Republicans elevate ‘parental rights’ as top issue to win in 2024

Republicans are making appeals to conservative and far-right voters by hyper-focusing on race and gender issues, as well as education issues, billing them as ‘parental rights.’ 

However, these messages showed a mixed record in November’s midterm elections. 

Republican presidential hopefuls have begun casting themselves as impassioned defenders of “parental rights,” turning schoolbooks and curricula, doctors’ offices, and sports leagues into a new political battleground as they work to distinguish themselves ahead of the 2024 GOP primary, according to The New York Times.

The messaging casts Republicans as defenders of parents who feel that schools have run amok with “wokeness.”

Declaring that parents deserve a say in what their children are taught, some GOP players have pushed to end diversity and equity programs in public schools. Others have sought to restrict lessons about sexual orientation or gender identity. And some have looked to prevent schools from using a child’s preferred pronouns without parental permission.

Critics and experts in education, LGBTQ rights, and civil rights have said these issues are oppressive and regressive. 

But the 2024 Republicans have plowed ahead, seeking to one-up each other with provocative pledges and legislative actions. 

The most obvious posturing and one-upmanship have been between former president Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

Republicans have turned parental rights into an umbrella term for a host of cultural issues. 

The loudest candidate has been DeSantis, who has taken aim at education. Just last week, DeSantis attacked the College Board’s curriculum on African American studies. 

Trump tried to respond with even hotter language, recently threatening “severe consequences” for educators who “suggest to a child that they could be trapped in the wrong body,” referring to trans youth.

But culture-war messaging concerning education has a decidedly mixed track record. 

While some Republicans believe that the issue can win over independents, especially white suburban women, the 2022 midterms showed that attacks on school curriculums — specifically on critical race theory and so-called gender ideology — largely were a dud in the general election.

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