Mothers you don't want to mess with
A conversation Michigan Sen. Mallory McMorrow about faith, service and how she lit a fire under suburban moms
In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m writing this week about a mother who has recently taken the political world by storm, galvanizing suburban moms — and many other Americans — by fighting back against the political lies and bigotry in the so-called “parental rights” movement.
Though I am from Michigan, I didn’t hear the speech from State Senator Mallory McMorrow – who represents my home district – until it went viral. McMorrow had been attacked by a Republican state senator with the hateful lying bigotry that has become standard now for the new Trumpian Republican Party.
The attack on McMorrow came from a colleague’s fundraising letter, accusing her and other Democrats of “sexualizing and grooming children” (language used to malign supporters of LGBTQ rights and portray their political opponents as secret pedophiles) and teaching that “8 year olds are responsible for slavery.”
But as McMorrow, who calls herself a “mommie legislator,” says: “You came after the wrong mom, frankly.”
In response to the attacks, McMorrow rose in the Michigan Senate Chamber and gave what has become a pivotal American speech, summoning the righteous fury she felt and calling out the ugly vitriol.
McMorrow identified herself as a white, suburban, straight, Christian mom, and called the idea that teaching the truth about slavery and America’s racial history will make white children hate themselves is “nonsense.” And she passionately made the case that ALL children in Michigan should feel safe and cared for, whether or not they are white, straight, or Christian.
Here’s the speech. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s well worth your time.
Mallory McMorrow: Hate Will Not Win
After McMorrow’s speech went viral, President Biden tried to call her, but she missed his call because she was putting her one year old daughter to bed. After Biden finally reached McMorrow, he told her she “said everything that needed to be said, and said it beautifully.” The president added that “‘it sort of sounds cheesy (to say) that you’re fighting for the soul of the nation, but it’s true.’ And he admitted that he’s never seen it this bad.”
“I think it taps into a lot of what I know my constituents feel that this has just gone too far,” McMorrow told me. “We're not hateful. We don't want to target people who are different.”
In our conversation, McMorrow also spoke warmly about how her mother was instrumental in teaching her about the meaning of Christian faith.
She told me that her mom started taking her to the soup kitchen when she was 9 or 10 years old. “I wasn't afraid of meeting new people. I wasn't afraid of meeting somebody who might be homeless. I liked running up and talking to people. At home, there was always somebody at our kitchen table.It was, neighbors, family members, friends, kids, like anybody could just pop by. And this was how she lived and how she taught us.”
The Senator is a “soup kitchen Catholic,” much like Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker, whose faith is defined by those whom Jesus calls “the least of these” in Matthew 25. “We exist to be of service to others,” McMorrow told me, “and it's showing faith through works.”
McMorrow shares my concerns about the political perils of our moment, when democracy itself is at stake. “If Democrats don’t stand up and fight back, the Republicans are going to put forward people who may not support our having free and fair elections ever again.”
That is already true, and we discussed a zoom call I had just hours earlier with clergy leaders and state election officials in Michigan about the dangers of voter suppression along racial lines.
Of course, other political leaders, especially women and men of color, have been challenging the lying bigotry of the MAGA Republican Party. To her credit, McMorrow has helped to elevate the voices of Black and gay legislative collegues in the Michigan Senate. She is fully aware, she told me, that a video of a white suburban mom went viral when the same things said by Black urban moms have not.
“Black women have constantly been in the fight, and I want to make sure we're acknowledging that and not saying that we’re leading it. No, its we're joining you. And I've been saying to a few people I'm sorry, we're late. But we're not too late.”
Moms could play a significant role in bringing the public debate back to where it belongs. Mallory McMorrow says she has been contacted by legions of other moms who also want to stand up to the lies and hate. She has clearly lit a fire among mothers who are ready to speak and act as she has.
But Mallory doesn’t want to be just partisan.
“I represent a lot of Republicans, but this current iteration of the Republican Party has taken advantage of mom's burnout and frustration to redirect it into, frankly, a place that isn't where they are. So part of what I wanted to say to other moms is I see, I hear you, I know that this is not what you stand for. I have talked to moms in my district who have been frustrated with schools and closures and have been trying to find a place to put that frustration. But moms say to me about this hate talk, ‘That's not me. But I don't know where to go. Because I am frustrated and I don't know where to put this energy. So I want to help give other moms like me a place to go.”
The Senator continued, “People feel so tired after the past few years, especially for moms, you know, who have been at home 24 hours with their kids with Covid closures and trying to balance work and school and people are worn out. But I've had moms say I feel like I can fight again. And I'm ready. And I'm excited.”
I said to the Senator that things don’t go viral unless they resonate with lots of people; and I asked her how we turn this moment into a movement? After her speech went so viral, Mallory said her mother told her that she needed to turn the millions of “views” her speech has earned online into millions of “acts” in real life. Mom’s on the case again.
Senator McMorrow’s historic speech was a call to action, and many moms have listened. Let’s all listen and perhaps make it a Mothers Day conversation around our special meals together with family this Sunday. Flowers are nice, but involving and empowering mothers in our political system would be even better.
Let’s call out the language that is “vile and terribly wrong,” as McMorrow says. Instead, let’s together figure out what is best for all of our children and the communities that surround them. That would be the message we most need from our moms going forward.
And here’s warning to male ideologues, be careful of the moms you mess with.
Thank you for continuing to elevate an important speech and issue for all of us.
I am thinking that our actions will be most effective in the voting booth this November and again in 2024. We have to work to make sure all eligible voters can and do vote and that everyone's vote is counted. When CPAC is meeting in Hungary and their keynote speaker is Hungary's autocratic dictator, that is a clear signal that Americans who believe in our democracy had better stand up and speak out for our form of government or we shall surely lose it.