Mallory McMorrow recalls the sting of being accused of “grooming” and “sexualizing” young children by a colleague. “I was miserable,” she says. Instead of shrugging it off or changing the issue, as Democrats are frequently accused of doing, the Michigan state senator decided to fight back.
McMorrow gave a fiery, impassioned floor speech at the statehouse that went viral on social media and garnered him a congratulatory phone call from US President Barack Obama.
She also offered a blueprint for how Democrats can combat Republicans’ intent on making education a wedge issue.
For a 35-year-old serving her first term in office, it was a standing ovation. McMorrow, a former automobile designer, and branding and design consultant, is part of a generation energized by opposition to Donald Trump’s red meat populism.
She witnessed a video of middle school children yelling “”Build the Wall!” at another student shortly after Trump’s victory as president in 2016, and the school happened to be the polling station where she had voted. She was inspired to enter politics and was elected to the state senate in 2018, representing the 13th district, which includes areas directly north of Detroit.
The Michigan Senate, on the other hand, has been controlled by Republicans since before McMorrow was born. It was never going to be simple in a period of strife and division.
This is a five-alarm fire. 48% of Michigan legislative Republicans took steps to discredit or overturn the 2020 election. And Trump wants to replace them with those who WILL do what it takes to throw your vote out if they don’t like the results. https://t.co/SDcNY6sXBU pic.twitter.com/n4veZbJyH6
— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) May 23, 2022
“Dear Lord, across the country we’re seeing in the news that our children are under attack. That there are forces that desire things for them other than what their parents would have them see and hear and know,” Republican Lana Theis said in an invocation that was part prayer, half Make America Great Again (Maga) battle cry.
McMorrow was one of three Democrats who walked out in protest at what appeared to be a reference to how schools deal with sexual orientation, gender identity, and critical race theory, all of which have been the subject of Republican legislation around the country.
Your identity is a gift that helps you to uniquely fight fire with fire, not a liability that the GOP can seize on to tear us apart.
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) May 20, 2022
She also criticized the prayer on Twitter, prompting Theis to fire out in a fundraising email, saying, “These are the individuals we’re up against.” Senator Mallory McMorrow (D-Snowflake) and other progressive social media trolls who are furious that they can’t groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year-olds are accountable for slavery.”
Grooming, a term that refers to how sex offenders begin contact with their victims, has recently become a Republican buzzword, and it alludes to QAnon conspiracy theories that claim Democrats are running a pedophilia ring. It’s no less painful because it’s absurd.
“I’m ’m the mom of a one-year-old and I sat in how horrific I felt all day and realised, if I feel that bad for one day, this is how bad it feels for those who are targeted unfairly every single day. It has to stop, which is why I decided to say something publicly,” McMorrow said in a phone interview from Lansing.
While bathing her daughter Noa at their Royal Oak home, she started to work writing a response.“She was just looking at me and laughing, so oblivious, and I was suddenly filled with all of these things that I wanted to say. So I wrote everything down. I crossed a lot of it out. I was up a lot of the night writing what I wanted to say and what I didn’t want to say.”
Last week, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik called Dems "pedo grifters" and railed that Dems didn't "…present ANY PLAN or urgency to address the nationwide baby formula crisis…" Last night she and a majority of the GOP voted against funding to address that crisis. https://t.co/treyLRIxHs
— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) May 19, 2022
According to McMorrow, Democrats have been unwilling to publicly discuss religion and faith, whereas Republicans have sought to weaponize Christianity in order to give the impression that they speak for all white suburban women.
“It feels like Democrats have ceded ground to the Republican party on Christianity and religion and family values and patriotism. Waving a lot of American flags tends to be associated with the Republican party now despite the fact that many of my colleagues supported the insurrection,” she reflects.
They want women to exist only as vessels for reproduction.
We are people.
We have rights.
We have autonomy.
We decide if and when we become pregnant.
And we WON'T go back.
-signed, a "straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom" who isn't using Christianity as a weapon https://t.co/OzP7KuP2fQ
— Mallory McMorrow (@MalloryMcMorrow) May 20, 2022
“I was speaking to a lot of people who look and are like me: white, comfortable, non-marginalized suburban moms – who I know don’t feel the same way as the current strategy of the Republican party and who maybe haven’t been as active – to say this only happens because we’ve let it happen and we need to reclaim our own identities and say we care about our families, our communities.
“I am a parent. I want my daughter to grow up and meet people who are different from her and be empathetic and kind. The response that I’ve got from people is, ‘You have said everything that I feel and haven’t had a way to articulate.’”
For the past few weeks, a male GOP senator has taken it upon himself to step up to the mic & tell women senators @MalloryMcMorrow, @SenErikaGeiss, @rosemarybayer, and @SenatorSantana what's wrong with the "tone" and "decorum" of their floor speeches.
— Senator Dayna Polehanki (@SenPolehanki) May 18, 2022
When Republicans bring up contentious issues, Democrats are sometimes accused of being reluctant and timid. Michelle Obama’s call in 2016 – “When they go low, we go high” – has been seen as an argument for dismissing such concerns as unworthy of attention and instead focusing on policy. Some, though, praised McMorrow for demonstrating how to beat Republicans at their own game.