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The Political Wages of Wokeness

If critical race theory and claims of systemic racism are the future, why are Joe Biden and Kamala Harris running away from them?

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of congress as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol on April 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.(Photo by Jim Watson - POOL/Getty Images)

I touch on this in an upcoming column, but I’m still stunned by the left’s double act over recent comments by Senator Tim Scott. Scott gave the GOP response to President Joe Biden’s national address and declared therein that “America is not a racist country.” On one hand, the left promptly screamed that he was a traitor, a clown, an “Uncle Tim,” to use the deeply clever epithet they coined on Twitter. On the other hand, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Jim Clyburn—three of the most powerful Democrats in America—all tripped over each other on the way to the mike to agree that he was right.

“I don’t think America is racist,” Biden flatly told NBC.

Jim Antle delves further into the politics of this:

Democrats have committed themselves to rooting out what they describe as systemic racism in law enforcement, housing, healthcare, wealth distribution, and a host of other areas. But they are also trying to find their footing in how to discuss these issues without seeming to call vast swathes of voters racist.

And:

Biden has positioned himself all over the map on racial issues over the course of his long political career, hailing his support for the civil rights movement at some times and criticizing forced busing and “knee-jerk liberals” at others.

As Jim later points out, issues of law and order and patriotism can be politically potent: Republicans wielded them to elect Richard Nixon and then soar to political dominance in the 1980s and 1990s. Biden surely knows this, which is why he’s just contradicted the wokesters’ single most foundational claim. It’s a reminder not just of how far left the Democratic base has swung, but also of how pathetically disconnected our online political discourse has become from average American lives.

I mean, seriously. The same voters whom Biden has to answer to say they’re worried about the economy, national security, and health care, while their elites sit around babbling about cisgendered microaggressions against Latinx OnlyFans influencers. That isn’t necessarily unprecedented: intellectuals are often more radical and arcane than the citizens they claim to speak for. A kind of dispositional Burkeanism steels the common man, vulnerable as he is to societal disruptions. But right now, the chasm between the chat room and the living room gapes ludicrously wide.

I know that radical change can be imposed from above; I know, too, that wokeness is being pushed with such ferocity as to maybe win on effort alone. But here’s an encouraging (if probably naive) thought: what if Old Joe’s instincts are sharp? What if the left is just going through a phase? What if wokeness is so repulsive as to eventually crumble under the weight of sheer political reality? What if conservatives’ conviction that This is Where Things Are Headed proves mercifully wrong?

about the author

Matt Purple is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

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