Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon has been stuck at around 40% in the polls for the better part of a month now. She still doesn't have any money. She's getting pummeled in TV ad spending.
With the issues she's attempted to trumpet not making much of an impact, Dixon and Republicans at large are turning to yet another societal wedge issue to help move numbers: LGBTQ training videos.
Dixon and other Republicans are looking to make political hay over a belief that state government under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer doesn't think parents should know if their student is coming out as gay, changing their pronouns or becoming gender fluid.
She's trying to capitalize on the fears of a generation that knows only two genders — male and female — and that decisions to change that gender should come much later in life.
What they're seeing are parents who are freaked out that a younger generation is coming out with their sexuality and the gender they identify with at a younger and younger age.
Enter the latest GOP culture war.
Here's how we got here.
Back in December, the Michigan Department of Education put together a collection of training videos it shared with teachers on how to work with LGBTQ+ issues and the rapidly changing world of gender fluidity in America's youth.
The eight videos are around 85 minutes long each. They address timely subjects such as "How to Recognize and Address Barriers to Supporting LGBTQ+ Students and Families."
Somewhere in these videos, a conservative researcher with a New York-based think tank called the Manhattan Institute claims he found evidence of how these videos instruct teachers to hide information from parents when a student begins the gender transitioning process.
The thought is if teachers are asked by the student to address "him" as a "her" or "her" as a "they," it should be accepted as how the students wants to be identified and move on.
The question of whether parents should be brought into the equation may open up safety issues. What if dad is an alcoholic and has a major issue with this? What if a teenager who has come out as non-binary is kicked to the curb by non-understanding parents?
Is it the school's role to kickstart personal conversations between parents and students? Or is their job to teacher kids in an accepting environment and move on?
The Republicans are taking the position that if their child is entering the gender spectrum, parents ought to know about it. And while poking the bear on this subject, Dixon is touching a few related subjects:
— Banning students who have "male" written on their birth certificate from participating in women's athletics
— Stopping "puberty blocker" medications from children without parental consent.
— Preventing students with one gender listed on their birth certificate from going into the other gender's locker room.
Dixon is going here because, quite frankly, nothing else is working. It took President Joe Biden until a few days ago to say the pandemic is over, but we've all lived as if it was for months.
Few have much interest in revisiting those frantic days or the emergency decisions Whitmer made. Most folks concede Whitmer probably made her share of mistakes during the height of the pandemic, but she did the best she could.
Dixon is trying to make the case that crime is up. Whitmer cozied up with the "Defund the Police" movement, you know? Maybe the numbers show crime is up, but most people aren't feeling it.
Gas prices are going back down. Inflation is high, but what the heck can a governor do about that? Besides, there are jobs out there if you want them.
Like gay marriage and transgender individual bathroom use before it, the Republicans are trying to stoke the fears of people confronted with societal change they're not ready for.
At this stage in the campaign, they feel like it's the best play they have.
(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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