Commentary: Moms for Liberty Has Been Tearing Up Our Community – But Also Itself

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

I have been watching the news from afar with keen interest.  Probably more interest than I usually would have had for such an organization because of what has transpired over the last year here at home.

Yesterday, WIRED Magazine published a story, “One of the Republican Party’s most successful grassroots organizations is being torn apart by scandal, including accusations of sexual assault.”

They boldly proclaimed, “Moms for Liberty Is Tearing Itself Apart.”

None of this is really that surprising.  In the 1990s when I interned in Washington and did research on far right groups affiliated with the Christian Coalition, we saw similar scandals.

Writes Wired, “Moms for Liberty, the extremist ‘parental rights group,’ was supposed to help the Republican Party regain the White House. In July, former president Donald Trump called the anti-LGBTQ group with 300 active chapters across the county a “grassroots juggernaut.”

“They are credited with forcing schools to lift mask mandates, banning books featuring LGBTQ characters, and supporting anti-trans laws and policies across the country. The group was on track to be instrumental to the GOP in the 2024 election.”

But Wired notes that “over the course of the past five months, the group has begun to unravel.”

I have seen individual reports that show members “have been exposed as sex offenders and acolytes of the Proud Boys.”

But perhaps the most sordid was the account where “Moms for Liberty cofounder Bridget Ziegler admitted in a police interview to being in a relationship with her husband and another woman. The interview was conducted after the woman in question alleged that Ziegler’s husband, Florida GOP chair Christian Ziegler, had raped her.”

“The impact of the Zeigler scandal has been enormous on the Moms for Liberty structure,” Liz Mikitarian, the founder of the activist group STOP Moms for Liberty, which closely tracks the group’s activities, told WIRED.

She added, “We see chapters moving away or taking a break, chapter leadership questioning their roles and scrambling at the national level to save their ‘mom’ brand. The organization is trying to distance itself from the Zieglers, but this is impossible because the Zieglers are interwoven into the very fabric of Moms for Liberty.”

Some of the big hitters in the Republican circles joined their convention last summer—Trump, DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy.

Notes Wired, “The group’s support from the GOP came despite widespread reports about the harassment and intimidation campaigns that Moms for Liberty members conducted against school board members, teachers, superintendents, and even other parents.”

As we have reported, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Moms for Liberty an extremist group earlier this year.

But Wired notes that “in recent months, controversies and closer scrutiny of the group’s claims have significantly tarnished the group’s image.”

But how effective has this group actually been?

We have seen locally that they have a tremendous ability to disrupt.  But in terms of actual policy change, if anything they have polarized the community against them.  As noted in previous columns, far more people have signed up against them than for them.  Pretty much every elected official representing Davis and most that are elected in Yolo County, have signed onto such a letter.

Wired cites an article in Medium, by Heath Brown, a professor of public policy at the City University of New York who argued that while Moms for Liberty claims to be a national movement, “the vast majority of its membership is concentrated in just four states: South Carolina, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida.”

Brown writes, ““This suggests that the political power is considerable and expanding in some states, but nearly absent and even waning in others.”

Moreover, a report from the Brookings Institution published in October confirmed this.

They found that while “Moms for Liberty was attracting members in Democratic strongholds, it was winning school board elections only in staunchly conservative regions of the country.”

Moreover, in elections in the fall, “70 percent of its endorsed candidates lost their races, according to an analysis from the American Federation of Teachers.”

Locally some supporters have argued for a silent majority phenomenon—arguing that people in a community like Davis may fear speaking out in favor groups like Moms for Liberty, but that doesn’t seem likely.

The proof of the pudding is how a “Moms” backed candidate would do in Davis—it seems like, based on the national trends, not well.

Davis may be more conservative in some respects than its reputation, but it’s worth noting in the last presidential election, Trump did not crack 15 percent of the vote.  That’s not a silent majority phenomenon, as voters are protected by the secret ballot.

Overall, LGBTQ issues probably have a stronger measure of support in Davis overall.  We can look back quite a ways to the Prop. 8 ballot to ban same sex marriage.  While the Measure passed statewide 52-48 to ban such marriages until it was overturned by the US Supreme Court, in Yolo County it failed 60-40 and in Davis that number was over 80 percent.

The right has seen this issue as the wedge issue to turn them to power in 2024.  This followed the successful overturning of Roe v. Wade two years ago.  But what we have seen nationally is that the overturning of Roe has, if anything, harmed the right.  And what we are seeing is this issue is not an issue many voters are comfortable jumping on board with.

If our experience in Davis is any guide, the movement is likely to burn itself out nationally and may ironically help to strengthen the overall position of the LGBTQ community and actually foster broader acceptance for the trans community.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Walter Shwe

    Thank you David for telling it like it really is which is the exact opposite of what the right and the Moms for Liberty desperately want people to think the situation actually is. The Moms for Liberty have been outed for who they really are. Threesome or foursome anyone? Who are the real pedophiles and groomers? The Moms for Liberty falsely asserts that the answer to both questions consists of patriotc, law-abiding and inclusive Democrats. The reality proves otherwise.

  2. robert bulman

    Locally, Moms 4 Liberty have succeeded in galvanizing a tremendous amount of opposition to their right-wing shenanigans and garnered even more support for ALL marginalized communities in town.  Their childish terror campaign against Davis teachers, librarians, and the LGBTQ community is the most mind-numbingly stupid political strategy I’ve ever seen. The local County chair even complained with outrage that Davis students had been issued, brace yourself, LIBRARY CARDS. Good Lord. She also posts on her very public facebook page the PRIVATE correspondence she has had with school personnel, in an attempt to publicly shame them.  There is space in our democracy for a reasonable person to make the case that transgender medical interventions should be limited for minors. But their tactics reveal a much more cynical and destructive political campaign of indiscriminate shit-stirring.

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