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‘Woke’ people are not the problem

A recent Adirondack Daily Enterprise guest commentary, “We cannot delicately handle history” (July 17, 2021) pushes back against “woke” people.

“Woke,” per Wikipedia, is a term “originating in the United States, that originally referred to awareness about racial prejudice and discrimination. It subsequently came to encompass an awareness of other issues of social inequality, for instance regarding gender and sexual orientation. Since the late 2010s, it has also been used as a general term for left-wing political movements and perspectives which emphasize the identity politics of people of color, LGBT people, and women.”

The “woke” oppose public square display of symbols celebrating treasonists. They are outraged by a law enforcement officer committing murder. They insist that schools discuss our nation’s slaughter of Native Americans, and our enslavement and subsequent decades of violent attacks and racist practices directed at Black people and other minorities. “Woke” people generally favor “liberal” policies to address peoples’ needs.

Conservative politicians and commentators have focused on issues of “wokeness,” while the Republican Party at the national level has lapsed into intellectual and moral bankruptcy. What recent public policy breakthroughs has the Republican Party achieved?

They:

¯Actively discourage effective public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, resulting in many hundreds of thousands of avoidable COVID deaths,

¯Slashed taxes for the wealthy and promised to balance the federal budget and pay off the national debt, while federal deficits and debt exploded under Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump,

¯Started decades-long major wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, wrongly promising that military removal of governments hostile to the U.S. would magically result in democracy and market economies flourishing like wildflowers,

¯Deny that global climate change is real and is caused by humans, and actively opposed national and international efforts to save our planet from climate catastrophe,

¯Oppose efforts to limit firearm-related deaths, which have reached nearly 40,000 per year in the U.S. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.html),

¯Grossly misrepresented and sought to destroy Obamacare and access to health care,

¯Celebrate racists and white nationalists while opposing efforts to establish coherent immigration policies, instead communicating that only white people are welcome in the U.S.,

¯Engage in gerrymandering, voter suppression, and perversion of campaign finance, which they consider good things when controlled by Republicans, and

¯Celebrate violent insurrectionists, opposed the orderly implementation of the results of a lawful election, and actively sought to undermine the U.S. Constitution to keep Donald Trump in power.

The Republican Party has ceased to represent a source of constructive public policy at the national level. Instead, it protects the wealth and privilege of ruling class white people, while broadening its electoral appeal through inflammatory rhetoric to attract other voters. The Republican Party is now the Trump party. Conservatives and the Republican Party now have little to offer beyond the cult of personality that surrounds Donald Trump, along with hand-wringing over “wokeness” while they persist in their policy failure and obstruction.

Trump’s supporters have not been dissuaded by his horrific performance as president, his multiple bankruptcies, Trump University ($25 million fine), Trump Foundation ($2 million penalty), dozens of allegations of sexual assault, hush money payments, serious conflicts of interest, two impeachments, Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/15/the-person-to-weaken-america-what-the-kremlin-papers-said-about-trump), Trump’s fascism (https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/theres-word-what-trumpism-becoming/619418/), and his actions that many consider to constitute incitement to insurrection.

The writer closed: “It’s not always about dollars, or about strident righteousness. Sometimes it’s about persuasion. Let’s talk.” I agree. I also agree with him that personal responsibility is key to individuals and the nation thriving. However, broad segments of our society have long been actively obstructed from engagement in mainstream activities. Exhorting people to personal responsibility is often not sufficient. Don’t tell someone to pull himself up by his bootstraps when he has no shoes.

Before meaningful policy discussions can succeed at the national level, Republicans should acknowledge that under President Barack Obama they worked only to obstruct needed public policy action during the two wars and Great Recession he inherited from George W. Bush. Republicans were then perverted by Trump. The nation needs to push aside Donald Trump–a cancer on the body politic–along with political hacks like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Responsible conservatives also need to purge Republican demagogues most closely aligned with Trump, like House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republican Conference Chairperson Elise Stefanik, and Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley.

The only way the Republican Party can become an active contributor to public policy debate is to first cleanse themselves of all things Trump, and then commit to the work to be done. President Joseph Biden has demonstrated his willingness to work with Republicans, engaging in countless face-to-face meetings to discuss specific legislative elements.

He needs active, constructive partners on the other side.

The writer did not reveal whether he was or is a Trump supporter. For those continuing to support Trump, is it time for you to turn against him and his enablers? Where will you go for national leadership if Trump and his associates and family members are indicted and convicted of serious crimes? Will you continue to make excuses for a person whose actions are inexcusable?

David Banks lives in Rockville, Maryland, and is a former resident of Lake Clear.

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