average PTA members….

So who is really funding these Rightwing mamas? Here’s a clue: they aren’t getting by on T-shirt sales.

They’ve barely even heard of the Koch brothers! Yet perhaps they’ve heard of the Council for National Policy. Two of Moms for Liberty’s National Summit sponsors, the Leadership Institute and Heritage Foundation are critical members of the Council for National Policy, a secretive network of right wing billionaires and Christian fundamentalist leaders that underwrites and coordinates right wing politics.

When the author looked to see who is really running the operation, he found that one of the two purported “founders” –Tina Descovich –is a communications and marketing professional. The other–Tiffany Justice (surely not her real name)– is a former Florida school committee member. He also discovered a third, “silent” founder, one Bridget Ziegler, whose husband just happens to be vice chairman of the Florida Republican Party and the owner of a political marketing firm. He has boasted that Moms for Liberty will provide crucial ground support for DeSantis’ re-election.

Another part of the test revolves around whether the genuinely grassroots folks suckered into joining the organization have any clue what the organization is  really all about. Moms for Liberty may have “activated and harnessed” actual anger and grievance, but–as the article notes–that doesn’t mean those people understand that they are being manipulation for partisan political purposes.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the author’s “deep dive” into the bona fides of Moms for Liberty is the identification of the nefarious network of which it is a part:

Then there’s the odd coincidence of so many grassroots parents organizations arising at the same time with similar missions. Parents Defending Education is Koch-connected. The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council claims credit for the havoc wreaked by anti-Critical Race Theory legislation. The Council for National Policy’s Leadership Institute commenced its own program to take over school boards. The Council for National Policy-connected Turning Point USA initiated a School Board Watch List for reporting “woke” school boards.

Reading all this, I vacillated between disgust and grudging admiration. These interlocking astroturf organizations are dishonest and manipulative–but they’re effective. You’ve got to give the Christian Nationalists credit for their success in controlling the narrative, and making it far more probable that America will continue to be dominated by a minority of truly despicable theocrats.

Meanwhile, the people I consider to be “the good guys” are happily forming circular firing squads and scrounging for five-dollar donations on Facebook. If Soros is funding any of them, I’ve missed it.

Have I mentioned that I’ve been hitting the booze more frequently since 2016?

 

 

Laugh? Or Cry??

To pick up a newspaper today is to enter wacko world, where right-wingers’ fears (those “Others” are voting! That means the election is rigged!!) and their obsessions with sex (it’s dirty! protect the children!) are bursting out all over.

I recently stumbled across this report from the Daily Beast, and you really need to read it to believe it. An essay from The Guardian by Arwa Mahdawi captured my reaction:

The latest absurd example of conservative cancel culture comes to us courtesy of Moms for Liberty, a rightwing advocacy group who are trying to dictate what books Tennessee public school kids can read. I don’t know if any of these moms own a dictionary, but they might want to look up the definition of “liberty”. And then they might want to change their name to Moms for Thought Control.

The moms have been very methodical: they’ve sent the Tennessee Department of Education a detailed spreadsheet outlining their complaints about the books being foisted on their children. It makes for unintentionally hilarious reading. A book about Galileo is “anti-church.” A book about seahorses contains too many details about the mating rituals of seahorses. A book about Native Americans is “divisive” and “paints white people in negative light.” A book about Ruby Bridges, the first Black child to integrate an all-white public elementary school, is “divisive.” (Racists love using the word “divisive”, have you noticed? How dare you bring up slavery and segregation! You’re being divisive!) A book about Greek mythology is a little too “graphic and scary”. A book about Martin Luther King contains “photographs of political violence”. The whole thing reads like the unhinged ravings of a book club from hell.

It’s hard not to laugh at this exercise of attempted “cancellation”–especially since one of the many accusations leveled at liberals is that it is the Left that has developed “cancellation culture.” But ultimately, it isn’t funny. It actually is representative of what passes for today’s right wing philosophy.

As Mahdawi points out, this attempts to dictate (okay, censor) the Tennessee curriculum is part of the Right’s frantic effort to rewrite American history. You can see that obsession in the sudden discovery of and opposition to Critical Race Theory (which none of its opponents can define. To them it just means anything that is less than complimentary about white people). Mahdawi notes that at least eight Republican states (including Tennessee) have introduced laws restricting how race can be taught in public schools this year and nearly 20 additional states have introduced or plan to introduce similar legislation

Far from being a kooky fringe group, Moms for Liberty are part of a very well-coordinated culture war. Whether it’s abortion or CRT, the playbook is always the same. The rightwing media whips up outrage; deliberately vague laws are passed off the back of that outrage; advocacy groups diligently weaponize these laws at a local level. “We are seeing what appear to be coordinated efforts to challenge books, not purely based on the content of the individual book, but based on the fact that they teach history from a particular viewpoint,” an executive from the National Coalition Against Censorship, told The Daily Beast. “We’re also seeing entire lists of books being challenged, as opposed to individual titles.”

So what’s the moral to this story? Essentially, it’s that you shouldn’t underestimate the right. It’s very easy to laugh at a bunch of rightwing moms clutching their pearls over sexy seahorses – but there’s nothing funny about the systemic, organised way in which conservatives are trying to rewrite history and restrict freedom of speech.

The real threat comes from the tendency of rational folks to dismiss these efforts–to chuckle, shake our heads and ignore it, because “it can’t happen here.” Depending upon your definition of “it,” it can happen here–as we learn more about the Trump effort to overturn the election, we learn how close that effort came and how much lasting damage it did to America’s democratic norms. We may not be quite ready to sew Hester Prynne’s “A” on women’s shirts, but we keep edging closer, and there are active movements to deny LGBTQ citizens a lot more than bakery products, among other efforts to return us to the 1950s. Or before.

These people may be nuts, but in the absence of a robust and determined protection of our rights, lunatics can be very effective.