Republicans Can Learn from the Victory of Florida’s Parental-Rights Bill | National Review

Republicans Can Learn from the Victory of Florida’s Parental-Rights Bill | National Review

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla., February 24, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Reuters)

American voters favor Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education bill, dishonestly dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law by progressive opponents, by a margin of 16 points, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll. The survey showed that 51 percent of registered voters approve of the legislation, which bars public schools from teaching sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) to students in kindergarten through third grade, while 35 percent opposed it. Caroline Downey writes:

“Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards,” the bill reads.

Pertaining to the second half of that provision, 52 percent of respondents also agreed with making sure sexuality and gender discussion after third grade is “age appropriate.” The bill empowers parents to sue school districts they believe to be violating the law by offering curricula on LGBT topics before third grade, an enforcement mechanism that only 41 percent of those polled support while 43 percent oppose.

Public opinion on the bill fell along partisan lines, with 70 percent of Republican voters backing Florida’s legislation and 51 percent of Democrats rejecting it. Independents helped shift the balance with 46 percent supporting it and 35 percent opposing it.

It’s yet another sign that the education culture wars are a winning issue for Republicans — and a losing issue for Democrats. As I wrote last month:

Recent months have seen Democrats and the broader Left sustain a series of humiliating losses in the culture wars. Particularly in education, the energetic grassroots backlash to critical race theory (CRT) has spawned anti-CRT laws in at least nine state legislatures, and red states across the country are set to pass a slate of similar laws in the upcoming legislative session. Gender ideology’s march through our institutions has encountered similar resistance, as ten states ban biological males from competing in women’s sports, and two more ban transition surgery and puberty blocking drugs for minors. (Here, too, similar legislation is also likely to pass in more red states this year). 

In the battle between parents and progressive ideologues in the education bureaucracy, Americans decisively side with the former. Republicans have an important opportunity to position themselves as the “party of parents”— and more broadly, of normalcy. More often than not, culture-war battles are won by the side that effectively positions itself as the normal people. Progressive sexual ideology is not normal. Progressive sexual ideology being taught to young, prepubescent children is more than abnormal; it’s insane. In a Monday press conference, following on the heels of the Florida legislature’s passage of the parental-rights bill last week, Ron DeSantis said: “As the parent of three kids that are age 5 and under, thank you for letting me and my wife be able to send our kids to kindergarten without them being sexualized.” That’s a winning message. Progressives know it, too. That’s why they’re hysterical.

Some Republicans have been wary of taking on the woke corporations that often serve as the tip of the spear in the progressive culture war. South Dakota governor Kristi Noem infamously caved to corporate lobbyists when she vetoed a bill barring biological men from competing in women’s sports last March. (Although in the face of a fierce conservative backlash, she has since introduced new legislation to the same effect). And as I wrote in January, “Even social conservatives such as Mike Pence were not immune to the increasingly liberal proclivities of powerful corporations: In 2015, the then-governor of Indiana caved to significant pressure from big business by amending the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, ultimately going so far as to explicitly protect sexual orientation and gender identity in Indiana’s anti-discrimination law.”

But DeSantis didn’t cave. As Phil Klein wrote, “Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek made a public show of calling DeSantis in protest about the parental-rights bill. . . . Some suggested that this put DeSantis in a tight spot, given that Disney is one of the most powerful businesses in the state and one of its major employers. But the governor not only told Disney to pound sand, he made a public show of it.”

And then? He won. Rather than lean into the fight, Chapek announced that Disney would be “pausing all political donations in the state of Florida.” In an open letter detailing the decision, Chapek apologized to progressive activists: “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down. I am sorry.” In the end, it was all talk. DeSantis’s courage actually de-politicized the company. Go figure.

The episode — and the subsequent polling numbers supporting the Republican position — should give the GOP a playbook for confronting woke ideology going forward. Standing up to bullies is popular. The sooner Republicans realize the American people are behind them on this issue, the better.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.