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Who Are The Real Radicals?

Radical right-wingers suggest children should be treated equally, regardless of their race.

Conspiracy-theory toting extremists are taking over local school boards, bringing with them the beyond-the-pale beliefs that students should not be treated differently because of their race and that virtual or masked learning is, and has been, detrimental to children’s development. The nation should be very concerned.

At least, so says the Washington Post. A story published Monday titled “A rural Washington school board race shows how far-right extremists are shifting to local power,” describes the race for Eatonville, Washington’s School Board District 2 seat in November of last year as a microcosm of school-board politics across the country. It follows Sarah Cole, the center-left candidate who began the race as a heavy favorite, given the years she served on the Eatonville Area Council Board of Directors and her heavy involvement in the local Parent Teacher Association, and co-protagonist Ashley Sova, a Three Percent member and homeschooling mom who would defeat the Post’s tragic hero Cole despite joining the race late.

Recalling the lead up to the election, Cole told the Post, “I kind of thought I had it in the bag.” In the end, Sova captured just over 52% of the vote, defeating Cole by a margin of 212 votes.

After Sova was convinced to enter the race to replace the candidacy of a right-wing activist who discovered his address was just outside of the district, Cole and Sova met for coffee to discuss education issues. The conversation, both women told the Post, was trying, but remained civil. Cole pressed Sova on her membership in the Three Percent, a folk-libertarian, militia-esque group that gets its name from the imprecise claim that only 3% of colonists served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Sova countered by testing Cole on her views on critical race theory. At the end of their discussion, the pair snapped a picture and promised to work together regardless of who won the race, though both walked away from the meeting thinking that Cole would emerge victorious in November.

However, in the last month of the election, national media attention zeroed in on local school boards over critical race theory and Covid-19. Eatonville didn’t receive an iota of the attention that other counties, such as Vigrinia’s Loudoun or Fairfax County, garnered over that period of time. Understandably so; Eatonville is in Washington state. It isn’t a suburb of Washington D.C.—the power center that drives our national conversations—like Loudon or Fairfax. Of course, there was also the hotly-contested Virginia gubernatorial race in which Terry McAuliffe ultimately sunk his candidacy by bringing more attention to these education issues.

Though Eatonville’s school board race went largely undetected by the media, the national focus on school-board politics had a profound impact on the race’s top issues. Discussions over funding and extracurriculars were out. Conversations on teaching students about critical race theory, or critical race theory-lite, were in. Of course, Covid-19 still played its predictable role, but the national hysteria about the need for more school closures, virtual learning, or hybrid options in the face of “spiking” Covid cases roused a previously silent majority of Eatonville parents who had enough of forcing their children to wear masks for five to seven hours a day. In this political landscape, Sova had a path to victory and took it.

Cole doesn’t say the election was stolen per se, just that it “was basically sabotaged by the national narrative.”

The Post is right insofar that what happened in Eatonville is part of a broader national trend, though for the wrong reasons. In a predictable attempt to defend Cole’s characterization of the election, the Post went to their well of so-called experts and watchdogs to suggest that Sova’s election to Eatonville’s school board is part and parcel of the rapid right-wing radicalization sweeping across the United States à la Jan. 6. As Jan. 6 looks more and more like petty, mobbish thuggery either ignored, or possibly encouraged, by the FBI, and less like the insurrection to topple American democracy Democrats and the corporate media have made it out to be, they would now have the public believe that Jan. 6 has continued in the form of states attempting to pass election integrity laws or critical race theory bans, or electing anti-critical race theory candidates to local school boards (democratically, I might add).

The Post’s chosen experts proved eager to prop up Cole’s account of the election. One such expert, the Western States Center’s Kate Bitz, claimed that groups like the Three Percent are taking over local school boards through an “inside/outside” strategy that encourages members or allies to run for office, and provide pressure through implicit threats of violence if their candidate doesn’t come out on top.

“They are hoping that they can advance the inside part of the inside/outside game without having to take on the cost of the intimidation, the harassment, the undermining of democracy that they are also engaging in,” Bitz said.

But Sova’s recount of her experience with the Three Percent is much different than the Post’s experts claim is characteristic of the organization and others like it. Sova told the Post she joined the Three Percent for its “constitutionalist” beliefs and to learn survival skills. “We have bonfires over here where the music is loud and the neighbors don’t care. Where we’ve got a big fire going, kids jumping on the trampoline and everybody’s running around and having fun,” Sova told the Post. “That, to us, is Three Percent.”

Sova also said she was harassed throughout the campaign because of her involvement with the Three Percent. She claimed that strangers would take photos of her and her car in parking lots before she took the Three Percent stickers off of her car. Others would sneak onto her property to take photos; someone even stole the family’s five-month-old German Shepard puppy after cutting through the fence in their backyard.

“I’m not what people assume that I am. I love the fact that I’m different, and maybe that makes me scary to some, but I don’t know, I’m not this gun-toting, right-wing extremist that they all think I am,” Sova told the Post with a pistol holstered to her hip. “I’m not waving it around, you know what I mean,” Sova added with a laugh.

Though the Post tried to make Sova look sympathetic by suggesting she is one of many Americans that have unknowingly entered into some radical cult because of the influence of Fox News and conspiracy theorists, Sova’s election is not about the creation of swaths of right-wing radicals. It’s about parents rising up to take back control of what their children are learning in the classroom. Four consecutive generations of parents have witnessed liberal public schools do away with the traditional mores of American life. Sex ed has replaced school prayer. Critical race theory has destroyed the legacy of our Founding Fathers. Students now pledge allegiance to the pride or progress flag, not Old Glory. Remind me, who are the radicals again?

In the face of this insanity, parents are willing to tolerate electing someone who previously may have expressed some pretty out-there views if that candidate understands the nature of the true threat that faces the United States. Sova, despite lacking Cole’s credentials, struck the right tones on voters’ most important issues and won the election. Sometimes, politics really is just that simple.

about the author

Bradley Devlin is a Staff Reporter for The American Conservative. Previously, he was an Analysis Reporter for the Daily Caller, and has been published in the Daily Wire and the Daily Signal, among other publications that don't include the word "Daily." He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy. You can follow Bradley on Twitter @bradleydevlin.

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