Extremist political cycles seem to have a natural lifespan, but it requires real political will to overcome them.
November’s off year elections revealed that the rollback of wokeness, if not imminent, may be nearer than many had hoped. Voters rejected decisively two of wokeness’s core policy components: Defunding the police lost badly in heavily Democratic cities from Seattle to Minneapolis to Buffalo, while Republican Glenn Youngkin’s vow to curb critical race theory in Virginia schools was central to his surprise win in the blue state.
Extremist political cycles seem to have a natural lifespan. Five years passed between the storming of the Bastille and Thermidor—the arrest of Robespierre by his fellow revolutionaries, fearful that the guillotine would touch them next; another five and a national equilibrium of sorts was restored to France. A similar ten years ensued between years between Mao’s launching of the Cultural Revolution and the arrest and imprisonment of its major backers by their rivals within China’s ruling hierarchy. Neither country had meaningful elections, but they did have public opinions, which eventually shifted enough to embolden those in position to challenge the radical wave to step up and assume the risks. If one dates the onset of wokeness from 2014, which saw the sudden explosion of phrases about race, equity, and white supremacy in the prestige media, we are seven years in.
The United States has free elections, a First Amendment, and political norms which remain more or less intact, and wokeness is an ideological movement which has managed to humiliate its victims and get them fired from their jobs, not to kill them. But it is not a stretch to see in it parallels to the totalitarian movements of the past century: the preening self-righteousness of its enforcers; their seeking of forced confessions, depicted as apologies from their victims; the attempted politicization of every aspect of social life, including language; the insistence that the traditional mores of their own country are utterly debased. Never in American history has so much energy been devoted to getting people fired for expressing an opinion.
Wokeness may well advance to the point where many of its goals become as institutionalized and naturally accepted as the abolition of slavery. (Some of the woke elect left style themselves as abolitionists). More likely it will be rolled back, its practitioners and cultural preferences first widely mocked and then ignored, its victims rehabilitated and in some cases honored. November 2 marked the first hint of a real electoral pushback against wokeness; hopefully it will prove as pivotal as the battle of Midway.
The origins and nature of the woke revolution have been described extensively if not yet definitively. Yes, it has elements of a new religion; yes, it was made possible by social media, with the potential to organize quickly a Twitter mob; yes, the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath pulled the rug out from a generation of debt-ridden recent college graduates while giving business elites incentive to welcome diversions from a more class based leftism.
Within less than a decade a fringe and not especially popular way of thinking and speaking, spawned in the humanities departments of prestigious universities, had become the dominant discourse in all non-explicitly conservative media and, seemingly, the regnant ideology of the nation’s largest political party. This takeover occurred with stunning speed, while the initial popular resistance to it—chiefly the 2016 election of Donald Trump—served more as an accelerant than a brake. At this writing, wokeness seems entrenched in the media, liberal foundations, and universities, but also in institutions thought of as mainstream and non-political. A top navy admiral touts the work of Ibram Kendi; the American Medical Association officially calls for doctors to work absurd woke phraseology into regular communications with their patients.
The core idea of wokeness is that America and the West are essentially defined by interlocking systems of oppression, the main pillar of which is white supremacy, while secondary but important ones are the privileging of heterosexuality and of men over women. To be woke is to believe that all social life is permeated by these dominations, and that overturning them is a moral imperative. Radical leftists have held views proximate to this for over a century, but their nominal embrace by much of the establishment is a new thing.
For the woke, America’s history of slavery and segregation are at its core, more important than virtually everything else. Wokeness portrays itself as a struggle against whiteness, or white supremacy, rather than against white people themselves, a rhetorical evasion which allows white people to become the main practitioners of woke politics.
With black activism, wokeness has a somewhat contradictory relationship.
On one side it is given to displays of performative submissiveness. While fires from the George Floyd riots were still smoldering, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer led Democratic members of the House and Senate to the halls outside the congressional visitor’s gallery, where they donned kente cloth and knelt before the cameras; similar, if less striking, quasi-religious enactments continued throughout the summer. A few weeks later the New York Times announced it would henceforth capitalize black when it referred to race (white would remain lowercase) as its standard style, inevitably evoking the Bible’s capitalization of pronouns referring to the deity. Virtually every national news organization followed suit.
On the other side of wokeness is a kind of paternalism, which sees black Americans as people without much agency or control over their lives, defined by the past injuries of slavery and segregation and still burdened by chains of structural racism which are seldom specified but so pervasive that standards of achievement and conduct appropriate for other Americans must be suspended for them.
But despite its apparent dominance in corporate media and major institutions, wokeness increasingly resembles what ’60s era Maoists called a “paper tiger”; when confronted directly, as wokeness has seldom been in the past seven years, its popularity and power prove less than meets the eye.
The battle over “critical race theory” in the Virginia gubernatorial election was an early illustration. It’s difficult to discern how much critical race theory is being taught in Virginia schools: there are official Virginia state documents which call explicitly for “critical race theory” to be used in the training of teachers and the make-up of the curriculum; in some districts, CRT inspired consultants were hired to do mandatory teacher training. Materials deployed by these new “diversity” consultants are full of a bizarre racial essentialism, portraying white people as cruelly individualistic, people of color as warm communalists. Some Virginia parents in comfortable suburban districts were troubled enough by it to turn traditionally sleepy school board meetings into hotbeds of protest.
Curiously, the response by the Terry McAuliffe campaign—to charges by his opponent that Democrats were ignoring parents and teaching CRT in schools—was to claim that there was “no critical race theory” taught in Virginia schools, that the whole issue was a racist “dog whistle” cooked up by conservative activist Christopher Rufo and others. This denial was echoed repeatedly by nearly every mainstream media outlet covering the election.
This itself was an interesting tell. Liberals generally have no reluctance to defend their beliefs or policies, whether they be the right to have an abortion, higher taxes on corporations and the rich, or worker and environmental protection laws. But on CRT they mounted no defense, just denial and obfuscation. They would explain, as to a fifth grader, that critical race theory was a high brow discipline sometimes studied in law schools, and is absolutely not something taught to Virginia elementary and high school students. As if they assumed that people wouldn’t notice that programs and curricula explicitly grounded in CRT pedagogy, endorsed officially by the nation’s largest teacher’s union, was seeping into the schools.
Why did the sophisticated, consultant heavy, and poll savvy McAuliffe campaign lie? The most plausible answer is that it understood that the substance of a critical race theory pedagogy couldn’t be defended before voters in a campaign, knew it was extremely unpopular among people of all races, and knew also that it couldn’t be disavowed, because powerful constituencies within the Democratic party, especially the National Education Association, were too heavily invested in it. When push came to shove in a tight election, the establishment left wouldn’t stand up and fight for woke pedagogy.
Woke attitudes about law enforcement fared no better. The aptly named war on cops has been building for years, generating a narrative that most American police departments have been systematically oppressing black people. Its first major significant victory came in New York, with a series of court rulings against the NYPD’s policies of proactive policing, sometimes called “stop and frisk,” in 2013. Stop and frisk had proven enormously successful in getting illegal guns and the criminals wielding them off the street, but the tactic almost invariably targeted young black men.
This made sense to those who believed police should focus their efforts on those neighborhoods plagued by a disproportionate share of illegal gun crime. But by the end of the Bloomberg mayoralty, ending proactive policing had become a liberal cause célèbre. The next year, when a black man from Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown, was killed while resisting arrest, the anti-police narrative exploded nationally, with major voices in the mainstream media giving oxygen to the idea that the nation’s police were waging a “genocidal” war against black people, that calling 911 was an effort to get black people murdered.
It was a lie of course—the number of unarmed black Americans killed by the police is small, not disproportional to the number of white people killed by the police and infinitesimal in comparison to number of black people killed by black criminals. But the sheer enormity of the lie—repeated incessantly—made it a widely accepted fact, if not a true one. If the police were indeed racist murderers as frequently portrayed, defunding police departments made a great deal of sense.
By the summer of 2020, the topic of racist policing dominated the national conversation; and left-wing candidates calling for abolition of police departments began winning democratic primaries. A month after George Floyd’s murder, Minneapolis’s City Council voted by a 9-3 margin to dismantle the police department altogether, replacing it with a social worker agency.
But it did not take long for anti-cop wave to peak. In Minneapolis, as murders surged 50 percent and the number of downtown shootings doubled, city residents mobilized against the City Council’s anti-cop campaign. In Dallas, the City Council moved to hire more cops. In New York, progressives were stunned when a former black cop running on a law-and-order platform trounced progressives in the Democratic mayoral primary, while running up impressive margins in black and Latino working class districts. On election day last November, a defund-the-police socialist who had won the Democratic primary in Buffalo lost the general election even though she was the only person on the ballot. In Minneapolis, voters rejected an abolish the police department ballot measure decisively. In very liberal Seattle, an actual Republican won the city attorney race.
A restoration of the kind of policing that cut crime rates so successfully in the 1990s won’t come quickly—much legal damage had been done to inhibit effective policing, while in many cities left-wing district attorneys, elected late in the last decade in low turnout elections and committed to not putting criminals in jail, remain in office. But a 30 percent rise in murders in 2020—the largest since records have been kept, and a surge in violent crime in nearly every major city has made defunding the police a non-starter.
These political battles over education and policing plainly originate from America’s long standing racial divisions of black and white. But they are now contested on a very different demographic playing field. After 40 years of historically high levels of immigration, the United States has a far different racial makeup than it did when Martin Luther King was assassinated. An influx of immigrants from Mexico, Latin America, Asia and the Mideast has reduced the white share of the population from over 85 percent to under 65 percent; among school children, “Anglo” white kids make up less than half.
There may be no more broadly accepted assumption about demographics in American politics than that the reduction of the white share of the population favors the left. This was true in the 1960s, when one progressive intellectual famously labeled the white race the cancer of human history. It was central to Jesse Jackson’s two presidential bids during the ’80s, where he touted a “Rainbow Coalition” of black, Latino, and progressive white voters. It was a theme of Mike Davis’s much-admired-on-the-left 1986 (and recently reissued) book Prisoners of the American Dream which forecast a “black and Latino working class, 50 million strong” spearheading the triumph over American imperialism. It is true of contemporary left-wing authors enthusing triumphantly over demographic transformation, like Steve Phillips (Brown is the New White), and of liberals like Ruy Teixeira (The Optimistic Leftist). The woke neologism BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) arose to underscore the implicit solidarity of all non-whites, the soon to be demographic majority, against a declining group of conservative white Americans.
This analysis is intuitively persuasive. It was also prominent in paleoconservative circles in the early 1990s; Peter Brimelow at National Review published essays showing the GOP shrinking to national irrelevance by the early middle of this century. To some extent it has been vindicated: California, which launched the political careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, has become a reliably one-party state and other states are moving in the same direction. On many issues, the new immigration probably has shifted the United States towards the left; certainly any kind of “old fashioned” rooted-in-land-and-tradition conservatism, including anything associated with Dixie, now has a smaller demographic base to appeal to.
But this is not the case for the particular issues that emanate from wokeness. To state the obvious, most Asian, Latino, and other non-white immigrants and their children are not that invested in black-white history and the proper negotiation of the historic wrongs white Americans have done to black Americans. The vast majority of them have lived all their American lives in a post-civil rights revolution country, where racial discrimination is carefully monitored and illegal. Their ancestors didn’t own slaves, nor fight a war to end slavery. They can’t easily be made to feel guilty about the American past, and despite great efforts by university social science departments, it is not so easy to get them to feel aggrieved by it either.
An unforeseen aspect of the wokeness phenomenon is how many new immigrants, or children of new immigrants, are playing critical roles in pushing back against it. Optimistic “immigrants are socially conservative” arguments have bandied around pro-immigration Republicans for decades (I was never one of them), but no one predicted the polemical vitality and occasional brilliance that would emerge from newer Americans as wokeness pushed into the center of the national agenda. Any list of names will leave out dozens, but those paying attention know that writers and activists as distinct in style and ideology as Andy Ngo, Wesley Yang, Zaid Jilani, Harmeet Dhillon, Sohrab Ahmari, and Melissa Chen—to pick a half dozen at random—are not only important in the pushback against wokeness, but that their arrival at the battlefield was an absolutely necessary reinforcement. Of course one could point to comparable numbers of woke leftists of recent immigrant background, but compared to their conservative counterparts they don’t seem important or agenda setting to a movement emotionally centered on black and white Americans.
Indeed, if one wanted to design a movement explicitly to alienate Asian Americans, it would be hard to improve on the woke’s agenda on law enforcement and schools. Some consequences of the war on cops and so-called “over-incarceration” were predictable: Police would retreat from proactive policing, and crime would rise. But no one foresaw that this would produce a surge in crime against Asians. The mainstream media took great pains to obfuscate the most salient aspects of this trend. Stories about it invariably mentioned former President Trump’s depiction of Covid-19 as the “China virus” so as to imply without saying that the hate crime perpetrators were white Trump supporters. Always highlighted was the horrific case of the white man who murdered several Asian massage parlor workers and others of different races on a killing spree apparently prompted by feelings of sexual guilt. But the reality is that what is experienced by many as an open season on vulnerable Asian Americans in our cities is driven by the same group that commits most American street crime.
One must assume Asian Americans know this. Last summer’s New York Times Magazine story about the murder of a Thai grandfather in San Francisco quoted his son-in-law, who had begun attending anti-Asian-hate rallies in the Bay Area and asking how many people there had been pushed or spat on, and by whom. Yes, many, was the response, always by a black person. This Times piece acknowledged, with seeming reluctance, that hate crimes against Asians were “more likely” to be committed by non-white people. A former Oakland police captain relates that suspects in anti-Asian hate crimes are almost exclusively black. In New York City, black people are six times more likely to commits hate crimes than white people, and comprise half the suspects in anti-Asian attacks. In the all too common videos of such attacks that show up on social media, the perpetrators are almost always black.
The tensions between the groups have roots which have not been systematically explored, but were evident as early as the racially incendiary 1990 boycott of Korean grocery stores in Brooklyn and the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Of course, all ethnic and racial groups suffer from rising crime, and those in black neighborhoods are numerically most victimized by it. But in the past year of racial reckoning, the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes does, to say the least, complicate the woke narrative of an ascendant Rainbow coalition struggling to overcome white supremacy.
Everyone opposes hate crimes, and it requires some deductive reasoning to connect liberal campaigns against proactive policing, bail reform to keep suspects out of incarceration, progressive district attorneys determined to reduce the number of black Americans jailed for “minor” offenses, and the broader war on cops, to the surge in criminal attacks on vulnerable citizens.
The education issue is far more direct. For years, progressive educators have railed against standardized tests as barriers to racial equity. They have won some stunning recent victories: The University of California has ceased using the SAT as means for sorting applicants, and hundreds of other colleges have followed suit.
The SAT has not been discredited as a metric for determining the likelihood of a student succeeding academically; for that it has no equal. Its problem is a political one: Standardized test results reveal with considerable precision how much of a leg up is given to black students in college admissions competition over white and especially Asian students. The frequent result is a mismatch between student and institution where black students have less developed academic skills than their classmates, with many pooling in the bottom of the class. Some of the most notorious instances of woke cancel culture deployed against truthful speech have occurred when professors who had noticed and lamented these facts were hunted down by leftist students and subsequently dismissed from their jobs.
But in terms of potential to spark a widespread disaffection, the five decades long dispute over affirmative action in college admissions will pale next to the battles over the use of standardized tests for granting admission to academically selective high schools and curricula. In the past year of racial reckoning, the use of student standardized test scores for admission has been dropped or rolled back in Lowell High School in San Francisco, the Boston Latin School, and Thomas Jefferson High school in northern Virginia. Outgoing New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio sought unsuccessfully to have the tests banned entirely for its top schools, the storied Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science, and is still maneuvering to reduce the percentage of students admitted to those schools by exam only. His rationale is that they aren’t sufficiently diverse—at this point more Asians pass the exams than other groups and black students do so at comparatively low rates.
Not surprisingly, Asian parents from New York to California have begun to mobilize politically and legally to combat what is quite plainly an effort to tilt a level playing field against their children. (In San Francisco their pressure has at least temporarily kept in place the exam as criterion for admission to Lowell.) In picking a fight against the exam high schools, Democratic politicians following the woke playbook have chosen to attack an institution vitally important to one of the country’s most dynamic and academically successful immigrant groups. For the first time since the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, grassroots organizations of Asian parents are at odds with Democratic politicians.
Wai Wah Chin, president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, observes (in an interview on Glenn Loury’s podcast) that De Blasio and other Democrats pitch their campaign against the high performance schools in the language of representation, claiming that the student bodies of Bronx Science and Stuyvesant are not “representative” of New York. (Former New York schools chancellor Richard Carranza had gone further, warning Asian parents to back down with the menacing formulation that “no ethnic group owns admission to these schools.”) In response, Chin makes the necessary point: The kids who pass the rigorous math and verbal exams are not “representing” anyone but themselves. They have studied as individuals and take the exam as individuals, representing not a community but their own efforts. She adds that the student’s family or community might feel pride in their accomplishment; one could add that all Americans might feel proud of these incredibly successful schools. Graduates of Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech have won an extraordinary 14 Nobel Prizes in the sciences, more than many countries. Wai Wah Chin’s assertion stands directly against the racial essentialism that lies at the core of wokeness.
The issue is broader than the select exam schools which admit the cream of the student crop. There is a nationwide movement to eliminate tracking of students by ability. California, following San Francisco’s lead, is eliminating the teaching of algebra to eighth graders, which means far fewer public school students will have the opportunity to take calculus in high school. This will narrow the pipeline of students who might go on to pursue STEM majors in college and in their careers. The rationale for such changes is always the woke watchword “equity,” followed by lamentations that white and Asian students are overrepresented in advanced math courses. But of course parents of bright students want their kids to be challenged in school, and inevitably America as a whole will suffer if they are not. As one California math teacher put it, “I feel so bad for these students. We are cutting the legs of the students to make them equal to those who are not doing well in math.”
But if recent social history shows anything, it is that parents will fight harder over the education of their children than almost any issue. All over the country, parent groups are mobilizing—Asian parent groups often in the lead. As school questions emerge as hot button political issues, it will become apparent that the woke project of dumbing down schools to promote equity will fare no better than defunding the police.
The most widely noted defection from the anti-whiteness coalition comes from Latinos, emerging as the second largest demographic group in the country. Long viewed as the bedrock of any leftist Rainbow Coalition, there were certainly enough visible left-wing Latinos in academia to give this a certain plausibility. But it’s not turning out that way. Latinos remain a largely Democratic constituency, voting roughly 60 percent for Biden over Donald Trump. But this is a 16 percent drop from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 levels, a remarkable shift.
Polling shows Hispanics lukewarm towards the Black Lives Matter movement, favoring it at lower rates than whites did (the question was posed at a time when support for BLM was assumed to be the only possible opinion for decent people). Latinos oppose reparations and defunding the police, core components of the woke agenda, by more than 2-1 margins. As Ruy Teixeira, a long time proponent of the view that Hispanic immigration was a key to solid Democratic majorities, recently put it, “clearly this constituency does not harbor particularly radical views on the nature of American society and its supposed intrinsic racism and white supremacy.” Others noted that Hispanics are now jailed at lower rates than white Americans, and are increasingly employed in law enforcement.
Few discern specific issues for the shift, though it is unlikely that woke efforts to neuter the Spanish language with terms like “Latinx” have attracted more Latinos and Latinas to the Democrats. Might the trend continue towards transforming Hispanics into a group politically analogous to Reagan Democrats—that is, a formerly Democratic working- and middle-class constituency that now votes GOP? It seems improbable, but no one predicted that a candidate could be as tough on border enforcement as Donald Trump and experience a dramatic gain in Latino votes.
The fundamental political error of wokeness lies in its judgement about how popular a movement based on anti-whiteness is likely to be in a nation increasingly less European in ancestry. Immigrants have come to America for many reasons, but a hatred of “white supremacy” is probably nowhere near the top for the vast majority. One could easily surmise that many of them are motivated by appreciation of the very qualities wokeness either deplores or works to undermine: law and order, careers open to talents, advanced levels of science and technology—and the legal and cultural structures that make those things possible.
A passage from David Reiff’s book on Los Angeles from more than three decades ago comes to mind: In the coda of one chapter, Rieff describes a billboard for a Mexican beer, then visible in nearly every Mexican town, which touts the product as “a high class blonde,” double meaning very much intended. It played on aspiration, the kind that prompted men from Mexican small towns to decamp for Mexico City, or ultimately to Los Angeles, “the greatest blonde of all.”
One of the more provocative interpretations of the origins of the relatively new movement to bring critical race theory into the teaching of elementary and high school students was suggested, almost as an aside, by Wesley Yang. Sometime in the late 2000s or early 2010s, the left looked at Latino immigration and realized that a considerable degree of assimilation was actually happening: that the Latino working class was not drinking in the vaguely Marxist ideologies incubating in university ethnic studies departments, and that there was actually a possibility—perceived by the left as a danger—that just as (according to ethnic studies phraseology popular on the left) Irish and Italian immigrants had been “allowed to become white,” the same thing was happening to non-European immigrants as well. Critical race theory thus developed as a kind of reaction, to indoctrinate school-aged children of the new immigration into a kind of racial essentialism, to deflect them from an assimilationist path.
Yang’s suggestion would correlate with Eric Kaufmann’s argument in Whiteshift, a detailed and comprehensive study of demographic transformations and evolving racial attitudes likely to occur in the West. Intermarriage rates between white Americans and new immigrants or their children are fairly high, and over time the boundaries of whiteness will expand—American and other Western majorities won’t be exclusively white any longer, but they will have some connection to white ancestry; they will acknowledge and feel cultural ties to the traditional heroes of their nations. This may be an overly optimistic view, but recent American elections do nothing to contradict it.
What does that mean for the trajectory of wokeness? If one is inclined towards optimism, one can see signs that the movement has already peaked. Clearly the national conversation is not where it was in the summer of 2020. Andrew Sullivan wrote recently how he was cheered by the HBO mini-series The White Lotus, in which the obvious villains were two highly privileged very woke college students. A similar point could be made about The Chair, a miniseries about an Asian-American woman (starring and co-produced by Sandra Oh) assuming the English department chairmanship of a Williams or Amherst type college; there too the villains are Red Guard type students who concoct spurious accusations of “Nazism” against an undisciplined professor, who is portrayed sympathetically. Would either have been aired last year? The New York Times, having last year pushed out Bari Weiss and James Bennet to appease woke staffers, suddenly found the will to give a small slot in its opinion page roster to John McWhorter, author of a brilliant book hostile to wokeness.
It can be notoriously difficult to read accurately the tenor of one’s own times. Historians can point to many private letters of learned people written well before the darkest nights of communism and Nazism, assuring one another that the worst was certainly over and things would soon improve. Still, it strikes me that America’s liberal elite is beginning to find wokeness a bit embarrassing. What does the president of Yale really think about his diversity deans publicly threatening a law student for sending an email that used the phrase “trap house”?
The actual number of the woke remains small—perhaps 6 percent of the population, according to Pew surveys of American political attitudes. It is educated, it is mostly white, it is heavily concentrated in the media and universities. But it isn’t powerful enough to control the country if majorities are mobilized to resist it.
Overcoming wokeness will require real political will and courage, as well as legislation. At some point there will need to be a successful legal challenge to the idea that disparate income and disproportionate racial outcomes by themselves constitute sufficient evidence of racial discrimination, but that too is in the realm of the possible. As voters from New York City to Buffalo to Seattle showed without ambiguity, when wokeness is on the ballot and opposed vigorously, it loses. In activism and voting patterns, America’s most rapidly growing demographic groups are largely showing themselves indifferent or actively hostile to woke policies. If the tide is indeed turning, in a few years wokeness will be more mocked than celebrated. If not, America’s long reign as a relatively successful country will end.
The Democrat is running against Trump while Virginia voters worry about the education of their kids.
When Terry McAuliffe won the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia, he probably expected to defeat Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin without breaking a sweat. McAuliffe is a former Virginia governor with decades of political experience and countless connections. Youngkin began the race with little political experience and less name recognition. Yet McAuliffe clearly is sweating the gubernatorial race, and for good reason. The polls show Youngkin surging to a tie with him and suggest that the Republican is making inroads among crucial voter blocs whose support McAuliffe can’t afford to lose. According to a Monmouth University poll published October 20, for example, Youngkin has gained considerable support among independents and women:
The biggest swing in support from Monmouth’s last poll comes from independent voters, registering a 48% to 39% lead for Youngkin now compared with a 37% to 46% deficit in September. Youngkin has also cut into McAuliffe’s advantage with women voters. The Democrat currently has a narrow edge among women (47% to 43%), down from a sizable 14-point lead last month (52% to 38%).
In addition, Republicans are far more engaged and are widening their enthusiasm advantage:
This metric stood at a 13-point Republican advantage in prior polls — 34% GOP to 21% Democrat in August and 44% to 31% in September. That disparity has grown to a 23-point chasm in the current poll — 49% GOP to 26% Democrat.
These numbers clearly indicate that Youngkin enjoys growing momentum at a point in the race when McAuliffe has little time to turn the tide. Normally, the presence of a recently-elected Democrat in the White House could offer some assistance, but President Biden’s approval numbers are underwater by nearly 10 points according to the RealClearPolitics average. If Biden campaigns for McAuliffe next week it will likely depress Democratic enthusiasm. Nor is it helpful that the only black politician ever elected governor in Virginia, Douglas Wilder, has chastised the McAuliffe campaign for illegally playing an electioneering ad featuring Vice President Harris in black churches. The Washington Examiner reports that Wilder said, “If this is legal, then it’s surprising to me.”
Former president Obama has also cut an ad for McAuliffe in addition to campaigning with him on Saturday. Even if this increases the number of votes McAuliffe receives, it’s unlikely to be enough to offset his politically untenable position on public education. His campaign has failed to overcome the ill will he created among voters by declaring, during the final gubernatorial debate, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” McAuliffe has attempted to spin his way out of that blunder, but the voters are just not able to unhear that startling assertion. He is now trying to change the subject to … Trump. In a recent interview with WJLA 7News he responded to a question about the proper role of parents in education with a 237-word periphrasis ending thus:
Glenn Youngkin has a Donald Trump Betsey DeVos plan. He has said publicly many times he will take money out of public schools and put them into private. The Washington Post just did an editorial and three independent reviews have been done on Glenn’s plan: 43,000 teachers will be cut in Virginia.
WJLA reporter Nick Minock put this to Youngkin who dismissed it as a sign of desperation:
I believe Terry McAuliffe is doing what you would expect from a 43-year career political operative when he sees the race slipping away is he doesn’t want to run against me. He wants to do anything he can to change this to a race against somebody else. And the reality is that it’s Glenn Youngkin on the ballot.
This description of McAuliffe’s campaign is all too accurate. During one 12-minute CNN interview conducted on October 10, he mentioned former President Trump no fewer than 18 times. This got so awkward that host Dana Bash joked, “I’m glad I have two cups [of coffee] here, so I can keep drinking when you mention Donald Trump’s name.” He rarely makes a speech without calling Glenn Youngkin “a Trump wannabe.” And, when asked about his controversial contention that parents should not tell schools what to teach, he invariably avoids answering the question by reciting the conspiracy theory about Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos. This makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that Youngkin is correct about McAuliffe’s increasing desperation.
Perhaps the most embarrassingly desperate act of the McAuliffe campaign, however, was its ridiculous attempt to smear Youngkin as a sleazy showbiz crook who somehow bilked singer Taylor Swift. The Daily Beast informs us that the McAuliffe campaign actually invested in a series of digital ads on Facebook in which the Democratic gubernatorial candidate asks, “Did you know that Republican candidate for governor, Glenn Youngkin, helped buy Taylor Swift’s masters out from under her when he was co-CEO of the Carlyle Group?” This blockbuster revelation, in the unlikely event that it is true, presumably sewed up the Taylor Swift constituency. It isn’t clear, however, that this burning issue will be enough to get McAuliffe over the top in the Old Dominion.
In the end, McAuliffe’s last best hope is that the federal bureaucrats who have colonized northern Virginia will vote in large enough numbers to save him. That’s how he won in 2013. In 2021, however, those voters have something in common with Youngkin’s supporters — they are parents who want their children educated rather than indoctrinated. Moreover, many of the school board protests that have made national news occurred in Fairfax and Loudoun counties in northern Virginia. Most of those protests have been against the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools. Glenn Youngkin has pledged to ban the teaching of CRT on his first day in office if elected governor.
A Fox News poll published on October 14 found that a 57 percent of Virginia’s parents believe they should tell schools what to teach, and that only 40 percent of likely voters agree with McAuliffe’s stated position. If these numbers accurately reflect the attitude of the Commonwealth’s voters, particularly as they relate to those residing in the state’s northern counties, it is entirely possible that Virginia is about to send former Gov. McAuliffe and the Democratic Party in general to school.
And the need for a conservative education agenda
A single exchange may decide the Virginia governor’s race. At one point during a September 28 debate, Republican Glenn Youngkin slammed his opponent, former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe, for vetoing a 2017 bill that would have allowed parents to remove their children from courses studying sexually explicit material. McAuliffe shrugged off the criticism. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” he said.
If you live in Virginia, as I do, then you have heard McAuliffe saying those words approximately a gazillion times on television, where they are replayed ad nauseam in one of Youngkin’s most effective attack ads. The former Carlyle Group executive and political newcomer clearly believes that grassroots outrage at the educational system will provide him the winning margin in what is now a tossup election. On the banner of Youngkin’s website is a tab that reads “Parents Matter.” Among the items in his “day one game plan” is a promise to ban instruction in “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). “This is no longer a campaign,” Youngkin recently told a crowd in Winchester, Va., according to the New York Times. “This is a movement. It’s a movement led by parents.”
It sure is. The question is where the movement is going. So far, the revolt over politically correct and anti-American curricula has produced more heat than light. Loudoun County, Va., the epicenter of this latest populist rebellion, has become a stand-in for national polarization and tribalism, as the left-leaning school board engages in bitter fights with well-organized parents. Several states already have banned CRT, including materials based on the New York Times’s “1619 Project,” a factitious revision of U.S. history whose absurd premise is that the American Revolution was fought to protect slavery. Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s politicized Justice Department has promised to investigate threats against school boards and educators. No one seems able to agree on what, exactly, CRT is, but that doesn’t really matter for either side. What matters is the fight.
If it propels Youngkin to Richmond, then, the debate over education may end up looking like a wasted opportunity, a moment for serious thought and policy creativity that was frittered away in exercises of mutual fear, loathing, and contempt. For example: Even if we can agree on a definition of CRT that doesn’t inadvertently include fair-minded social studies in slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement, expunging this balkanizing and corrosive ideology from schools is just a first step. There is more to be done.
Yet the rest of Youngkin’s education platform is vague. It includes keeping schools open, “Restoring High Expectations & Getting Every Student College or Career Ready,” “Rebuilding Crumbling Schools, Raising Teacher Pay, & Investing in Special Education Programs,” and “Creating at least 20 New Innovation Charter Schools across the K-12 Spectrum to Provide Choice.” In a July speech, Youngkin pledged to retain advanced math courses and reimpose pre-McAuliffe standards.
This smallball is not new. Of the four character-shaping institutions of family, faith, neighborhood, and school, conservatives have had the least to say about education. They lament its sorry state. They say it is not a federal responsibility even though the Department of Education remains standing after both Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich vowed to eliminate it, and no one calls for the repeal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. They rightfully and productively expand homeschooling and school choice, without paying close enough attention to the 90 percent of students who attend some 100,000 K-12 public schools across the country. They somewhat reluctantly went along with George W. Bush’s efforts to impose school standards in the 2000s but did not know where to turn after the collapse of the test-based accountability model of education reform.
Former secretary of education William J. Bennett often speaks of the “three Cs”: choice, content, and character. The Youngkin plan gestures toward choice, issues vague calls for less politicized, more rigorous content, and overlooks character entirely. This final omission is a shame because, in its malign and counterproductive way, CRT or “antiracist” curriculum is itself a form of character education.
Progressives have long treated the public school as the place where children receive the knowledge, traits, and habits necessary for life in a modern democracy. Today, in the worldview of the education establishment—what Bennett calls “the Blob”—that means teaching to the lowest common denominator and avoiding or downplaying assessments under which some students fall short. It means inducing feelings, depending on the student, of shame or self-esteem. It means reducing individuals to physical characteristics, fostering the idea that these characteristics determine most if not all life outcomes, and dividing the world between oppressor and oppressed. Is it any wonder that the institutions premised on such ideas tend to mold individuals with guilt-ridden, suspicious, agonistic, fragile characters who can’t read or write or perform basic math?
Ambitious conservatives have to think bigger. Try improving teacher quality through licensing reform. Charter schools can be excellent, but what about incentivizing learning pods and investing heavily in Career and Technical Education? Last year, my American Enterprise Institute colleague Frederick M. Hess sketched out a fulsome education agenda in the pages of National Affairs. The ideas are there. Someone needs to pick them up.
And soon. In the absence of leadership that provides alternatives to liberal programs, conservatives assume a negative attitude and defensive crouch on issue after issue. Education is no exception. Progressive outrages spawn populist backlashes that may block the most egregious initiatives and embarrass their most radical proponents, but in the end not much changes. Why? Because conservatives are unable to agree on specific and lasting measures to reshape the institutional structure in ways that improve social conditions and restore civil peace. This isn’t conjecture. This is the failure to repeal Obamacare in 2017.
“A populist upsurge always points to very real problems that ought to be on our political agenda,” wrote Irving Kristol in 1972. “But populism itself usually misperceives these problems, and the solutions it proposes are, more often than not, illusory.” It would be a partial and ultimately unsatisfactory outcome if the parental revolt over the high-handedness and lunatic wokism of the educational system exhausts itself, like the Tea Party movement of the 2010s, in a combination of electoral victory and policy defeat. Time for Glenn Youngkin to hit the books.
Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe said in 2019 that implementing a “diversity” and “inclusion” curriculum is “just as important as your math class [and] your English class.”
“We’ve got to do a better job in our education system. … Early on, we’ve got to start teaching, talking about these issues, much earlier than we’ve done it before. We don’t do a good job in our education system talking about diversity, inclusion, openness and so forth. We don’t,” McAuliffe said in a 2019 interview on C-SPAN’s “After Words.” “We got our textbooks, but you know there has to be a big part of ‘how do you fit in into the social work of our nation and our fabric?’ How is it that we deal with one another is to me as important as your math class, your English class and so forth.”
McAuliffe joined the show to promote his book “Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism” and demand change to combat the “racism” that he claimed was plaguing the nation.
“Elected officials need to lean in on these issues because racism is prevalent today in this country,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe has repeatedly denied that critical race theory is taught in the state even though, while he was governor from 2014-2018, the Virginia Department of Education explicitly pushed public schools to “embrace critical race theory” and “engage in race-conscious teaching and learning.”
More recently, communications obtained by Judicial Watch indicate that Loudoun County Public Schools made a long, coordinated effort to ensure that critical race theory was institutionalized despite public opposition. In one email, LCPS Superintendent Scott Ziegler tried to calm concerns from parents about racist teachings by claiming that the “Rumors Concerning LCPS Equity Work” are confusing critical race theory and culturally responsive teaching. When Ziegler tried to distinguish between the two, he merely affirmed that the district was asking “employees to examine their own personal biases and how they might affect student instruction and interactions with the community.”
“Concepts such as white supremacy and systemic racism are discussed during professional development,” he wrote. “LCPS has not adopted Critical Race Theory as a framework for staff to adhere to.”
Crazy but true: Critics of the Biden administration's critical race ideology and coronavirus policies have been classified as domestic terror threats.
It is no coincidence that the Department of Justice heeded the National School Boards Association’s call for the Biden administration to target parents critical of critical race theory curricula and dubious coronavirus policies in schools by labeling them domestic terrorists and mobilizing the DOJ and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The administration’s National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism mandates just such chilling action.
That little-discussed but hugely significant document codifies a War on Wrongthink, demanding that the full weight of the federal government and private-sector allies like Big Tech be brought to bear against dissenters from Biden regime orthodoxy. Consider “pillar four” of the strategy, titled “Confront Long-Term Contributors to Domestic Terrorism.” It reads in part:
…tackling the threat posed by domestic terrorism over the long term demands substantial efforts to confront the racism that feeds into aspects of that threat. We are, therefore, prioritizing efforts to ensure that every component of the government has a role to play in rooting out racism and advancing equity for under–served communities that have far too often been the targets of discrimination and violence. This approach must apply to our efforts to counter domestic terrorism by addressing underlying racism and bigotry.
On day one of the Biden presidency, the administration issued an executive order lamenting America’s “systemic racism.” In response, it called for the administration to pursue “an ambitious whole-of-government equity agenda.”
It also revoked the Trump administration’s executive order barring training of federal employees in “anti-American race … stereotyping and scapegoating” — an implicit reference to critical race theory and related critiques of America. This revocation could be seen as at minimum a tacit endorsement of CRT, as could the Biden administration’s dissolution of the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, a group whose work could be seen as challenging CRT.
A Department of Education proposal in April represented a more direct demonstration of the Biden administration’s pro-CRT position. The rule would have prioritized grants for American history and civics programs that “incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives,” citing as examples The New York Times’ 1619 Project and “anti-racist” par excellence Ibram X. Kendi.
The rule promoted “culturally responsive teaching,” which Ethics and Public Policy Center senior fellow Stanley Kurtz describes as an “ultra-woke and utterly politicized pedagogy derived from Critical Race Theory.” That rule was ultimately shelved amid a massive backlash, but the administration’s position was made clear: It fully supports critical race theory.
It stands to reason that the Biden administration would see support of CRT as consistent with its “equity” agenda, and therefore opposition to CRT as an impediment to it. “Equity” is a concept firmly rooted in the “anti-racism” of the likes of Kendi. Kendi asserts that “Antiracist ideas argue that racist policies are the cause of racial inequities.” CRT is therefore an anti-racist idea. To critical race theorists, then, opposing them is racist.
If, as the Biden administration argues, countering domestic terror, the greatest threat of which comes from white supremacism, requires “addressing underlying racism and bigotry,” as the national strategy says; and opposition to CRT is racist; then targeting CRT critics becomes a national security imperative.
With respect to the Chinese coronavirus, the Biden administration’s purported counter-terror strategy quotes from a March 2021 intelligence community domestic violent extremism (DVE) threat assessment noting that “Newer sociopolitical developments—such as narratives of … conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic … will almost certainly spur some DVEs to try to engage in violence this year.”
That assessment followed a January 2021 national terrorism advisory bulletin noting that in 2020 “domestic violent extremists” were motivated by “anger over COVID-19 restrictions” and that “Threats of violence against critical infrastructure … increased in 2020 with violent extremists citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about COVID-19 for their actions.”
Subsequently, an August 2021 national terrorism advisory bulletin warned that:
…anti-government/anti-authority violent extremists will remain a national threat priority for the United States. These extremists may seek to exploit the emergence of COVID-19 variants by viewing the potential re-establishment of public health restrictions across the United States as a rationale to conduct attacks.
The bulletin cited “continued, non-specific calls for violence on multiple online platforms associated with DVE ideologies or conspiracy theories on…alleged reinstatement, and responses to anticipated restrictions relating to the increasing COVID cases.”
The Biden administration of course supports more restrictive coronavirus measures generally, and has vowed to combat policies barring universal masking in classrooms — the kind of policy parents have protested nationwide. Its purported counterterror strategy notes that “domestic terrorists” “espouse a range of violent ideological motivations,” including not just racism but “anti-government or anti-authority sentiment.”
The Biden administration apparently believes challenges to school boards on its favored coronavirus policies reflect such anti-government or anti-authority sentiment, as the DOJ memorandum responding to the NSBA argues that it is compelled to act given “Threats against public servants.” The NSBA notes that “groups” are “spreading misinformation that [school] boards are … working to maintain online learning by haphazardly attributing it to COVID-19.”
The Biden strategy calls for “enhancing faith in government and addressing the extreme polarization, fueled by a crisis of disinformation and misinformation … which can tear Americans apart and lead some to violence … Enhancing faith in American democracy demands accelerating work to contend with an information environment that challenges healthy democratic discourse. We will work toward finding ways to counter the influence and impact of dangerous conspiracy theories that can provide a gateway to terrorist violence.”
Seeking to frighten parents into silence by threatening to sic our nation’s most powerful law enforcement bodies on them for challenging critical race theory, or coronavirus policies, would seem to be perfectly consistent with the Biden administration’s “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.”
Its reach is virtually limitless if dissent from the regime’s agenda constitutes a danger to “democracy.” At minimum, it should be clear that critics of the regime’s CRT ideology, and coronavirus policies, have been classified as threats.
The irony here, in the case of school boards, is that to justify its call for federal protection, the NSBA cites all of two instances where individuals were arrested at school board meetings for their behavior. Those two arrests concerned disgruntled parents at board meetings, one of whom allegedly struck a school official escorting him from the premises, and another of whom reportedly physically threatened someone and resisted arrest.
These acts are unacceptable, and anyone who breaks laws ought to be prosecuted accordingly. But is this the stuff of domestic terrorism?
Otherwise, the NSBA largely substantiates its concerns by flagging a series of disrupted school board meetings, some ending in the face of “angry mobs”; a report of menacing social media posts threatening several schools without any readily discernible connection to school boards and their positions on CRT or Chinese coronavirus policies; and another report that “A resident in Alabama, who proclaimed himself as “vaccine police,” has called school administrators while filming himself on Facebook Live.”
It appears the NSBA actually got this story wrong. “Vaccine police,” according to the link it includes, was “confronting pharmacists in a Missouri Walmart.”
Once again, is this the stuff of domestic terrorism? Is the threat so dire that it demands, as the NSBA called for, the intervention of no less than: the Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center, and U.S. Postal Service, under laws including the Gun-Free School Zones Act, PATRIOT Act, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights statute, Conspiracy Against Rights statute, an executive order to enforce all applicable federal laws for the protection of students and public school district personnel, and any related measure?
So far, the Biden administration has only enlisted a subset of these agencies, but perhaps more is to come. One thing is clear: The Biden administration’s War on Wrongthink, masquerading as a domestic counterterrorism mission, will inflict infinitely more terror on America than will loving and impassioned parents concerned about the education and health of their children in the taxpayer-funded schools.
Over the last year, teachers and administrators nationwide have weaponized K-12 education, injecting progressive politics into classrooms, and indoctrinating students with novel social justice dogma, including theories that call for racialized curriculums and reverse discrimination to achieve racial equity.
Mainstream media outlets and left-wing commentators have accused conservatives of demonizingcritical race theory, and turning an obscure academic theory into a rightwing “bogeyman.” But there sure are a lot of examples of it turning up in schools across the country, from big city Democratic strongholds to suburban districts in red America. The following are summaries of just a small number of the fights that have erupted in the last year.
Princeton Offering ‘#Black Lives Matter’ Class Taught By CRT Advocate
Princeton University is offering a “#BlackLivesMatter” course this fall, where students can learn about the “historical roots and growth” of the “social movement” from a professor with a “commitment” to critical race theory.
The class, first reported by The College Fix, includes readings from former Black Panther member Angela Davis, a two-time vice-presidential candidate of the Communist Party who once made the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
The course description says the class “seeks to document the forms of dispossession that Black Americans face, and offers a critical examination of the prison industrial complex, police brutality, urban poverty, and white supremacy in the US.”
It says the Black Lives Matter movement and the course are “committed to resisting, unveiling, and undoing histories of state sanctioned violence against Black and Brown bodies.”
The course will be taught by professor Hanna Garth, who has described herself as a person who is “broadly interested in the ways in which people struggle to overcome structural violence.”
“All of my research, teaching, and mentoring is designed around my commitment to feminist methodologies and critical race theory,” Garth writes on her personal website.
She has previously taught courses including “Race and Racisms,” “Postcolonial and Decolonial Theory,” and “Theories of Social Justice.”
Fairfax County Schools Sent Second Graders a Video Vilifying Police: ‘I Feel Safe When There Are No Police’
Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) sent second-graders a “summer learning guide” in July which included a Youtube video titled “Woke Kindergarten” that vilified the police.
Centered around the importance of “feeling safe,” the video, which was obtained by Parents Defending Education, presents a slideshow of photos featuring groups of young African Americans, some of whom are holding Black Lives Matter signs.
“We deserve to feel safe in our homes… I feel safe when there are no police. And it’s no one’s job to tell me how I feel. But it’s everyone’s job to make sure that people who are being treated unfairly……feel safe too,” a narrator says.
The “suggested texts” section of the summer learning guide also recommends students listen to “Good Trouble by Ki,” which instructs students on the merits of civil disobedience.
The narrator of another video, intended for seven-year-olds, tells students, “sometimes it’s good to get into trouble.” The video also presents a sequence of photos depicting social justice demonstrations, some from the modern day and some taken during the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century.
In a reference to Representative John Lewis’ 2020 speech in Selma, Alabama commemorating Bloody Sunday, the video adds, “John Lewis was a freedom fighter who got in a lot of good trouble.”
“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America,” Lewis declared at the 2020 event.
Over the last year, the Fairfax school system has become a notorious hotbed for many of the progressive developments taking root in public K-12 education across the country. Teachers have been instructed to use students preferred pronouns and an aggressive form of diversity, equity, and inclusion curricula has taken hold. Teachers in the district have also resisted efforts to return to in-person learning.
On the radicalized curriculum front, prominent journalist Asra Nomani criticized the district’s decision to change a rule guiding how contentious topics are discussed in the classroom.
The district leaders announced they would be “revising the existing Controversial Issues Policy and developing a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy.”
Nomani told National Review that she believes the curriculum revision is laying the foundation for progressive activists to impose “anti-racist” indoctrination and critical race theory on students.
Teachers’ Union Sues Rhode Island Mother for Over-Requesting Public Records on CRT in School District
Nicole Solas, a mother of a kindergartner in South Kingston, R.I., was sued by a powerful teachers’ union earlier this week after she requested documents surrounding the teaching of Critical Race Theory and related concepts at her daughter’s public school.
After hearing reports that teachers refused to address students as “boys” and “girls,” Solas grew concerned that progressive indoctrination was infiltrating her child’s classroom.
Denied both a tour of the elementary school and an un-redacted copy of its curriculum, Solas identified an avenue to inquire directly about the district’s social justice agenda without incurring the exorbitant cost many parents confront just to gain access to information about their children’s schooling.
In July, The Goldwater Institute filed a public records request on Solas behalf, resulting in her receiving a $74,000 bill to fulfill it, according to The Goldwater Institute.
To avoid paying thousands of dollars, Solas submitted over 160 specific public records requests, narrowing the scope to six months and requesting digital rather than hard copies, to investigate the school district’s plans to introduce critical race theory and other equity and inclusion initiatives, GoLocalProv reported.
Among the records Solas requested were documents pertaining to the influence of the AFL-CIO and NEA unions and teacher discipline and performance, as well as emails sent by various district administrators over the last six months, according to the lawsuit.
To justify the legality of filing so many records requests at once, Solas cited a provision in the state Access to Public Records Act (APRA) law, which holds that “[M]ultiple requests from any person or entity to the same public body within a thirty (30) day time period shall be considered one request,” according to her own account.
But the local branch of the National Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the country, sued Solas alleging that she unfairly inundated the district with solicitations for documents, some of which are obscure items that do not constitute public records.
The lawsuit’s declaratory judgement reads, “The APRA system is not an alternative to the civil discovery process and is not to be used for abusive purposes or a fishing expedition – it was not intended to ’empower the press and the public with carte blanche to demand all records held by public agencies.”
The South Kingston School Committee subsequently hosted a public meeting, listing “filing lawsuit against Nicole Solas to challenge filing of over 160 APRA requests” as a major agenda item. Solas contended that such a meeting was designed to pressure her to prove the case for her requests or threaten her with litigation, in violation of the APRA law, which prohibits a government body from compelling a citizen to explain requests for public records.
Represented by a legal team from The Goldwater Institute, Solas intends to fight the NEA’s challenge in court to defend parents’ right and entitlement to obtain knowledge about their kids’ education and school system.
Two Moms Fought against Left-Wing Indoctrination. Their Kids Paid the Price
Two moms decided to push back when their kids’ elite private school, the Columbus Academy, sent home a “Justice in June” email announcing a series of new diversity and equity initiatives.
The email included a list of daily activities that read like a progressive wish list. Read about white privilege, the 1619 Project, and the case for reparations? Check. Donate money to progressive organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the Southern Poverty Law Center? Check. Advocate to reallocate city budgets by defunding the police? Check.
When the moms, Andrea Gross and Amy Gonzalez, began organizing fellow concerned parents and publicly criticizing the school’s new progressive orientation, it was their kids who paid the price; they were expelled.
Teachers, CRT Advocate Plotted to Keep Parents in the Dark About Social Justice Efforts
The curriculum-writing team in a suburban St. Louis school district plotted with a critical race theorist on how to keep parents “in the middle of Trump country” in the dark about their efforts to inject leftwing social justice advocacy into their classes.
During a webinar with members of the Francis Howell School District curriculum-writing team, the district’s equity consultant, LaGarrett J. King, told the group that “our social studies and our history curriculum is political and racist,” and “there is no such thing as neutral history.” He said the way history is taught is psychologically violent to black people, and the nations’ founding “means nothing to black people.” He asked the team members to question whether they are developing black history curriculums through the historical lens of “the oppressor.”
Teachers on the call asked King how they could reframe their classes to teach social justice concepts “in a highly conservative county … in the middle of Trump country.” King suggested they could drop controversial terms like “white privilege” while still getting the progressive message across to students. One white teacher on the call acknowledged that “Kids are way more open” to social justice teaching, “but then they go home and they tell their parents, and then their parents get upset.”
How Critical Race Theory Is Remaking a Connecticut School District
In the overwhelmingly white and moneyed town of Guildford, Connecticut, progressive parents and teachers have formed the Anti-Bias Anti-Racist Alliance(ABAR). The group intends to make “anti-racists” of each and every child who passes through the school district. ABAR says on its website, “In diving into this, you’ll find that the first critical step to raising anti-racist kids is to understand our own biases and identities, to ‘do the work’….We realize that as a predominantly white, cis-gendered community we are shaped by our privilege and limited ability to fully understand the impact of bias and racism.”
The group enjoys a powerful ally, Superintendent Paul Freeman. With him in charge, curriculum alteration is underway. At a recent social justice meeting he praised the formation and aims of ABAR, calling them “one of the brightest spots in the school year.” Freeman has a history of re-education pushes. In 2019 he had teachers create a “racial autobiography,” an accounting of the racial makeup of one’s life experiences, to illustrate the whiteness of their backgrounds. He then distributed copies of White Fragility and How to be an Anti-Racist to every teacher in the district using $6,000 taxpayer dollars to pay for the books.
Resistance to these “anti-racist” efforts is in its infancy, led by a fast-growing parent group called Truth in Education(TIE). TIE is now wrestling with the school district about having a public debate about critical race theory. The district denies they teach critical race theory in their schools and has rebuffed the debate requests.
How Southlake, Texas, Won Its Battle against Critical Race Theory
In Southlake, Texas, CRT activists and a conciliatory school board attempted to take over the Carroll School District curriculum via a hushed mid-summer vote. Southlake, an affluent Republican-voting suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth, was seventy-two hours from an “anti-racist” coup that would have meant a dramatic leftward shift for the district. The District Diversity Council crafted the proposal, called the Cultural Competence Action Plan(CCAP), to create an “anti-racist” culture in the district, replete with micro-aggression guidance and speech-policing policies.
Concerned parents flooded into the board meeting and delayed the vote on the proposed bill, allowing an anti-CRT coalition to form in the following weeks and secure seats on the school board. With historic turnout, there is confidence that the next election will raise their hold on the district 5-2, a bulwark against another attempt to pass the proposal. To many outside observers, this was the first resounding defeat of a CRT effort and can provide a playbook for parents elsewhere.
Head of Elite NYC Private School: ‘We’re Demonizing White People for Being Born’
The head of an elite New York City prep school privately acknowledged that the school’s anti-racism training is “demonizing white people for being born,” according to leaked audio from a conversation he had with an embattled teacher in March.
George Davison, the head of Grace Church School in Manhattan, told math teacher Paul Rossi that the school uses language that makes white students “feel less than, for nothing that they are personally responsible for,” and that “one of the things that’s going on a little too much” is the “attempt to link anybody who’s white to the perpetuation of white supremacy.”
“I also have grave doubts about some of the doctrinaire stuff that gets spouted at us, in the name of anti-racism,” Davison told Rossi, according to the recordings.
Rossi was relieved of his duties at Grace for calling out the school for its antiracist orthodoxy. During their conversation, Davison said he agreed with Rossi that “there has been a demonization that we need to get our hands around.”
Maryland Middle-Schoolers Taught that MAGA is White Supremacy
Thomas Pyle Middle School students in Montgomery County, Maryland, were taught that former-President Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” is an example of “covert white supremacy,” ranking only slightly less troubling than racial slurs, hate crimes and lynching, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.
Other examples of alleged white supremacy include: the belief that “we’re just one human family,” the one-time American ideal of colorblindness, celebrating Columbus Day, and the belief that through initiative and drive people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps to improve their lives, also known as “bootstrap theory.”
Students in the school’s social justice class were taught that white privilege means being favored by school authorities, having a positive relationship with police, “soaking in media blatantly biased toward my race,” and “living ignorant of the dire state of racism today.”
Montogomery County Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, recently spent over $454,000 for an “anti-racist system audit,” according to Judicial Watch.
Wealthy Washington D.C. Suburb is Ground Zero in Nation’s Culture Wars
In Loudoun County, Virginia parents fighting to reopen schools during the coronavirus pandemic joined forces with parents pushing back against leftwing political indoctrination, making the wealthy Washington D.C. suburb ground zero in the nation’s culture wars.
In early 2021, several video clips from the district’s school board meetings went viral.
There have been heated debates over the Loudoun County School District’s efforts to root out “white supremacy” and “systemic racism,” which many parents see as a blatant attempt to inject critical race theory into the schools. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, parents learned that the school district paid at least $422,000 to the Equity Collaborative, a CRT-espousing California-based consulting firm, to conduct a “systemic equity assessment.” In March, the district de-emphasized Dr. Seuss on Read Across America Day – held on Dr. Seuss’s birthday – because of “strong racial undertones” in many of his books. The district also has partnered with the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center to develop a social justice-inspired curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten.
The cultural battles in Loudoun County are broader than just fights over CRT. In May, a Christian elementary school teacher was suspended after he voiced opposition to a proposed district rule that would require faculty to acknowledge and address students by their preferred gender-identity pronouns. A judge later ordered that he be reinstated.
Maine School Committee Claims Society is ‘Built on White Supremacy’
In the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police last June, the equity committee in a far-away school district in Maine released a stunning letter. It was time, the committee members declared, to “dismantle the anti-Blackness all of us have internalized by living in a society built on white supremacy.”
The committee members wanted the entire Cumberland and North Yarmouth community to know that they were ready to make changes to the majority-white school district. “It is our duty,” they wrote, “to educate ourselves and dismantle the violent and oppressive structures which have kept us divided.” Black people “experience violence every single day because of our white supremacist society,” they added, and the community’s students needed to be taught that “Black Lives Matter.”
The school district has since paid over $12,000 for diversity and equity training from Community Change Inc., a non-profit that advocates to “end capitalism” and to “look at other economic models … such as socialism and anarchism.”
San Diego Teachers Taught They ‘Spirit Murder’ Black Students
White teachers in San Diego were taught during a training session last year that they are guilty of committing “spirit murder” against their black students.
In September, the San Diego Unified School District, hosted critical race theorist Bettina Love for a presentation on “Abolitionist Teaching.” The presentation centered around Love’s book, We Want To Do More Than Survive, and addressed the concept of “spirit murder,” which Love has described as “a death that is built on racism and intended to reduce, humiliate, and destroy people of color.”
The training was led by then-superintendent Cindy Marten, who has since been tapped by President Joe Biden to serve as his deputy secretary of education. Marten urged people attending the training to “recognize our privilege and bias.”
Kentucky Social Equity Course Didn’t Pass Neutrality Test
Concerned parents in a suburban Kentucky community organized in early 2021 to put the kibosh on a proposed social-equity course designed to teach about “the intersection of gender, race, class, and sexuality,” and to help students “create an action plan for future social change.”
A syllabus for the course at Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Ky., identified two “required textbooks” – Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be an Antiracist and Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility – which students would be asked to buy, with the hope that “these books will stay with you as a reminder of the work that we (society) need to do.”
In his book, Kendi argues in favor of race-based discrimination to achieve racial equity. DiAngelo suggests that white people should be viewed as a racist collective socialized to “fundamentally hate black people.” One of the teachers who helped develop the course has identified herself as a “dumb white girl with white privilege.”
The course was tabled because a school leader said it created “unnecessary division,” and did not pass the neutrality test.
Rhode Island Teacher Urges Students to Testify About Legislation She Opposes
A Barrington High School teacher in Rhode Island is accused of promoting political activism in her class after she emailed students this spring, mischaracterizing an anti-critical-race-theory bill in the legislature and urging students to testify about it with a promise of extra credit.
The teacher sent the email in late March, telling her students that bill H6070 – one of many bills in statehouses across the country aimed at stopping schools from preaching CRT-related concepts – would prohibit any discussion of race or gender in the classroom. In reality, the bill would only have barred things like teaching that any race or sex was inherently superior or that any individual is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive – “whether consciously or unconsciously” – based only on their race or sex.
“I strongly urge you to testify on this bill tomorrow,” the teacher wrote to her students, after clearly stating her own opposition to the legislation. “As always, if you are a student in my class, you will receive 5 points on your next unit test if you decide to testify and provide me with your written testimony.”
Virginia School District Revising How Controversial Topics Addressed
In an effort to realize their “vision of educational equity,” school leaders in one Washington D.C. suburb are revising a policy that requires controversial topics be addressed impartially, objectively, and from multiple perspectives.
The effort in Fairfax, Virginia, is part of the school district’s plan to develop a new Anti-Racism, Anti-Bias Education Curriculum Policy. To develop its plan, the district has partnered with The Leadership Academy, a New York-based consulting firm that promotes “equity-focused leadership development” and “anti-racism.”
The district also has done away with testing requirements for admission to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, one of the nation’s most prestigious public schools, because it was not diverse enough. More than 70 percent of the school’s students in the 2019-20 school year were Asian. The school board is facing at least two lawsuits alleging anti-Asian discrimination.
Massachusetts Students, School Staff Encouraged to Report Microaggressions
Leaders of the Wellesley Public Schools system in Massachusetts are encouraging students and staff members to snitch on one another for telling rude jokes and committing microaggressions.
Students and staff are encouraged to report incidents of discrimination “or any concerning pattern of biased behavior” to any district staff member or trusted adult, according to documents from the district’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Reports can be made anonymously.
According to training slides, “Telling rude jokes that mock a protected group” is an example of a “bias-based incident.” Examples of microaggressions include saying “My principal is so crazy!” asking someone “Where are you actually from?” or saying “Ohhh, you got the ‘China Virus’?!?!”
Potential discipline includes detention, suspension or “other restorative responses.”
In Biden's America, the action is outside the Beltway
It took a few days away from the nation’s capital for me to appreciate how boring the place has become. Recently I returned from a trip to California and discovered that I hadn’t missed anything—no presidential scandal, no legislative logrolling, no surprise vacancies on the Supreme Court. Yes, the pace of events slows down in Washington every summer. Congress goes on recess and metro residents travel for vacation. But 2021 is different. This year, D.C.’s irrelevance is neither seasonal nor exceptional. It’s the norm.
Since Bill Clinton’s impeachment, the city has been the site of momentous events and world-defining debates. The fallout from the 2000 election, 9/11, the war on terrorism, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the surge, the financial crisis, the election of Barack Obama, Obamacare, the Tea Party, the debt ceiling, the response to the Arab Spring, the 2013 government shutdown—they all testified to the centrality of Washington.
Donald Trump’s descent on the escalator in 2015 intensified press coverage. His victory in 2016 upped the political stakes. The Trump presidency unfolded in spectacular, captivating fashion. It was a live-broadcast, four-year, nonfictional telenovela, complete with a climactic twist and a tragic ending. On occasion, the cast traveled to Singapore, Hanoi, Helsinki, and Mar-a-Lago. But the main set was the Oval Office.
Well, the show is over and the thrill is gone. It used to be that the federal city—and its chief executive—drove the national conversation. But President Biden purposely limits his exposure to remain as uncontroversial as possible. “Boring news cycle deals blow to partisan media,” read the headline of an article in Axios on June 29. The piece tracked a fall in web traffic, app user sessions, and social media engagement since President Trump left office. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, tweeted out the story. “Sorry not sorry,” he wrote.
After 12 years of highly visible celebrity presidents, the current occupant of the White House is a 78-year-old who eschews social media, rarely gives one-on-one interviews, limits himself to about one public event a day, calls on pre-selected reporters at press conferences, often refers to notes, and returns home to Delaware most weekends. Joe Biden’s spending plans may be gargantuan and foolish, his decisions on the border and on Afghanistan may be impetuous and disastrous, and his offhand remarks may be puzzling and odd, but no one gets worked up about him personally. Last month Doug Rivers of the Hoover Institution observed that voters don’t consider Biden an ideologue. It doesn’t matter that Biden’s goals are more ambitious than Obama’s: Far greater numbers of voters said that Obama was “very liberal” than say the same of Biden today.
This low-key presidency combines with tight margins in Congress to diminish Washington’s importance. Unlike his two most recent predecessors, Biden is not an omnipresent figure. The 50-50 Senate blocks the progressive wish list from becoming law. The result is a devolution of controversy to the state, municipal, and local levels of government. Not in two decades covering politics, for example, have I seen state legislatures receive as much attention as they have in recent months.
Meanwhile, the big political news is Democrat Eric Adams’s victory in the New York City mayoral primary. What’s unique about Adams is that he ran the first New York campaign in decades with national implications. His triumph underscored the electorate’s concern with rising crime rates. It demonstrated that even Democratic primary voters in a majority-minority city oppose defunding law enforcement.
“According to recent data from the Democratic-oriented Navigator Research,” writes Ruy Teixeira in a recent issue of the Liberal Patriot newsletter, “more Americans overall, including among independents and Hispanics, now believe violent crime is a ‘major crisis’ than believe that about the coronavirus pandemic or any other area of concern.” This alarm over rising crime manifested itself locally before becoming apparent to officials in Washington, including Biden, who scrambled to announce a crime reduction plan in late June.
The most glaring sign of the Beltway’s detachment from national life has been the movement against critical race theory (CRT) in public schools. Like the Tea Party, this movement is spontaneous, self-organizing, and uncontrolled. Unlike the Tea Party, however, it is focused on a hyperlocal (yet super-important) issue: K-12 instruction. As of this writing, the anti-CRT movement fields candidates for school boards. Congress is an afterthought.
The national politicians who amplify the movement’s rhetoric are piggybacking on a grassroots phenomenon. And while the fight against CRT has implications for federal policy, it is not as though the right’s answer to far-left school boards is national curricular standards. On the contrary: The parental revolt over “woke” education bypasses Washington, transcends party lines, and has clearly defined and limited goals.
What’s fascinating about the anti-CRT campaign is that its most prominent antagonists are not elected officials. The Tea Party pitted rebels such as Jim DeMint, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz against the Republican establishment and Barack Obama. But the participants in this most recent iteration of the culture war are different. The anti-CRT spokesman Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute is a documentarian and activist, and Bari Weiss and Andrew Sullivan are journalists. The most famous advocates of so-called antiracist education are Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead writer of the New York Times‘s 1619 Project, and Ibram X. Kendi of Boston University. Fights over CRT don’t take place in the halls of Congress, but on Morning Joe.
Maybe political entrepreneurs in the coming months will appropriate and elevate the issues of voter ID, crime, and anti-American pedagogy into national campaigns. Maybe the anti-CRT movement will follow the Tea Party and use the 2022 election to springboard into the Beltway. Maybe the next president will impress himself or herself into the national consciousness in the manner of an Obama or a Trump. Or maybe the next president will be Trump.
For now, though, Joe Biden is president. Congress is deadlocked. Both the left and right are more interested in values than in entitlements. The media track the states, the cities, the schools. Why? Because the real action is happening in places like Atlanta, Tallahassee, Austin, Phoenix, New York City, and Loudoun County. Not in Washington, D.C.