WASHINGTON – Republicans, who seek to shake up President Joe Biden and win back Congress next year in part by sparking a voting base driven by culture war issues, have increasingly settled on one word for describe what they are opposed to: “awake”.
Conservatives en masse lashed out at “woken up” companies for speaking out against Republican-led voting restrictions – a move that has publicly aligned much of American business with Democrats on the issue, even though many companies have. emphasized their belief that access to the ballot should not be a partisan issue.
Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., Promoted his book coming to Twitter saying “the crowd awake” – those who called on its original publisher, Simon & Schuster, to drop it following his efforts to overturn the election – wanted to prevent anyone from reading it.
And former President Donald Trump, in a recent interview with Fox News, said the Biden administration was “destroying” the country “by waking up.”
The word has appeared in dozens of Republican speeches, tweets and other late statements. Republicans said it was less of a coordinated messaging campaign and more of a gut feeling that the label would work as a shortcut to disparage a progressive worldview – and it’s a word they hear from their constituents as well, because it buzzes in the conservative media.
Still, lawmakers and agents who spoke to NBC News have varied in how they define the idea, while others have said they don’t know much about the “revival” at all.
“I guess it’s just instinctive – as you know when you see it,” a Republican Senate aide said of what is meant by “awakening”, adding: “It’s more about ‘a peculiar worldview of racial and social hierarchies. and social leveling and things like that. If you use it the right way, it has a distinct meaning, but there’s also obviously a tendency to just call it all. and everything “woke up” when that could mean “liberal,” and these don’t mean exactly the same thing. “
The assistant added that anti-alarm clock messages are “everywhere now” because “it sort of works to say it”.
“And I don’t think people know exactly why,” said this person. “It’s like you see something working and just keep doing it.”
A “ strange criticism ”
“Woke,” which has a long history in black culture, was propelled into the mainstream in 2014 by activists protesting after Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot dead by police in Ferguson, Missouri. “Stay awake” was a warning to be vigilant as the Black Lives Matter protests met with massive police force. It has evolved to encapsulate a broader social justice mantra – being “awake” is now defined as being aware of racial and social injustices.
Among conservatives, “awakened” has been adopted as a term of derision for those with progressive views of social justice. In particular, the right-wing connotation of the word implies that an “awakened” person or entity is performative or fictitious. It is directly linked to terms like “political correctness” and “annulment” – which are also at the forefront of conservative messages.
Candis Watts Smith, co-author of “Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter,” said the revival idea “is about freedom, justice, equality, access to the vote.” .
“When people talk about being awake or waking up, they are talking about being well informed and well aware of systemic oppression and injustice,” said Smith, professor of political science and African studies. Americans at Penn State University. “And so it’s a strange criticism from Republicans and Conservatives to suggest that being awake is a bad thing.”
But, she said, the Conservatives “are actually experts at military language.”
“And saying ‘being awake’ is ridiculous or ridiculous, if you do it enough it will work for some people,” she said, changing the connotation of the word.
Probing the idea of ”revival” is difficult, but there are strong partisan divisions on some issues of racial and social justice. For example, a recent CBS News / YouGov poll found that while 79% of Democrats agree with the ideas expressed by the Black Lives Matter movement, only 16% of Republicans do.
An NPR / PBS / Marist survey this month asked Americans whether they support or oppose the use of their platforms by American businesses and professional sports teams to “influence political, cultural or change change. social “- the main targets of the recent GOP anti-revival campaign.
Only 36% of Americans – 53% of Democrats, 32% of Independents and 17% of Republicans – support companies in this direction, while 57% of Americans – 38% of Democrats, 62% of Independents and 79% of Republicans – said they oppose such efforts. The numbers were only slightly different for sports teams: 40% support and 55% opposition.
“Wokeness” – as South Carolina GOP President Drew McKissick has defined it – sums up the socially progressive views that “have grown off campus, if you will, in the corners of the Democratic Party, and it’s slowly taking over. the top”.
The call of the bugle
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Has been at the forefront of anti-awakening messages in response to corporate backlash on election laws. He lashed out at “signaling awakened corporate virtue” and, in a recent New York Post op-ed, criticized “awakened talking points”, “awakened progressive insanity”, “awakened cultural issues that tear our fabric apart. national “and” woke up, toxic nonsense. “
But even though his opinion piece called on Republicans to stop supporting “awakened” companies, Rubio had only a vague idea of what that might mean in terms of policy change.
“I don’t know when I first realized it,” Rubio said of the word “awake,” adding, “It’s more of a bugle call to Republicans who have been linked to the kind of libertarian view of the economy that we shouldn’t won’t play a role in that. “
For others, the “revival” was a hot topic among voters. Sen. Roger Marshall, of R-Kansas, said he heard about the topic at City Hall after City Hall, describing opposition to the waking state as a reaction to conversations about race and social issues in the United States.
“I think the waking state is overreacting to a lot of issues,” he said. “I think most Americans, the super-majority of Americans, are not racists, and people are overreacting here.”
Still, some were less aware of the concept. Senator Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Said he did not know what “the waking state” meant when asked if he agreed with his colleagues that he was a major concern.
“Worries about the alarm clock?” asked Inhofe, 86. “I can’t answer that, because frankly, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
It was not just the Conservatives who used “revival” as derogatory. It has also been used by more moderate Democrats to describe perceived progressive overshoots. In an interview with Vox, longtime Democratic strategist James Carville lamented “the professors’ lounge policy” and said: “Vigilance is a problem, and everyone knows it.”
“It’s hard to talk to anyone today – and I talk to a lot of people in the Democratic Party – who don’t say that,” Carville continued. “But they don’t want to say it out loud … because they’ll be overwritten or canceled.”
He cited as an example the use by some Democrats of the term “Latinx,” which polls show most Latinos do not use.
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who said he had “never understood” what the word “awakening” means, urged his party to keep its eyes on economic issues.
“Republicans are going to play culture issues, and they are going to play divisive, and they are going to play to hate and turn people against each other,” Brown said. “And it’s up to Democrats to stay focused on jobs and focus on health care and having your kid go to community college.”
Meanwhile, Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, rolled his eyes when asked about Republicans’ rhetoric about the waking state, saying it was “just an attempt to distract everyone” of their lack of ideas for economic policy.
“It has become a catch-all – I don’t even know what they are describing, other than it seems to me that they really don’t want to talk about the very popular bill that they all unanimously opposed.” , said Schatz. referencing Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief law.
On the right, the focus on “waking up” came hand in hand with an anti-“waking up” program that GOP state legislatures quickly approved, passing bills to limit school use. reports of the New York Times Project 1619. “- who argued that America’s real beginnings date back to the year enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia, highlighting the role of slavery and the experience of blacks in US history – They have also adopted measures to limit the teaching of critical race theory, ban transgender athletes from participating in women’s and women’s sports, and strengthen criminal penalties for those arrested during protests.
Seth Cotlar, professor of history at Willamette University in Oregon, said the fervent adoption of “awakened” is “a continuation of these longer trends in the Republican political message to white voters.”
“To me, ‘awake’ is the idiom of white reaction in the contemporary political age,” he said, adding, “It basically takes what is just kind of a normal, routine process. of cultural change – which still occurs in modern cultures. , especially ours – and that sort of pathologizes him. This gives it a name that you can attach to it and that allows you to reject it. “