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From ‘critical race theory’ to ‘grooming,’ the real Republican agenda is ending public education


There’s a common thread in some of the biggest battles of the Republican culture war over the past year and change—beyond the bigotry and dishonesty that is their bedrock. The specific common thread is Christopher Rufo. From critical race theory (CRT) to grooming, math textbooks to Disney, Rufo is on Fox News so often he has his own in-home studio, issuing the talking points of the moment. And all of his talking points are aimed at promoting a vision of the United States based on the cultural politics of the 1950s combined with the rampant privatization and lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy of the 2020s. Rufo wants the racism and gender norms of the 1950s, minus the public schools and government revenue. 

Rufo hit big in 2021 with his promotion of a false version of critical race theory as a danger to white children everywhere. Like a Bond villain, he even explained what he was doing as he was doing it. “We have successfully frozen their brand—‘critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category,” Rufo tweeted in March 2021. “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

And yet, despite laying out his strategy right there in plain sight, he got many in the traditional media to bite, covering the critical race theory panic that Rufo created as if it were an organic grassroots phenomenon. Now he’s back, leading the charge against Disney and propelling “grooming” as an accusation to be used in a broader attempt to drive LGBTQ people out of public life. That work earned him a puff piece in The New York Times over the weekend, and a spot on the stage as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Stop WOKE Act.”

RELATED STORY: A look inside banned Florida math textbooks suggests Republicans simply lied about what’s in them

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