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Patrick Novecosky holds son Daniel as son Peter stands beside them during a rally tied to the Virginia governor’s race.

Patrick Novecosky, of Warrenton, Va., holds son Daniel, 7, as son Peter, 9, stands beside them during a rally tied to the Virginia governor’s race sponsored by Catholic Vote and Fight for Schools, in Leesburg, Va., Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Cliff Owen, Associated Press

Why Democrats lost: They came for the kids

GOP wins this week suggest that Democrats have overreached with progressive ideology, conservatives meeting in Orlando, Florida, say

SHARE Why Democrats lost: They came for the kids
SHARE Why Democrats lost: They came for the kids

Even before they knew the outcome of the Virginia gubernatorial race, conservatives were feeling good about their prospects, for this week’s election and beyond. 

The reason? There’s a sense that progressives, in pushing an increasingly bold social agenda, have gone 10 miles past normal, making even people who want to support Democrats squeamish.

“There’s a feeling that they overstepped, right? They really overstepped by coming for the kids,” podcaster and YouTube personality Dave Rubin said Tuesday at the National Conservative Conference, a three-day event convened by the Edward Burke Foundation.

This is a more accurate assessment of what happened than anything President Joe Biden offered when he spoke to reporters Wednesday. And the president’s remarks inadvertently highlighted Rubin’s point, coming as they did on the heels of the White House announcement that COVID-19 shots are now available for children ages 5 to 11.

While the news was widely applauded, vaccine mandates remain a point of contention for many of the voters who made political newcomer Glenn Youngkin the governor-elect of Virginia.

This was clear at the gathering in Orlando, Florida, where the crowd gave a standing ovation to Jonathan Isaac, the Orlando Magic player who has said he is “uncomfortable with getting the vaccine at this time.”

The people who turned out to elect Youngkin — and possibly a New Jersey truck driver who spent $153 — do feel the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has come for their kids, and that has made all the difference. They’re not comfortable with the gender ideology showing up in their kids’ backpacks, or with curriculums that, in the words of former President Donald Trump, cause children “to hate their own country.” They don’t see Halloween as noninclusive, or Thomas Jefferson as a problematic part of U.S. history who must be erased.

They see the left’s obsession with pronouns as an assault, not on the trans community, but on proper grammar. (Yes, even children are being asked to select their personal pronouns in public schools these days.)

And when they speak of these concerns, they get insulted, told that their values and opinions aren’t important.

Campaigning in Virginia for Terry McAuliffe, former President Barack Obama spoke dismissively of “phony, trumped-up culture wars.” And McAuliffe himself may have engineered his own defeat when he said in a September debate that parents shouldn’t be telling schools what they should teach.

In other words: Silly parents, schools are for feds. No wonder the number of households that home-school has recently doubled.

Sarah Palin’s star dimmed long ago, but she inspired a tribe of “mama grizzlies,” her term for parents who fiercely rise up when their offspring are threatened. And conservative parents find the liberal ideology streaming down from universities to grade school uniquely threatening in ways it hasn’t been before.

Christopher Rufo is a Manhattan Institute scholar who has become the leading voice against critical race theory, the loosely defined set of ideas that identifies America as a fundamentally racist country and seeks to establish equity in outcome for minorities, as opposed to equal opportunity. It’s an Ivy-League concept that scholars struggle to define, but parents recognize its influence on what their children are learning, Rufo said at the Orlando conference.

“They understand, for example, when their kids are being divided, asked to deconstruct their racial and sexual identities, and then rank themselves according to their power and privilege, something that’s happening in kindergarten. They understand something is wrong, but they don’t know how to articulate it. It’s an intuitive feeling. It’s a violation of their moral conscience,” Rufo said.

Many parents don’t have the time to home-school or the resources to move when critical race theory and other progressive philosophies infiltrate their schools. But they can show up at school board meetings, and they can vote, which is why Virginia is about to have a Republican governor and Democrats are worrying about what this and other GOP wins mean for the midterms. For now, it means that liberals aren’t the only ones who can say they’ve been woke.