As Republicans pay the political price for overturning legal abortion, they’re banking on “parents’ rights” as a way to paint their opponents as extreme.

By Amy Littlefield, The Nation

Over the Fourth of July weekend, Moms for Liberty held a packed summit in downtown Philadelphia, its second-ever national convening. Founded in 2021, the fast-growing group claims 120,000 members in 285 chapters across 45 states, with hundreds of endorsed candidates elected to school boards to promote purging “critical race theory” and books with transgender characters from classrooms. At one session I attended, titled “(Wo)manhandling the Media,” the group’s strategy became crystal clear. Led by Christian Ziegler, the chair of the Florida Republican Party and the husband of Bridget Ziegler, a Moms for Liberty cofounder and Sarasota County School Board chair, the session provided lessons for new recruits on how to get the media—whom Ziegler described as a bunch of “lazy” liars—to boost their chapters’ profiles. A centerpiece of this approach involved using high-profile politicians to lure reporters to an event. “The media will show up because they’re thinking that what [the elected officials] say is going to be news—not your chapter, no offense,” he told a chapter head from a blue state who’d complained that journalists weren’t covering her rallies. “So you got to piggyback off those VIPs as much as you can. It’s like this summit, right?”

Moms for Liberty founders Tiffany Justice, right, and Tina Descovich speak at the Moms for Liberty meeting in Philadelphia, Friday, June 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Right. I had to admit, that was why I was there—along with 132 other journalists, according to media handlers for the event.

The previous weekend had been the first anniversary of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the Supreme Court decision that overturned the legal right to abortion nationwide. Anti-abortion leaders had rallied in Washington, D.C., to celebrate, inviting presidential candidates from the party responsible for that monumental victory to join them. The only one who came was Mike Pence. The Moms for Liberty summit, by contrast, attracted five candidates, including front-runners Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Their mere presence quickly became the story itself—which suited Ziegler just fine. “Moms for Liberty Didn’t Exist 3 Years Ago. Now It’s a GOP Kingmaker,” read a headline in The Washington Post that morning. Ziegler called it “probably the best headline I’ve ever seen.”

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