If you're reading this, you're probably a hateful extremist.
At least, that's what liberal pundits and many in the media would have Americans believe. Not long ago, America was a country that welcomed civil discourse and afforded a presumption of respect to positions held by vast swathes of citizens. Today, majority positions—and the groups that advocate for them—are simply labeled as "hateful" and declared beyond the pale.
There's no clearer example of this than Moms for Liberty (M4L). After being labeled an "anti-government extremist group" by the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, M4L has been subjected to a now months-long campaign to smear its members as hateful fascists. Some Americans, of course, will simply accept that media narrative without question, but it's worth taking a closer look at the major policy positions M4L takes to assess whether they or their critics are, in fact, "extreme." These positions include skepticism about pandemic, and especially in-school masking, policies; opposition to critical race theory and gender ideology in curricula; and the age-appropriate curation of books in public school libraries.
M4L got its start opposing extended school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, many labeled this position "extreme," but by the spring of 2021, a survey found that 79 percent of parents of school-aged children wanted schools reopened for in-person instruction. Today, it's apparent that the school closures were an utter disaster, setting the next generation back dramatically in terms of academic achievement and mental health. It is so obvious that even American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who fought relentlessly to keep schools closed, now insists that she was on the opposite side of the debate the whole time.
Once schools reopened, M4L opposed mask mandates for students. They were labeled as "extremists" for this, too. But polling of parents later showed that 46 percent believe masks harmed their children's school experience, compared to only 11 percent who thought it helped.
Opponents to critical race theory in K-12 schools were labeled not only "extremists," but also "racists." And yet, more than half of Americans believe that schools should not be allowed to teach critical race theory. Indeed, if wanting critical race theory banned makes one racist, then a majority of urban African-American parents are racist, too.
The pattern extends to the encroachment of gender ideology. M4L advocated for Florida's Parental Rights in Education Act, which was scurrilously labeled the "Don't Say Gay" bill. As it turns out, 70 percent of Americans agreed that elementary school teachers should not provide instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Three out of five Americans also oppose biological males competing in women's sports. A plurality of Americans (46 percent) agrees that performing sex-changes on children, which can sterilize them, should be prohibited. And three-quarters of Americans oppose secret gender transition policies, wherein schools socially transition students without parental notification or consent. These are hardly "extreme" beliefs.
And then there's what the Left has deceptively branded as "book banning." Actual book banning is extremely unpopular in a country that appropriately reveres the spirit of the First Amendment. But parents concerned about age-inappropriate materials in public schools never called for any book to be "banned." "We're not looking to ban any books," Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice told Newsweek. "Our moms are saying write the book, publish the book, print the book, sell the book wherever you'd like to sell it, but don't put it in a public school library if it has explicit sexual content in it."
The real issue is not "book banning" but age-appropriate curation. When asked whether it is appropriate for public school libraries to carry books containing explicit depictions of sex acts, 70 percent of Americans say no. Maybe you sincerely believe that school libraries should carry images of children performing lewd sex acts (as in the "most-banned" Gender Queer). But we dare you to try to say with a straight face that parents who think that's inappropriate are "extremists."
When you step back and look at their positions and their record, the campaign to stigmatize parental rights advocates as hateful extremists starts to make sense for two plain and stark reasons: first, they win elections. In three years, they've gone from not being a factor in politics to being described by the Washington Post as "a GOP kingmaker." M4L, for example, has gone from two moms to more than 120,000 in 44 states and helped to elect half of the 500 school board members they endorsed. They've done this despite the fact that every mom who joins surely knows she risks being slandered as an extremist, or a racist, or a Nazi.
Second, they are standard bearers for positions that command substantial majority support. Any political operative who knows how to read opinion polls knows they cannot win in a plain debate against what these parents are for. So, instead, they hope they can slander moms long and hard enough that the median American will deem them, and the positions they advocate, too toxic to touch.
This strategy will work on those who pay little attention, but it will backfire on parents who see what Moms for Liberty actually stands for. As a matter of fact, the more attention the Left draws to M4L through its smears, the more attention M4L can draw to the issues it advocates for. And the more it can do that, the more parents win. Truth is, the so-called "extremist" positions they hold are supported by most Americans, and no matter how many hit pieces to the contrary, Americans know that love is not the new "hate."
This piece originally appeared in Newsweek