Christopher Rufo says the fiery education debate will go far beyond Virginia

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Christopher Rufo, who has become a national figure for putting a spotlight on the critical race theory ideology that has emerged in schools and institutions across the country, is confident that the impassioned debate over education will go far beyond the Virginia gubernatorial race

When asked if the issue of education will be a factor in the 2022 midterm elections, Rufo replied, “without a doubt.”

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“It’s a genuine problem and it’s motivated a genuine grassroots revolt in every state in the country,” Rufo told Fox News Digital in an interview on Tuesday, hours before polls closed in Virginia. “You have places in suburban New York City, suburban Seattle, suburban San Francisco and then even within the urban school districts in America’s bluest cities where parents are saying, ‘No, we don’t want to teach collective guilt, we don’t want to teach race essentialism, we don’t want to demolish standards and academic merit, we don’t want to eliminate gifted programs, we don’t want to submerge the pursuit of educational excellence in this really divisive and nihilistic racial orthodoxy.'” 

Christopher F. Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @realchrisrufo and sign up for his newsletter.

Christopher F. Rufo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. Follow him on Twitter at @realchrisrufo and sign up for his newsletter.
(Christopher F. Rufo)

Rufo, who spoke at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando on Monday, pointed to the “shift” opposing CRT that where not only conservative base voters are mobilizing on a local level but also among “three-quarters of independent voters” and that members of minority groups across the board “all oppose it by strong margins.”

“And so you have a bipartisan and multiracial coalition of new people that have come to this issue with an incredible power. And what we’re seeing is really the mobilization of a new interest group, public school parents, and we should be absolutely fighting for these people,” Rufo said. “These are American families. These are the people who hold our country together. These are the people who are raising the next generation. And they resoundingly reject critical race theory. So we need to provide them a political voice and a political outlet for them to not only express grievance, which is important, but to actually implement important reforms.”

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The journalist-turned-activist said he “didn’t expect” the education debate to dominate the Virginia race but that it was “not surprising” since Loudoun County and Fairfax County had been such a “focal point” of the issue for the past year. 

“Parents and activists within those suburban districts have uncovered the most disgusting and egregious … and destructive behavior from these school boards that should absolutely be thrown out of office. And yet they cling to their bureaucratic power, which I think has created a focal point for this conflict,” Rufo told Fox News. “And the Youngkin campaign was intelligent enough, sophisticated enough to translate that into a statewide political language that has seen a shift that is astonishing and inspiring.”

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting, just 40 minutes from Fairfax

Parents and community members attend a Loudoun County School Board meeting, just 40 minutes from Fairfax
(REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein)

When asked where he thought the next Loudoun County would be, Rufo cited the “tremendous revolt” in New York’s Westchester County as well as “brewing” movements in New York City, Seattle and San Francisco, “not places you’d expect,” adding he’d heard from concerned parents living in such liberal cities. 

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“It’s not the caricature that you’ve seen the New York Times of rural knuckle-dragging, white grievance voters expressing, you know, their white rage and white fragility. In fact, we haven’t seen much of that at all,” Rufo said. “What we’ve really seen is a multiracial coalition in blue cities and blue states driving this change. And I think that’s what has terrified my opponents because they’re realizing that they’re absolutely losing the grip on the narrative. And they’re losing their critical base of support, which is fast-growing, diversifying blue suburban areas, particularly among women who are utterly just – and viscerally opposed to what they’re seeing from these institutions.”

In reaction to Merrick Garland doubling down on his memo monitoring alleged threats posed by parents to school boards across the country even after the National School Board Association rescinded its letter to the DOJ and even apologized for suggesting outraged parents were “domestic terrorists,” Rufo told the attorney general, “good luck.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing examining the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)
(Tasos Katopodis/Pool via AP)

“It’s an absolute travesty of a policy. Using the power of the FBI to intimidate parents at local school board meetings is not something I expected. I think on the merits, it’s disgraceful. But then on the pure politics, I mean, you’re now setting up a conflict or you’re setting up a contradiction between public school mothers and the FBI.”

“Merrick Garland might be the FBI is a more sympathetic character and he could be right, but I suspect that anyone with a barely-functioning brain would understand that if that’s the battle line that’s being drawn by the administration, we side with the working, middle-class, every day multiracial coalition of moms that simply want a great education for their kids. They’re being failed by the public schools. And they’re not going to let the FBI intimidate them because they care more about their kids than they fear the federal apparatus of repression,” Rufo added. 

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Rufo said the “next step of this movement” will be underway in the coming months with the release of a “platform” that allows ” every school district, every school board, every state legislature, can translate this grassroots energy into concrete policy reforms.”

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