Democrats are planning an aggressive strategy for claims of critical race theory

  • Democratic strategists say the party should crack down harder on the GOP’s critical race theory claims.
  • “At the political level, it’s a real threat,” a strategist told Insider.
  • But strategists say they should not lose sight of economic issues as a top priority for voters.

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They have called it a “racist dog whistle” and a “lie”.

But those messages have not helped Democrats quell Republicans’ tumult over “critical race theory,” which is now an abused collective term for teaching race and diversity in elementary and 12-school schools that protest at school board meetings around the country. Country.

In Virginia, elected Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took advantage of the term and promised to “ban” it in classrooms on his first day as governor, though critical race theory – an academic approach to investigating racial prejudice – is most often taught in law schools. Republicans plan to lean into the issue in the 2022 election cycle.

Democratic strategists say the party should fight back harder against “divisive” GOP claims while not losing sight of voters’ priority; the economy.

“On a political level, it’s a real threat that allows Republicans to withhold the incursions Democrats have made in the suburbs over the last couple of election cycles,” said Jim Manley, a longtime aide to former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. .

Democrats have not yet pushed back enough on this issue, but the “good news” is that the party’s response is effective and there is time to make the case before the 2022 election, said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist. They just have to make the case “relentless,” he said.

“Voters run from Republicans when Democrats peel the onion back on what these claims really mean,” he said. “It’s not just that Republicans want a bigger role for parents in education, it’s that Republicans are willing to let white supremacists write curricula.”

The Democratic congressional campaign committee, the House campaign arm for Democrats, downplayed the threat to the party in congressional races. This fall, they tested responses to false claims about critical race theory in elementary schools. The messages they say resonate most with voters on the battlefield: Democrats want to learn the truth about American history and honor those who fought to make the country better, Republicans try to divide Americans, and Democrats want to deliver to American families.

The Democrats ‘message to voters in 2022 will be more compelling than “Republicans’ divisive lies,” said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the DCCC.

Glenn Youngkins Critical Race Theory

Supporters of Republican Glenn Youngkin gather for an election night party in Chantilly, Virginia on November 2, 2021. Youngkin vowed to cancel critical race theory on his first day in office.

Photo by AP / Andrew Harnik

‘A bit like sticking your head in the sand’

“House Democrats reopened schools safely, provided tax breaks in the child tax deduction, and we are fighting for universal pre-K and paid family leave,” he said in a statement to Insider. “Republicans are in opposition to American families. Our commitment on the road to 2022 is that voters will choose progress over division.”

The message comes with a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that found that most Americans generally said public schools should teach “a good amount” or more about how the history of racism affects the United States today. While most Democrats and Independents said schools should teach about the effects of racism, only about 4 out of 10 Republicans agreed.

But Manley said the results of Virginia’s recent gubernatorial race show that Republicans used critical race theory as a wedge issue to raise broader concerns among suburban voters. To suggest that it’s just a problem for the GOP base is “like putting your head in the sand,” he said.

“We need to figure out how to address this phenomenon without overplaying our hand and or allowing Republicans to break the education system in this country,” Manley said.

A Fox News Voter Analysis poll found that 25 percent of Virginia voters voted for the critical race theory debate as the most important factor in their support for a gubernatorial candidate, and most of those voters went after Youngkin rather than Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

DCCC Chairman, Rep. Sean Maloney of New York told The Washington Post that Democrats have “learned from the lies and distortions of the last election.” Democrats will argue that “children need to learn their history – the whole thing – without censorship or politics limiting what they can learn,” Maloney columnist Greg Sargent said.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said Democrats are on “strong ground” when it comes to “learning the truth” about racism in history and that they should be more aggressive in their responses.

“Voters are wild, wild supporters of it, and even half of Republicans believe some of these things should be learned,” she said. “Their strategy is, mobilize their base and distract us, and shame us if we are distracted.”

That is not to say that there is nothing to learn from Virginia. Lake said the bigger problem for McAuliffe was not about critical race theory, but his “problematic” statement during a debate that parents should not “tell schools what to learn.” Now the Republican Republicans are calling for one “parental rights” in education.

CRT school board meeting

Opponents of an academic doctrine known as “critical race theory” attend a packed school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia.

Evelyn Hockstein / Reuters

Not enough to say Republicans are lying

Democrats need a better answer about parental involvement, Lake added, and the “irony” is that more Democrats are parents than Republicans. “We should be very comfortable with this,” she said.

The real question for voters is whether a candidate is on the side of parents and students or not, Ferguson said. And the Democrats have a strong argument for giving money to schools and blocking “censorship,” but they have to lean into it.

“When Democrats talk about how Republican plans would put politicians in charge of classrooms and censor teachers, the fluctuating voters that the Republican voters thought they won are fleeing quickly,” he said.

It is not enough to say that Republicans lie about critical race theory that is taught in classrooms when right-wing media drives the problem, and parents also hear about it from other parents in their schools, Ferguson said.

“It can not be dismissed as just a lie,” he said. “It must be defeated as a way of putting politicians at the head of the classroom and white overlords in the curriculum.”

“Cultural wars” will be a problem in the run-up to 2022, and “Democrats are always on the defensive,” said former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, a progressive leader. Democrats should not run away from the conversation about critical race theory, but they should quickly turn to real economic challenges people face in their daily lives.

“If the Democrats wanted to focus most of their time on delivering on the promises they made in 2020, then people could not be distracted by all the other nonsense that Republicans are throwing out there,” she said.

Lake said the critical issue for Democrats is the economy and not education.

“I’m not minimizing the amount that Republicans are doing to try to give energy to their base with this issue,” Lake said. “But this is not a threat to us. The economy is the much bigger threat than critical race theory.”

Insider wants to know how your school district handles the critical race theory controversy. Please contact Nicole Gaudiano at

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