The Culture Wars Won't Feed My Children | Opinion

Republican politicians keep trying to pit parents against one another, pushing book bans, blocking an honest education about our country's history, and discriminating against LGBTQ+ kids with rhetoric like the "Don't Say Gay" bill in Florida. Throughout it all, they're trying to get us to distrust our own teachers—the same people who sacrifice so much for our kids every day.

Frankly, Republicans are smart to focus on parents. Being a parent informs your every decision—from what cereal you buy to where you live to who you vote for on Election Day. If Democrats want to win in November, they'd be wise to speak directly to parents as well—shining a light on why raising a family is so hard today, what they'll do to make it easier, and who's been blocking the path forward.

It's not hard to deduce why Republican politicians and conservative outside groups are doubling down on culture wars and political fights. It's an effective strategy to advance their own objectives. After more than two years of parents leading our families through a pandemic, navigating vaccine misinformation, generally struggling to make ends meet, and managing instability, politicians are preying on parents' anxieties and desire for a sense of control of something. Anything.

In the absence of offering solutions that will help families, they aim to divide us with boogeymen and scare tactics that gin up anger, prevent us from uniting, and lead us to believe the only solution is for us to turn inward and distrust everyone else. They shift attention from their failures of leadership to making us feel like the failures are ours. But the Republicans behind the culture wars are right about one thing: Parents should be angry.

Rally for Child Tax Credit
Parents and caregivers with the Economic Security Project gather outside the White House to advocate for the Child Tax Credit, Sept. 20, 2022, in Washington, DC. Larry French/Getty Images for SKDK

There are viable solutions that would help families—like the expanded Child Tax Credit, paid family leave, and gun safety measures. Progressive leaders have proposed them and they're supported by large swaths of the country, regardless of party or ideology. But these solutions are consistently blocked from becoming reality by Republican politicians. That's maddening—but also mobilizing.

While many of the solutions parents badly need were discussed in early days of budget reconciliation talks in Congress, the bulk of these policies hit the cutting room floor on the long, winding path to this summer's Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats can't simply abandon their efforts on behalf of parents because of a Joe Manchin-shaped roadblock. They've got to keep fighting to keep these solutions front-and-center, build the political and cultural pressure to make them reality, and be clear as day that if awarded a larger majority in Congress, they'll deliver what families need on Day 1.

In research conducted this summer by ParentsTogether Action and Avalanche Insights, we heard loud and clear from parents and voters across the board about what families are feeling. They used words like "chaotic," "difficult," and "stressful" when describing the past year. More than three-quarters of voters told us that raising a family in America today is either "much harder" or "a little harder" than it was for their parents' generation, including 71 percent of parents currently raising children under 18, and 83 percent of parents who previously raised children.

In short, parents need help, and they broadly back popular solutions that would offer that help. The expanded Child Tax Credit is supported by more than 80 percent of parents—before Republicans blocked its continuation in 2021, it put money in families' pockets in monthly installments, reducing childhood poverty by 30 percent, with significant impacts on people of color who are systematically disadvantaged. Paid family and medical leave is supported by nearly 90 percent of parents, so they don't have to choose between keeping their job or spending time with a newborn or sick family member. Responsible gun safety laws are supported by 81 percent of parents, so that we aren't angst-ridden every morning when we send our children into school buildings.

In fact, some of parents' biggest concerns are about the country's political fights themselves. In our research, 90 percent of parents said they were either "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" about the "chaos caused by polarization and hate" harming children growing up today. When it comes to issues like book bans or censorship of honest education, an issue tagged with the "CRT'' misnomer, a CBS News/YouGov poll earlier this year showed overwhelming opposition to these bans. So how do the culture wars help us or our kids? There's an easy answer: They don't.

Some politicians will try to divide us. But as parents, we share a universal truth: we love and care for our children and would do anything to support and protect them. We expect the best for them, and we deserve leaders who want the best for them too and will act to make our lives better. Democrats can be those leaders—if they start speaking directly to parents and lead the way to real solutions to our problems.

Ailen Arreaza is co-director of ParentsTogether Action, an advocacy group with more than 3 million parent members nationwide.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.