Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte of Montana even attacked the “woke” state of Washington for refusing to source its electricity from coal mined in his state.
That’s an awful lot of name-calling for as unwoke a clan as ever there was.
To Democrats, “woke” means awareness about inequality and injustice.
To Republicans, it means anything progressive, liberal, or Democratic. “Woking” someone, you might say, is the Republicans’ current way to run against the culture and values of Democrats when a Democratic president remains popular.
It is not a new term, but it is now the term for tagging Democrats. It’s like calling them ugly. Or stupid. Or uncultured. Of course, once the GOP and its largely White-male membership co-opts a popular term, one may presume its cultural power is about to fade.
At least one commentator has suggested as much. Elijah Watson, news and culture editor for hip-hop site Okayplayer, recently suggested on NPR that it’s time to retire “woke” — a word that was “something that we were taking seriously and then it kind of transformed into something ironic and then it became a meme and then it became a trademark.”
Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville went on an anti-woke rant last month during an interview with Vox. “Wokeness is a problem, and we all know it,” he said, before launching into a critique of what he called the “faculty lounge” language Democrats often speak and regular folks do not understand.
“They talk about ‘communities of color,’ ” he said. “I don’t know anyone who speaks like that. I don’t know anyone who lives in a ‘community of color.’ I know lots of White and Black and brown people and they all live in . . . neighborhoods.”
In contrast, Donald Trump’s facility with plain talk and memorable slogans was crucial to his success. He broke it all down for his followers: Woke is “destroying” the country. Anyone can understand and, importantly, repeat those five words.
Republicans have latched on to “woke” out of necessity. They know they need something, or someone, to blame — and fast — for President Biden’s popularity and their own failings. This is especially critical now that Republicans have come under fire from some smart people in their own party for sticking with Trump.
Former president George W. Bush went first, saying that if the Republican Party stands for “exclusivity” and “white Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, then it’s not going to win anything.” Last month, during an interview with NBC’s “Today,” Bush said today’s GOP is “isolationist, protectionist and to a certain extent nativist.” (Bush modified those remarks a few days later to say that not all Republicans fit that description, noting “it excluded a lot of Republicans who believe we can fix the problem.”)
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) went next. As he was about to address his state’s Republican convention on May 1, the former Republican presidential nominee was booed and heckled. Who knew that Mormons, the nicest people on the planet, knew how to boo? In an instant of pure Mitt-ness, Romney batted away words such as “traitor” and “communist” and said, “Aren’t you embarrassed?”
Uh, no, as a matter of fact. The party that elected Trump obviously cannot be embarrassed. But normal people should be.
“You can boo all you like,” Romney finally said. “I’ve been a Republican all of my life. My dad was the governor of Michigan, and I was the Republican nominee for president in 2012.”
Romney left out that he was also a very successful governor of Massachusetts. But to Trumpublicans, all that matters is that Romney voted to impeach their president.
Now they are after Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) who, in addition to refuting the Big Lie of the “stolen election,” did the very polite — but apparently suicidal — thing and bumped fists with Biden last week. For her treachery, she is likely going to be replaced as House Republican Conference chair by someone who knows how to stay on script.
This GOP, which is nothing like the storied Republicans who raised these three so-called traitors, just is not being very smart right now. By trying to shut down or marginalize people such as Romney and Cheney, it may soon fulfill Bush’s prophecy of extinction.