The Republican Party will make moves to embrace parental rights following GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin’s win in Virginia after he championed parents who are pushing back against left-wing influences in the state’s public schools.
“Youngkin embraced education issues at the forefront of cultural clashes — such as critical race theory influencing curriculum, transgender policies in schools, COVID-19-related closures, and sexually explicit material appearing in schools — that animated the Republican grassroots base and fostered enthusiasm,” the Washington Examiner reported Saturday.
The political neophyte’s win, and specifically his support for parental rights, contrasted with his Democratic challenger and former Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, who noted infamously during one of their debates that parents should not have a say in what their kids are taught.
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” McAuliffe said.
The night of Youngkin’s victory, House Republican Study Committee chair Jim Banks of Indiana sent a memo to members outlining how the GOP should become the “party of parents” and follow the governor-elect’s strategy in order to be successful moving forward.
“The concerns of parents need to be a tier 1 policy issue for Republicans,” Banks said. “Youngkin’s success reveals that Republicans can and must become the party of parents. There is real energy from parents that we need to understand.”
McAuliffe and his surrogates, by contrast, attempted to make the race about former President Donald Trump, whom Joe Biden defeated by 10 points in the state. But while Trump endorsed Youngkin early on, the GOP candidate and former president did not appear together on the campaign trail and Youngkin avoided events in the state where Trump was involved.
Following Youngkin’s victory, House GOP leaders also took up for parents in post-election press conferences, highlighting how angry parents have been attending school board meetings for months in Virginia after learning that highly divisive and controversial curriculum such as critical race theory was being taught to their kids. In addition, Republican leaders also mentioned how a national school board organization had referred to outraged parents as “domestic terrorists” and sought federal law enforcement assistance from the Biden administration.
House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik of New York noted, for instance, that the lessons her party should derive from the outcome in Virginia are that “Republicans are the party of parents, of education, of small businesses, of freedom, and of family.”
“He took parents’ advice,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy noted regarding Youngkin. “There’s a fundamental belief as Americans that parents should have a say in their children’s education. They should be able to know what the curriculum is.”
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, said he’s happy to see the shift, noting that he has long advocated for the GOP to lean into cultural issues as a way to win more elections.
“Only 5 percent of Americans ever even start a business. So when you focus all your message on corporate tax cuts and regulations that have families, they’re going to 5 percent of the population,” he told the Washington Examiner.
“So where are you going to get the other 95 percent? Well, that’s families,” Schilling continued. “Even if you come from a dysfunctional family, you know the importance of having good strong functional families in a society.”
In the 2020 election, the issue of education in Virginia was not even among the top five; however, in this month’s election, the issue had risen to No. 2, according to the outlet.
Some political analysts have suggested that Youngkin’s two-percentage-point victory did not swing on the issue of education, but Schilling is skeptical.
“You can’t deny it. I mean, when did the momentum shift?” he told the Examiner. “Everyone’s in agreement that the momentum in that race shifted when Terry McAuliffe said in the debate, the final debate, ‘I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.'”
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