PHILADELPHIA — They call themselves fun warriors — but this group of conservative moms is crazy.
They are angry at their teacher, their principal, their president. And now they’re fighting back through school boards, local elections and — if they do — their next president.
This weekend’s Mothers for Freedom Conference showcases how local issues like education can have a huge impact, encouraging the nation as Governor Ron DeSantis, former President Donald Trump and Former UN ambassador Nikki Haley managed to attract nearly 700 attendees of the group of more than 150,000 members Friday.
Some of the key breakout sessions at the heart of the group’s mission, such as “Protect Children from Gender Ideology” and “Ask School Boards to Turn Their Actions Up,” have been kept under wraps. media access. Yet the enthusiasm at open events is still palpable, almost bouncing off the walls of the ballroom.
Nearly all in attendance jumped to rapturous cheers as DeSantis criticized those who prevented puberty while touting the various policies he has enacted to empower adults. Sunshine State’s parents.
“I think what we’ve seen across this country in recent years has awakened the most powerful political force in this country,” DeSantis told the crowd in the ballroom of the Philadelphia Marriott. : mother bears and they are ready to roll.
While the group was founded by three Florida women, one of whom is married to the president of the Florida Republican Party, and looks like fertile ground for DeSantis, the parental rights fighter, the group East seems to belong to Trump.
One Florida mom told ABC News she wishes he’d stayed at the Florida Governor’s Mansion and feels a bit betrayed that her governor is spending so much time campaigning.
Mothers for Freedom is not yet tied to a specific candidate, and the group is uncertain about its plans to confirm it in 2024. Signs of MAGA are everywhere, though, from from gorgeous “TRUMP” lanyard pins to vintage red and white chapels. Long lines of people lined up to hear the former president’s keynote speech lined up around the mezzanine up to the escalator.
Before he started speaking, mixed chants of “GO BRANDON” and “WE LOVE TRUMP” echoed throughout the hall so that the lone candidate of the day received a standing ovation for several minutes. before his speech.
Love is mutual.
After the civil rights watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently labeled the group an anti-government group, saying it spreads “hate images and anti-community rhetoric” LGBTQ” that leaders of Mother Organization for Freedom previously criticized ABC News as “nonsense,” Trump hit back at the ethos.
“The radical left even slanders Mothers for Freedom as the so-called ‘hostile group’ … but Mothers for Freedom is not a ‘hostile group’. You guys are jolly warriors and fierce patriots,” Trump said to applause.
“You are not a threat to America; You are the best thing that ever happened to America. Joe Biden and the Communist Party of the Democratic Party are a threat to America. And together, we will dethrone them on Election Day 2024,” he continued.
Republicans will need this group to make up for any lost ground from the last midterm elections.
“Mothers are the key political force for this 2024 cycle—we have the opportunity to tap into all the energies, all the concerns,” DeSantis said.
And that power is reflected in the data, according to Geoffrey Skelley, senior election analyst at FiveThirtyEight.
“Different groups of women voters — and all women — played a key role in Biden’s victory. Women make up a solid majority of the Democratic Party’s voter base — about 58 percent of Biden’s electorate, according to one poll — and the party would struggle to win the election if only there are men voting,” explains Skelley.
“If Trump does even a little better for suburban women, it’s easy to imagine that he’s made it through some very tight races in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin,” Skelley said. arguments.
Becky McCarron, a mother and grandmother from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, finds herself part of a much larger movement, scared but ready to fight.
“If you don’t stand up for your child, who will do it for you?” she told ABC News. “I am really worried about my grandchildren. And it seems to me more ideological [in schools] and parents have no say in what their children are being taught.”
And McCarron, a two-time Trump voter, remains staunchly supportive of the former president despite not fully believing his views. She attributes his bravery to his roots: “New Yorkers are a different breed,” she added.
Chris Birde, a mother from Brevard County, Florida, where the organization began, was brought with Moms for Liberty from the beginning, attending last year’s summit in Tampa and vowing not to miss a meeting. else in the future. She brought her daughter, Reagan, and her daughter’s friend Ryleigh Seibel, both high school students, on the trip and to build the ranks of the mission.
She considers education “top of the line” of this cycle and thinks mom’s election will either succeed or fail next November.
“They know that mothers hold power. In most elections, women are the influencers,” says Birde.
When it comes to his Election Day options, Birde wants him to prefer DeSantis to stay in Florida and is upbeat about another Trump term, saying she considers the former president the “warrior” she is. and the country needs.
Florida Republican President Christian Ziegler of Sarasota, Florida, whose wife Bridget co-founded the group Mothers for Freedom before resigning to focus on his duties as a school board member Sarasota – told ABC News that the group has been building the basis for the past two and a half years to reflect on how the issue is playing out politically. The size of this Philadelphia convention is “probably double” compared to the size of the group that gathered last year in Tampa.
“Honestly, it’s one of the top if not the top problems in the country,” Ziegler said.
Ziegler added that parental rights, alongside lax COVID-19 restrictions, were the top factors that helped his party deliver decisive victories in Florida, a state with a long-standing purple color and trend. overwhelming trend in the red in the 2022 midterm cycle.
“I don’t think you have to look further than Florida. We have proof,” Ziegler said.
The Democratic National Committee criticized the group and the Republicans involved Friday morning ahead of the remarks.
“Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy are celebrating the 4th of July weekend with one of the nation’s most notorious anti-liberal, historical erasure, book-ban groups,” the DNC said. “While President Biden and Vice President Harris run to defend the rights and freedoms of Americans, MAGA Republicans are more interested in serving right-wing extremists than in addressing political problems. real problems facing working families.”
Katie Gorka, the wife of controversial Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, told ABC News that the presence of key Republican candidates is proof that powerful conversations about education will How the next cycle plays out and Moms for Liberty’s growing influence shows the group “has hit a nerve” on the nation’s pulse.
“Parental rights and education in general will be an important electoral factor, both in the local elections this November as well as in the presidential election next November,” Gorka said.
ABC News’ Isabella Murray, Hannah Demissie and Abby Cruz contributed to this report.