January 18, 2020

The Democrats Have a Wokeness Problem

“Democrats are too “woke” for their own good, or so goes the argument.

“Today’s progressivism is more or less a secular form of religion with its own high standards,” Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist, wrote this spring. “Eventually,” he concluded, “the revolution devours its own.” Bill Maher, host of HBO’s Real Time, urged Democratic presidential candidates to “Get out of Woke-ville, for a day.”

“Wokeness,” in this rendering, is an overly rigid commitment to identity politics and social justice ideology. And in their zeal, these woke Democrats are pushing the Democratic Party away from the voters it needs to beat President Trump in 2020.

If this were actually true, you would expect real traction for the wokest candidates in the Democratic presidential race. But it’s been just the opposite. The woke candidates have been the weakest, electorally speaking, and the defining attribute of the Democratic primary has been a preoccupation with the voters that put Trump in the White House.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York centered her campaign on racial justice and the fight against sexual assault. During one debate, she identified herself as a “white woman of privilege” and promised to reach out to “white women in the suburbs who voted for Trump and explain to them what white privilege actually is.” Fluent in wokeness, Gillibrand hoped to win the most progressive, social justice-minded Democrats. But she never broke away from the pack and dropped out at the end of the summer.”

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