Republicans fixate on critical race theory after failing to demonize Joe Biden's economic policies
Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith.

Republicans are focusing on culture war issues after failing to demonize the economic policies of Joe Biden.

"You could easily write a history of the modern right that's about nothing but schools. The battles were initially about race, particularly segregation and busing. Out of those fights came the Christian right, born in reaction to the revocation of tax exemptions for segregated Christian schools. As the Christian right grew, political struggles over control of schools became more explicitly religious. There were campaigns against allowing gay people to work in schools and against teaching sex education and evolution," New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg explained on Monday. "Now the Christian right has more or less collapsed as anything but an identity category. There are still lots of religious fundamentalists, but not, post-Donald Trump, a movement confidently asserting itself as the repository of wholesome family values. Instead, with the drive to eradicate the teaching of 'critical race theory,' race has moved back to the center of the public-school culture wars."

"I put critical race theory in quotes because the right has transformed a term that originally referred to an academic school of thought into a catchall for resentments over diversity initiatives and changing history curriculums," she explained. "Since I first wrote about anti-critical race theory activism in February, it's become hard to keep up with the flurry of state bills aimed at banning the teaching of what are often called "divisive concepts," including the idea, as a Rhode Island bill puts it, that 'the United States of America is fundamentally racist or sexist.'"

"Part of the reason the right is putting so much energy into this crusade is because it can't whip up much opposition to the bulk of Joe Biden's agenda. Biden's spending plans are much more ambitious than Barack Obama's were, but there's been no new version of the Tea Party. Voters view this president as more moderate than Obama, a misconception that critical race theory scholars would have no trouble explaining. Republicans have groused about how hard Biden is to demonize. They need a more frightening, enraging villain to keep their people engaged," she explained. "Critical race theory — presented as an attack on history, a program to indoctrinate children and a stealth form of Marxism — fits the bill."