October 23, 2021

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Republicans howl about ‘silencing parents’ after DOJ reacts to threats against school boards

“There has been a disturbing trend in the Democrat Party that wants to silence parents, and prevent them from having a say in their own children’s education,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement desperately in need of a copy editor. “We saw it last week when Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate, Terry McAuliffe, said parents shouldn’t have a say in what their own children are taught and it continues this week with the Biden administration labeling parents with concerns and dissenting opinions as domestic terrorists.”

Would it surprise you to learn that Garland nowhere used the term “domestic terrorist”? Of course he did not. The National School Boards Association, in a letter begging the Biden administration for help, did suggest that “As these acts of malice, violence, and threats against public school officials have increased, the classification of these heinous actions could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism and hate crimes.” But the NSBA is not the Biden administration.

“Domestic terrorism,” though, is definitely high up on the Republican talking points list. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt begged for attention with a letter claiming, falsely, “you directed the FBI, all U.S. Attorneys, and other members of the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute parents as domestic terrorists for daring to advocate for their kids.” Schmitt, a lawyer, also argued that “the federal government does not have jurisdiction over local school issues,” when the issue is crimes being committed against local school officials. Garland is not trying to go in and dictate the local school curriculum—that’s Republicans.

At a Senate hearing with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, reliable grandstanders Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton ranted away.

Hawley invoked McCarthyism, like Senator Raised-fist-to-the-insurrectionists wouldn’t have been an eager ally of the actual Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Is it domestic extremism for a parent to advocate for their child’s best interests?” Cotton asked.

If it involves threats, Tom, then it’s potentially criminal, whether the crime in question is domestic terrorism or, you know, criminal threat. There’s no “I didn’t want my kid to hear that idea” loophole in criminal law. Any Black or Latino or Asian or Native parent whose kid has faced racism in school can tell you that crimes committed against people under those circumstances are still crimes, no matter how justified you might feel by the violation of your child’s best interests.

Monaco emphasized that it’s about the threats, saying the DOJ effort is to ensure “there is an awareness of how to report threats that may occur and to ensure that there’s an open line of communication to address threats.”

But, of course, no amount of explaining the reality is going to disrupt the Republicans howling lies. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis accused Garland of “weaponizing the DOJ.” The already weaponized Republican base came out screeching and, of course, got lavish coverage in the right-wing media.

Remember, all of this is because Republicans are waging a culture war over education, focusing on opposition to mask policies that keep kids out of the hospital and are supported by a majority of parents and on opposition to the teaching of any facts about racism that might make racists uncomfortable. That’s what this is about—except that the core is Republicans cynically looking for a wedge issue. Less than a year after a mob of Republicans attacked the U.S. Capitol, Republican lawmakers are once again defending violence by their base. At some point, we have to conclude that violence against the government and the defense of that violence are central parts of today’s Republican Party.

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