Matt Gertz (not Gaetz) wrote at Media Matters and showed how this happened and identified a "The feedback loop between powerful right-wing institutions "that fuels the discourse on critical racial theory, just as the same fundamental process that made the Tea Party movement into something in 2009, fueled opposition to health reform in 2010, and anger over public health policies in health 2020.
The first step in this feedback loop is that “right-wing think tanks have developed a framework for discussing 'critical racial theory'.” This is Rufo, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, but his choice of goals has been broadened. from others, including the Heritage Foundation. Next, “advocacy groups are using the think tank framework to counter 'critical racial theory',” with “at least 165 local and national groups aiming to disrupt teaching about race and gender,” according to NBC News. These groups include blatant artificial turf led by longtime Republican activists, as well as efforts by right-wing activists who have been bolstered by appearances on Fox News.
Next, Gertz writes that the work of advocacy groups (inspired by the think tank framework) “generates press coverage, especially from right-wing media”. From Fox News to Breitbart, there have been increasing mentions of critical racial theory, fueled by advocacy interviews, which often go unmentioned that the person billed as the concerned parent of a local anti-CRT group is a media-trained Republican operational : “For example, Fox has a Series of reports on "Critical Racial Theory" in schools in Loudoun County, Virginia with the comment by Ian Prior, a GOP agent and director of Fight For Schools who lives there. (Officials of the district school say Critical race theory is not taught in the district.) "
And then Republican politicians attack the issue, direct their campaigns around it and pass laws that are proven not to be critical racial theory, but instead claim to be. That, in turn, helps convince the Republican base (who are not yet convinced of Fox News and OAN and Newsmax) that this is a big problem. Even though, in the case of Critical Race Theory at least, it is a 100% fabricated controversy over a theory that is not actually taught in K-12 schools and that is used for any classroom instruction on race and racism and US -History of standing Conservative whites feel uncomfortable
This is how the Republicans create a culture war. They are doing it right in front of our eyes, and they don't even bother to hide that they are doing it.