You may have noticed my subtle criticism of woke policy and politics. I’ve referred to woke as “garbage.” Some could regard this as a gentle signal that I may disapprove of it.
I’m also a believer in David Shor’s theory of popularism. That is the complex political strategy of finding out what voters want and then being for that.
But here’s the thing. If you follow popularism too closely you might conclude that Democrats should just shut up about race, given that their positions (or at least their perceived positions) are so very unpopular outside of the Middlebury College faculty lounge.
But that’s not what I’m saying. Democrats can’t ignore race because Republicans, and their media allies in places like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, won’t let them. They’ll just keep defining Critical Race Theory as a scourge that is responsible for everything from your kid’s substandard reading scores to risk of stroke and blood clots in people who have AFib, not caused by a heart valve problem. And then they’ll say that all Democrats are for it.
To fight back I think Democrats can do two things.
First, they need to clearly disavow CRT. They’re just not going to get away with the current party line, which is to say that it’s not being taught in public schools and it’s just some obscure grad school seminar topic. They can’t get away with it because it’s simply not true. Some of the concepts and language of CRT are everywhere, including in a lot of schools.
Sure, people may be fuzzy about just what their kids are being taught, but they hear this stuff in the media and quite possibly from their own HR departments, and they don’t like what they hear. They’ve never thought of themselves as racists and they don’t appreciate being called one now. (And no, sorry, they’re never going to read anything by Robin D’Angelo.) Of course, they’re going to react fiercely against this stuff as any falsely accused person would. If Democrats don’t separate themselves from CRT, then little else matters. They’ll get creamed in the next election.
But once Democrats make it clear what they’re against, they’ve got to fill the void with what they’re for. They’ve got to offer a narrative that is better than the race-baiting Fox News caricature or the deeply unpopular cult of woke.
I suggest going back to basics, which is to say restating the classic American creed, which goes something like this.
One. We’re all created equal, which means that everybody gets a fair shot at the American Dream, however you want to define that. Life, liberty, property, the pursuit of happiness. Nobody should be barred from working toward those goals because of the color or their skin or anything else that isn’t relevant.
Two. Nobody’s guaranteed anything. You have to work toward your goals. But it’s simply unfair that people who work hard don’t get rewarded.
Three. In some ways, we’re all the same. The idea that we’re not the same is the key reason that woke is such a disaster. Woke defines some of us as oppressors and some of us as victims and it has got nothing to do what we’ve done as individuals. That ignores the fact that it’s natural for people to want to support people like themselves. The genius of the American creed is that it defines people not by superfluous things like skin color, but by fundamental things like willingness to work hard and a shared belief in liberal values.
This is what changed to make gay marriage possible. After awhile, so many people had come out as gay that everybody knew somebody who was. They were their neighbors, coworkers, fellow volunteers. They worked hard and they were helpful neighbors. And so Americans’ fundamental sense of fairness kicked in. Why shouldn’t my gay friends and coworkers be treated with the same respect I get? Once that took hold, the barriers fell fast.
This is a fundamental argument. Woke wants us to reject everything about America that Americans hold dear. That will never fly. Instead, we should be holding our own feet to the fire. We say we’re for equality, that everybody should have an equal chance if they work hard? Well, let’s make that real for everybody regardless of race, gender or anything else that isn’t about personal merit.
Yes. Yes. Yes. I hear what you’re saying. There are, in fact, some true, rotten to the core racists out there. More than I used to think. But I still believe that the vast majority of Americans are good people who want to be fair. Most of us have better angels in our nature. Democrats should appeal to that.
Welcome to the 264th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!