opinion | The Republican Party says it wants to “protect children,” but not all children

Here are a few things the Republican Party is willing to do to protect children.

The Republican Party — in states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Kentucky — is willing to ban or strictly limit the public performance of cross-dressing and other gender-nonconforming behavior.

“This bill gives parents confidence that they can take their children to a public or private show and won’t be blindsided by a sexualized performance,” wrote Jack Johnson, the Tennessee Senate Majority Leader and one of the sponsors of the ban. stands. on Twitter.

“I can’t think of anything good that could come from taking kids and putting them in front of a bunch of grown men dressed like women,” said Gary Stubblefieldan Arkansas senator who wants to enact a similar ban there.

The Republican Party is prepared prohibit or strictly restrict discussion of LGBTQ people and identities in public schools, as well as transgender health care for minors, to protect them from what they say is manipulation and abuse.

“We don’t want parents to mistreat their children,” said Shay Shelnutt, an Alabama state senator whose bill to restrict education and ban healthcare was signed into law last year. “We don’t want to make that an option, because that’s what it is; it is child abuse. This is only to protect children.”

The Republican Party is willing to extend this circle of protection to public school discussions of race and American history—so-called Critical Race Theory—to protect students from guilt, shame, discomfort, and other negative emotions. “Critical race theory is a divisive ideology that threatens to poison the American psyche,” said Dan Bishop, a North Carolina state representative. saidwhen he introduced the Stop CRT Act in 2021. “For the sake of our children’s future, we must stop this attempt to cancel the truth about our founding and our country.”

And the Republican Party is willing to strictly restrict or even ban social media, out of concern that platforms like TikTok and Instagram could harm the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents. “We protect our children from drinking, smoking and driving,” said Utah Representative Chris Stewart, who has introduced a bill that would make social media companies legally liable if they dislike children under 16 on their websites and applications. “They can’t drive when they’re 12. We need to protect them from the effects of social media.”

In other words, there is a lot the Republican Party is willing to do to protect children from the rest of the world. But there are limits. There are boundaries that the Republican Party will not cross.

For example, the Republican Party will not support a universal school lunch to protect children from hunger. For example, when Democrats in Minnesota pushed through the measure in the most recent session of the state legislature, one of their Republican colleagues strongly objected. “I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota who says they don’t have access to enough food to eat,” Steve Drazkowski, a state senator, said. said. He, like most Republicans in the legislature, voted against the bill.

In the US Congress, most Republicans will not support a child benefit to keep children and their families out of poverty. In terms of health care, there are 10 states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — where Republicans refused the expansion of Medicaid fell under the Affordable Care Act, which denied millions of Americans, many of them children, access to regular medical care.

And in the wake of yet another school massacre – in Nashville, where a gunman killed three adults and three children at a private Christian school – Republicans refuse to do anything that could reduce the chance of another shooting or reduce the chance of a child dying from gun violence.

“There’s no one here who, if they could find the right approach, wouldn’t try to do something because they feel that pain,” South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds said. in an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Wednesday. “And yet, when we start talking about bans or challenging the Second Amendment, I think the things that have already been done have gone as far as we go with gun control.”

“It’s a horrible, horrible situation,” said Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, representing the district in question. And we’re not going to fix it. Criminals become criminals.”

2021, according to the Centers for Disease Controlfirearms were the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States.

When you add it all up, the picture is clear. The Republican Party will use the law and the state to protect as many children as possible from the knowledge, cultural influences and technologies that are perceived as divisive, controversial or subversive by the voters, activists and apparatchiks who set and direct its priorities. When Tucker Carlson, Christopher Rufo and Moms for Liberty say jump, their only question is: How high?

But when it comes to real threats to the lives of American children—from poverty, from hunger, from disease, and from guns—the Republican Party wants us to slow down and think about the costs and consequences, even possible futility. take action to help.

On Tuesday, I wrote about the fundamental deceit behind the “parent rights” tagline. What sounds like appropriate attention to parents as the most important adults in most children’s lives is in fact a rallying cry for a subset of the most conservative and reactionary parents, who want a state-sanctioned Heckler’s veto on the education of all children . in the community. It is a Trojan horse for the slow destruction of public schools.

Something similar applies to the constant calls to ‘protect children’. As they talk about them, these “children” are not real, living, vulnerable children. They are a symbol, and the calls to protect them are an excuse, a pretext for using the state against the perceived cultural enemies of the American right. These champions of children are not as interested in young people as citizens with rights and rights of their own.

The dark irony in all of this is that while the Republican Party is turning the idea of ​​”the kids” against gay, trans and other non-conforming Americans, it becomes more likely that real kids will try to harm themselves, out of fear or desperation or a sense of isolation or all of the above.

Not all children, it seems, deserve protection.