‘Straight, White, Christian, Married, Suburban Mom’ Calls Out GOP Bully; But are Majority of White Suburban Moms Ready to See Through the ‘Nice’ Charade?

Still of Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow. Image: PBS NewsHour/YouTube.

On April 19, Michigan state Senator Mallory McMorrow publicly called her colleague, Senator Lana Theis, to account. Theis had written an inflammatory fundraising email saying that McMorrow was “grooming and sexualizing children.” And McMorrow was having none of it. She stood up in the Michigan state house and spoke truth to Theis (who wouldn’t even look at McMorrow and sat facing away from her during the speech) about how as a “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom” she opposes the bigotry and scapegoating being ginned up by the GOP.

The entire speech (an address that John Stoehr at the Editorial Board referred to as a sermon—I highly recommend Stoehr’s interview with McMorrow) is reproduced in full here. But these two sentences capture the spirit of her remarks:

I want every child in this state to feel seen, heard and supported, not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white and Christian. We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives. 

I know more than a little about straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms. For eighteen years, one of those moms raised me. And, for the last twenty-four years, I’ve been a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom. Indeed, more than 2/3 of my life has been spent in the company of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms. Despite the specificity of “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom,” the moniker obscures a lot of diversity—like what kind of Christian and where the suburb is. Hang around the suburbs and you’ll find moms aren’t of the same mind about social issues or politics or even the best local grocery store.

There is one thing, however, that the vast majority of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms agree upon: being “hateful” is bad. Trust me. No straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom wants to be seen as hateful, wants anyone to be hateful toward her children, or wants her offspring to be known as hateful. The world has changed enormously over the decades of my straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom-hood, but one thing has not. Straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms still cling to a shared virtue: Be nice.

Senator McMorrow’s remarks are pointed and thoughtfully Christian. And, to my mind, they are theologically and politically convincing, a worthy model for other leaders to imitate. But their real power might be in their undertow—she called Senator Theis mean. It is mean to lie about people; it is mean when you don’t treat others as you want to be treated; it is mean to insult someone’s faith. Mean. Hateful really. McMorrow basically called Theis a playground bully, one of the least nice characters in the world of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms.

I live in northern Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. In my neighborhood, a majority of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms are Democrats. But we also know that just a little further outside the Beltway, straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms are swing voters—and candidates and political movements can be made or broken by our sisters.

We had an election for governor last fall. Glenn Youngkin brought up things that worry those sway-prone white, Christian, suburban moms—like library books and sex and teachers trained by those liberals at the University of Virginia. Youngkin made Democrats look mean. They’d keep your kids in masks and force them to read books that were upsetting. Mean Democrats want your children to feel bad about things like slavery and racism. They hate you and your safe suburbs and your history. Basically, Youngkin said all the same things that Lana Theis and others like her are saying, but he did it nicely. He didn’t outright call anyone a pedophile or groomer or bigot or fake president. He implied it all—he dogwhistled all the same policies that are now being passed in Republican-controlled legislatures—as he smiled, prayed, and shot hoops. All while wearing a dad-vest as a kind of armor of nice.

When I wrote an essay calling Youngkin a “wolf in fleece clothing,” a surprising number of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms criticized me on Facebook for not being nice to him. They didn’t address the implicit racism, the anti-LGBTQ scapegoating, or his subtle threats to teachers and education. They said I wasn’t being fair because he was a nice man and should be given a chance. In effect, he convinced them that Democrats were bullying them and their children (Democrats weren’t nice) and they saw his niceness as his platform. He wasn’t a culture warrior. Because he was too nice. He’s the guy you know from church. Like the Bible study leader. The BBQ dad at the parish picnic.

And because he’s nice to white, Christian, suburban moms, he’ll be nice to everybody.

It worked. For just a moment last November. It wasn’t a huge win, but he won.

Republicans believe that Youngkin’s victory is a template to winning this coming November on a national level. Get white, Christian, suburban moms worked up over all sorts of culture war issues—mostly regarding race, sexuality, and schools—and convince them that Democrats are a threat to their safety, their values, and their faith. Scare straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms to the polls.

But they’ve forgotten the part about nice. Because what they are proposing isn’t nice.

As Senator McMorrow so ably pointed out, it is inherently hateful “to target and marginalize already marginalized people” and to “deny people their very right to exist.” It isn’t Christian to treat others in such ways.

Glenn Youngkin seemed so nice. Until he set up a snitch line to tattle on teachers. Until he outlawed teaching on race. Until he bullied a teenager online. Until he started governing Virginia like the far-right governors of Texas and Florida. He may have won on nice, but when he actually started doing stuff he became unpopular faster than anyone who has held the office. As soon as he began executing the agenda, people realized the policies weren’t nice at all.

You can’t hide not nice for long. Even if you start with an aw-shucks mild-mannered affability, the vest eventually comes off. The meanness and bullying always shows up.

My mom taught me that.

Straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms who see through the charade need to call it for what it is. Because what’s going on isn’t nice at all.


This essay first appeared on The Cottage and is republished with the generous permission of the author.