Ian Prior spent much of Fall 2018 in heated debates about Brett Kavanaugh. However, other right-leaning politicos likely never found themselves getting chewed out at a Halloween party by a wine mom dressed as a koala.
At the time, Prior had no idea that a half decade later, he’d be authoring a playbook for concerned parents who want to challenge their local school boards' decisions—much less one blurbed by Newt Gingrich, Don Jr., and Mark Levin. But the Loudoun County, Virginia, suburbanite and Republican political consultant ended up at the epicenter of the parents’ rights movement that would change the trajectory of the commonwealth’s politics and the post-Trump Republican party.
Like Liam Neeson in Taken, the self-professed movie lover had a very special set of skills that made him the leader for the job. But as his new book, Parents of the World Unite!, indicates, those special skills also extend to crafting an engrossing yarn that could be a compelling movie in its own right.
Taking a page from Jordan Peterson, Prior structures his book around 12 rules that concerned parents who are political novices can use to become more engaged in local politics and actively participate in their child’s day-to-day in the public school system. By weaving together memoir and how-to guide, Prior provides a firsthand account of the corruption in Loudoun County’s school system that served as the catalyst for Glenn Youngkin’s resounding 2021 defeat of former VA governor Terence McAuliffe.
For those who casually followed Youngkin’s rise and only knew about Loudoun County via Daily Wire personality Matt Walsh’s headline-grabbing stunt of renting a room to speak at a school board meeting when officials banned non-residents, Prior delves into the often shocking details that could be lurking underneath the agenda of any school board in the nation.
In recounting his first-ever Zoom meeting at the height of the pandemic, Prior recounts, “I realized that I wouldn’t have known a single member of my school board if I had literally run into them on the street…Like most parents in my neighborhood, I just assumed that they were looking after the best interests of the children in our community. This, I would soon learn, is something you can never take for granted.”
The book's detractors have attempted to paint Prior as a political insider with a law degree who worked for Trump’s Justice Department and collaborated with conservative PACs, thus making him unrelatable to the average parent outside the Beltway. However, Prior uses his resume to illustrate that even those hard-wired into politics for a living are often oblivious to the goings on afoot in their local communities—a lesson vital for Republicans to learn as they look to course-correct in 2024.
Amid its practicalities, Prior’s work serves as an impressive example of local color chartering the affluent rank-and-file class of those rich men and women north of Richmond whom he calls neighbors. “Edna has a Twitter account and has tweeted that there were Republicans in her neighborhood with ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ license plates while having illegal aliens cut their lawn. Unfortunately, her attempt at exposing hypocrisy backfired as it appeared that Edna was referring to the guy across the street who was Iranian and cut his own lawn.”
With one book under his belt, Prior has certainly not reached the effortless wit of Tom Wolfe or Gay Talese, but no other has come close to offering such a biting portrait of the D.C. sprawl’s petite bourgeois. He’s also a modest enough writer to credit his best line, “Chardonnay Antifa,” to his friend who coined the term.
As he deftly pulls back the layers of intrigue and wanton abuse of power by the seemingly innocuous schoolboard consisting of mediocre wokescolds, Prior reveals them as something much more nefarious. They are the type of people who would cover up a genderqueer biological boy sexually assaulting two teenage girls in school bathrooms to pass a trans rights policy. They are also opportunists who could spin a CRT training session’s “catch the slave” game that went awry at a local school into an inflection point, which brought down the wrath of the NAACP and furthered the DEI spending that spawned it–what Prior calls the “Education Industrial Complex.”
While the anecdotes build, Parents of the World Unite! lays out the most cogent picture of how the pandemic lit the fire of a bipartisan group of parents dedicated to challenging race and gender orthodoxy in ways that serve as a model for combating such elements in school districts across the nation.
However, Prior also doesn’t shy away from the movement’s failures. Youngkin may be in office with Winsome Sears, the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor by his side, but many board members his group tried to recall remained in power through this year thanks to the former Soros-backed D.A., Buta Biberaj (she and the group‘s most insidious members, however, all finally met their political demise in by the end of this year’s midterm election).
As both an attorney and the founder of the PAC Fight for Schools, Prior is equipped to brutally recount Biberaj’s mental gymnastics and abuse of authority to save her political colleagues on the board–all of whom belonged to a Facebook group formed to cancel vocal parents and teachers who spoke out against their agenda. He also expresses a knack for making the complexities of hearings, petitions, and obscure commonwealth codes accessible for those more concerned about 9th-grade indoctrination than owning the libs.
His impressive narrative prowess aside, Prior never forgets that the book’s primary purpose is to help apolitical parents and other concerned citizens hold their local leaders accountable. In rules that range from “Activate, Investigate, Communicate” and “Do Not Stop at a Wall” to “Don’t Be Overly Reliant on Past Success,” Parents of the World Unite! is as exhaustive a guide to politics as Saul Alinksy’s Rules for Radicals.
Prior proves himself a process-oriented guy who knows the details matter, which is why he devotes as much attention to carving out a message that reverberates across the aisle and goes beyond trite talking points about wokeism as he does to shepherding a story from the local press to national television. Even a seasoned political operative could benefit from Prior’s strategizing.
Though it lacks the high profile of Trump administration tell-alls or the latest guide to American renewal from a failed 2012 presidential candidate, Prior’s first book establishes him as a practical and entertaining force in conservative media. He may make his opponents look like dullards cosplaying as the chlamydia-ridden mammals that they often are, but he refuses to underestimate their political power, a refreshing approach to a movement that seems far too content with its bumbling Biden memes.