Paul Bowers writes about what happened when a slate of extremists took control of a local school board in South Carolina. He described their actions as “vandalism.”

He begins:

A hard-right faction took control of the 4th-largest school district in South Carolina last night and immediately got to work smashing anything that wasn’t nailed to the floor.

On the same night they were sworn in to the Berkeley County School Board, a slate of candidates backed by Moms for Liberty and the local Republican Party fired the district’s first Black superintendent, fired the district legal counsel, voted to cut property taxes, approved a ban on “critical race theory” in the classroom, and set up a panel to begin reviewing and banning books containing sexual content that they deem inappropriate.

I was there when it happened, part of an overflow crowd of community members who told the board what they were doing was shameful. We might as well have delivered our little speeches to a brick wall. What we witnessed last night was more like vandalism than leadership.

I live-tweeted the meeting last night if you want to take a closer look. Because this newsletter has a national(-ish) audience, I wanted to share some broad observations that might be helpful as conservatives put all of our schools in their crosshairs.

They came prepared

The temptation is to think of our political opponents as stupid or insane. They might in fact be both, but we can’t think strategically about defeating them without assuming a base level of cunning on their part.

The Berkeley County Republican Party is a well-oiled machine. From the moment the newly elected conservative super-majority members took their seats in the boardroom last night, it was obvious they had a plan and they were sticking to it.

The new members didn’t deliver any flashy soundbites. They hardly discussed their policy proposals at all, aside from a running narrative by their newly installed board chair, Mac McQuillin. McQuilin is one of the longer-serving board members and knows Robert’s Rules of Order. He knew when to call a vote, and his allies on the board dutifully cast their votes in a 6-member bloc. On a 9-member board, they didn’t need to bother with persuading the other side.

This is called party discipline, and Democrats are terrible at it. Progressive activists and politicians could learn a thing or two about tactics here.

They take cues from the national level

Two rallying cries of conservative activists in this country right now are banning uncomfortable discussions of history under the guise of “critical race theory” and forbidding students from learning about the existence of trans people. The messaging is clear and consistent from Tucker Carlson’s mouth to your racist cousin’s ears.

Unlike with Statehouse-level legislation, where watchdog groups like ALEC Exposed track the spread of “model legislation” from the American Legislative Exchange Council, we don’t have a robust way of tracking the spread of billionaires’ pet projects at the level of local school boards (Or maybe we do! Let me know if you have a good resource).

Read enough local news and you start to see the patterns, though. Conservative county council and school board members have no qualms about copying and pasting policies from each other.

Earlier this month in South Carolina, the Horry County School Board set aside a “restricted access” section of school libraries where students can’t read books without parental permission. Book bans and “library consideration policies” were on the agenda in Lexington 3 and Beaufort County school districts this week too, borrowing ideas from Florida’s latest book ban laws.

Following the template, Berkeley County’s school board voted last night to approve a similar book-banning regime, effectively overriding policies that were written by the district’s own school librarians last year.

Please open the link and keep reading.