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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Parents like me are fed up with inconsistent Democratic policies aimed at our kids

For adults, life is closer to pre-pandemic normalcy. But for kids, school disruptions and restrictions continue

SHARE Parents like me are fed up with inconsistent Democratic policies aimed at our kids
SHARE Parents like me are fed up with inconsistent Democratic policies aimed at our kids

When Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia a few weeks ago, a liberal friend (and former staffer at a progressive organization) told me, “He was elected by angry parents. I can’t tell you who I voted for because of my job, but I can tell you I’m a really angry mom.”

She was angry over the course of the entire pandemic, as she watched her child’s first year of school happen on Zoom, while kids in other parts of the country went in person. She grew angrier as she searched in vain for speech therapy options for her child that didn’t involve masks — a useless proposition if you’re trying to teach a child the sounds of letters if they can’t show or see lips moving.

The final straw for this friend came the eve of the election. The Democrat, Terry McAuliffe, brought as his closing speaker at a rally none other than the woman many Americans blame for extended school closures: American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. 

The message to Virginia parents was clear: A vote for McAuliffe was a vote for schools to stay the same, for distance learning and closures and disruption to become the status quo for another four years. Virginians rejected that premise by electing a Republican governor for the first time since 2009.

Fast forward to a press conference last week, where White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki seemed to position the Biden administration similarly for the status quo and against American parents and their kids by suggesting that schools are practicing social distancing, wearing masks and eating lunch outdoors in sometimes frigid temperatures.

This is not a winning message. Americans know the minuscule risk children face from COVID-19, and they also know the toll that the pandemic has taken on their mental health and stability.

The U.S. Surgeon General released a rare public advisory about an “emerging youth mental health crisis.” In the 53-page report, we learned that symptoms of depression and anxiety have doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youths experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety. By every metric, kids are worse off emotionally than they were in 2019, which was already a precarious situation to start with. Writing for The New York Post last week I explain,

When you were a kid, what do you remember about school lunches? I remember wishing for the mythical food fight. I remember talking with friends, trading pudding cups for cookies, whispering to friends asking if I could copy their homework before our afternoon classes.

What does it look like now? Kids are finally back in school but eating outside, sitting on buckets and the ground across the country.

If they are allowed inside, they are often instructed to eat socially distanced and in silence, sometimes with dividers separating them, sometimes instructed to face the wall.

No part of their 2019 childhood has remained totally intact. They had the rug ripped out from under them in March 2020. School lunches are just a window into how much we’ve damaged kids’ childhoods.

Even die-hard liberal columnists from The New York Times have had enough with the way pandemic restrictions have felt unduly punitive toward the least at-risk population.

On Sunday night, my eight-year-old remarked to me that she barely remembered life without masks. I, too, am sick of explaining why we can’t do things “because of COVID.” It’s heartbreaking watching many elements of my kids’ childhood slip away while for most adults life is closer to pre-pandemic normalcy. I’m not alone in my deep dissatisfaction.

That Psaki is speaking on behalf of the Biden administration in defense of measures stripping our children of their childhoods while adults go to concerts unmasked is a McAuliffe-Weingarten-level strategic error.

Parents are angry: We see what is being done to our children and we understand how unnecessary much of the pandemic theater is when it comes to our kids. If the Biden administration stands with outdoor, silent lunches and any number of other seemingly unnecessary restrictions on our kids, they are making the same mistake Terry McAuliffe did in Virginia, a mistake that cost him what should have been a layup election.

If this is the message Democrats bring with them into the midterms and the 2024 election, they’d better buckle in for the same reality check American parents will be ready to serve.

Bethany Mandel is a contributing writer for the Deseret News and an editor at Ricochet.com.