by Fionna Farrell
Anti-woke fervor seems to have reached its zenith in 2023. If you ask me, I don’t necessarily think we’re getting much better. My grandmother still likes to ask me things like “What race wouldn't you date?” after I ask her for money every six months. Corporate brands support BLM like they’re part of an MLM. And for whatever morsel of “progress”—that word as in-the-open yet elusive as our albino squirrel—that manages to happen, an army of Tucker Carlson dickriders and Joe Rogan listeners still find a way to complain about it. I don’t know how it got like this; it is much cause for embarrassment, if embarrassment is an emotion you still feel.
Perhaps if the American political system weren’t so fubar as of late, the anti-woke warriors would find more productive things to do with their time. NFTs don’t grow on trees and alpha YouTube channels aren’t going to create themselves. Alas, though, these industrious pursuits are only second-tier options for the chronically anti-woke. The anti-woke cause has swallowed up the GOP—and with it, the minds of countless impressionable fourteen-year-olds—with such fanatical, unrelenting tenacity that there may not be a point of return anytime soon. I yearn for the old days when politicians were more focused on killing each other. Now, they are set on killing an idea. For Republicans—but, more broadly, anyone who suffers the slightest disillusionment with the moral edicts of PC culture—"wokeness" has become synonymous with all things laughably wrong with the world. It is no beacon of progress, but rather, something that inhibits the great, essentialist values of America from uniting us.
Obviously, the most outspoken decriers of the woke cause (who may or may not be from Florida) are the ones we’ve come to know by name. Ron DeSantis, who is more-than more than likely to announce a 2024 presidential bid, has become the anti-woke Jesus. From his cross of liberal backbones, DeSantis preaches only the most extreme of PC, AOC-bashing rhetoric, completely cavalier, or rather oblivious to, all the noxious “isms” that it perpetuates. And while immense danger does, in part, lie in his rhetorical un-finesse—DeSantis spewed a generation of bumper stickers with “Florida is where woke goes to die”—it should not be forgotten that the legislation he and others support upends livelihoods. It certainly becomes a great matter for concern when the law you signed gets nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The DeSantis thread is clearly the most overt brand of anti-wokism that pervades our political sphere; its abiders are the types to call wokeism a “cruel and dangerous cult” and treat it like more of a virus than covid ever was. In this way, it can be quite easy for the rest of us (not those of us who are “woke,” per se, but simply those of us who do not go full conniption over the word) to view these individuals as reactionary pundits within the era of post-Trump causelessness. “Wokeism” serves as a convenient dog whistle, when the escape from PC buzzword-bullets grows narrower by the day. Heavy runs the blood that spills over Twitter.
However, the ensconcement of anti-wokeness into the Republican party might stretch far beyond Ron DeSantis and those who would purchase his bumper stickers. It is the most comfortable conclusion to come to, that the anti-woke demographic is only one of two extremes, and that the majority of us idle in the infinite middle. But in reality, few causes within the GOP, especially among 2024 presidential hopefuls, permeate beyond the anti-woke umbrella. I’d like to talk about one such of those hopefuls and her unique brand of anti-wokeness; Nikki Haley may be far less offensive, to the average middle American, than bigot-spigots like DeSantis, but her rhetoric and message shows us a new, more insidious layer to the pervasive anti-woke cause. She reminds us that the anti-woke club is not simply just an old boys club.
Haley, whose myriad titles include UN ambassador and former governor of South Carolina, is also a woman. Not only this, but she is a woman of color. If there’s anything that history has taught us, it’s that things have been particularly hard in America for women and people of color. It’s tough to imagine that, in the 14,789th parallel universe in which I become a politician, I wouldn’t devote myself entirely to legislated misandry. Haley, however, thinks that modern feminism relies entirely on “victimhood,” and that every decision in women’s lives (on the subject of abortion) are “boxed in by a woke mob.” Again, the mob makes another rhetorical appearance, but whom or what exactly is she referring to? It remains a mystery. Perhaps the mystery is just now reaching its peak of suspense—when Biden was elected president three years ago, Haley had this to say (tweet): “With Biden as Pres, we should all be worried about the woke left. They will stifle free speech in the name of “freedom” & enact discriminatory policies in pursuit of “equality” & do it with a vision that has no resemblance to the America we know & love.”
Well, it’s not like Haley has a chance of winning—the polls put her at a scanty 7%, compared to DeSantis’s 28%. Can you guess whom the 43% belongs to? It is another person of color, that color being orange. The anti-woke spread is becoming more inclusive by the day.