The stories are popping up everywhere. A school board member in Colorado repeatedly gets called a Nazi. A Kansas school board candidate slanders a mother as "a child abuser" for supporting for her trans child. In a neighboring Kansas county, an awarding-winning memoir by a prominent LGBTQ activist is targeted as pornography by three other candidates.
Mostly the stories appear in local media, but this is no organic uprising. A well-funded roster of scattered -- and often shadowy -- national entities have sprung up to advance a strategy laid out by no less an insurrectionist than Steve Bannon.
In a May 19 podcast, Bannon sounded the battle cry: "The path to save the nation is very simple, it's going to go through the school boards."
The national impetus behind what superficially appear as local right-wing activism is becoming more apparent as shadowy groups intensify the culture wars at the school-board level. A common denominator is a presumed focus upon "Critical Race Theory" (CRT), a college-level philosophy rarely employed in K-12 public education in America.
But candidates endorsed by the CRT-focused groups are increasingly making headlines with culture-war attacks that anti-vax, anti-mask, transphobic and otherwise designed to fit the grievance agenda of Trumpism.
One such example is the "1776 Project PAC," reportedly headed by conservative author and activist Ryan Girdusky of New York. The organization's website is solely focused upon CRT, but the candidates it has endorsed in faraway Kansas are not.
Click on the 1776 Project PAC website -- or any tab -- and you will be interrupted with the prominent opportunity to "Report a School Promoting Critical Race Theory." The group's mission of "Promoting Patriotism and Pride in American History" appears to have a laserlike focus:
"We are a political action committee dedicated to electing school board members nationwide who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history. We are committed to abolishing critical race theory and 'The 1619 Project' from the public school curriculum."
The 1776 Project PAC has endorsed 55 candidates in seven states -- Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Virginia, Ohio and New Jersey -- but while the content of the website is limited to CRT, some of those candidates are making their headlines with sexier prongs of the culture war.
There's Jim McMullen, a 1776 Project PAC endorsee who last week retweeted an ABC News article about a mother of a transgender child asking President Joe Biden what he will do to protect LGBTQ rights. McMullen wrote, "ABC promoting a child abuser." McMullen last year posted on social media, "there are no 8-year -old transgender kids."
Reporting at Kansas City' NPR affiliate suggests there's pushback, even in conservative Kansas.
"On its website, the 1776 Project PAC says it is "committed to abolishing critical race theory" and sets itself up in opposition to the New York Times' 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles that aimed to "reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative."
The 1776 Project PAC's involvement in local school board races got heated pushback from Stand Up Blue Valley, a public education advocacy group, which wrote on its Facebook page last month, "Despite what this New York-based PAC wants you to believe, Critical Race Theory (CRT) is NOT being taught in Blue Valley Schools.""NO East-Coast PAC should have ANY say in our kids' education and we know our members will agree," Stand Up Blue Valley's message continued. "So it's our job to Get Out The Vote and send a clear message to outside special interests eyeing our School Board races: 'You are not welcome here and the Blue Valley School Board is NOT for sale.'"
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX) was so certain that people were committing voter fraud that he promised up to $1 million in reward cash to anyone who could uncover 2020 election cheaters. That's when progressive Eric Frank got to work.
Last year, Patrick cited former President Donald Trump's calls to uncover voter fraud, saying that it "is not only essential to determine the outcome of this election, it is essential to maintain our democracy and restore faith in future elections."
Frank, a Pennsylvania poll worker whose parents are involved in Democratic politics, recently uncovered voter fraud: Ralph Thurman, a 72-year-old Republican who voted twice in the election, the Dallas Morning News reported.
At first, Thurman claimed that he was "tricked by poll workers," but it became clear that he voted once for himself and once under his son's name. He was sentenced to probation for three years and is banned from voting for four years. It's a significant contrast to Crystal Mason, who was on probation when she voted, not knowing that she wasn't allowed to vote as a former felon. She was sentenced to five years in prison. She's now working to appeal the conviction.
So, Patrick was forced to pay out, though instead of handing over the $1 million, he used the "up to $1 million" out to reduce the check to $25,000.
"It's my belief that they were trying to get cases of Democrats doing voter fraud. And that just wasn't the case," Frank said in an interview. "This kind of blew up in their face."
Frank explained that thus far he's the first and only person to seek the reward, noting it was significantly less than $1 million, because the campaign was hoping to find "bigger fish."
"Was he looking for a celebrity or a political group as a whole?" Frank said in the interview. "I don't know what he meant by bigger fish."
Despite such significantly low cases in voter fraud, Republicans have worked to pass strict voting restrictions. Patrick specifically said that the laws were necessary because of Texas' emotions. He claimed voters in the state "feel" elections are less secure, and thus a law is necessary.
Now, Patrick wants Gov. Greg Abbott to call legislators back for a fourth special session to pass increased penalties for "illegal voting" and conduct a "forensic audit" like the one done in Arizona that found Trump lost by more votes than initially thought.
Steve Bannon thinks Republicans are ‘c-words’: Ex-congressman baffled GOP refuses to 'settle a score'
Republicans in Congress should vote for a criminal referral of Steve Bannon, a former GOP congressman argued on CNN on Thursday.
"Republican leadership is trying to make this a no vote, making this out not to get to the truth but an effort to hurt Trump. That's a part of their framing," CNN's Ana Cabrera said. "What's your advice to your former colleagues on how to vote on Bannon and criminal contempt?"
"My advice to House Republican members is to vote for criminal contempt on Steve Bannon, just on the merits," Dent replied. "He's not eligible for executive privilege. He may have information relevant to this investigation, and, you know, he's willfully defying the Congress, their Article One authority and oversight responsibility, so they should go right at him."
"By the way, he resents most of them," Dent noted. "The things he has said about House Republican leaders, including Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise are things I cannot say on television. He despises them and any Republican who has a sense of governance and responsibility, they owe Steve Bannon nothing other than their contempt."
"They should settle a score right now if they can't vote for this on the merits," he suggested.
"Bannon has said some pretty bad things about Republican members of Congress and I can't repeat those either," Cabrera said. "He once called a GOP mega donor and other establishment figures Republican scumbags and referred to republican leaders as c-words and now they are trying to protect Steve Bannon?"
"That's right, it's unbelievable," Dent replied. "He used the c-word to describe the House Republican leaders. I mean, wow! You want to protect him? Why? I mean, it's -- it's almost inexplicable."
Charlie Dent www.youtube.com
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