By D. Allan Kerr
Right-wingers in the Republican Party apparently think keeping their base fired up over what they consider ‘wokeism’ is the formula to take back power in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
They might want to consider how foolish their antics may seem to those who are more rationally minded.
The more strident – if not downright shrill – GOP members have launched counter-attacks on so-called woke positions with what I consider ‘stokeism,’ intended to stoke outrage among their constituents and not really accomplish much else.
One of the more bizarre aspects of this effort has been an apparent obsession with iconic kiddie-culture characters. Last year Sen. Ted Cruz complained about Sesame Street’s Big Bird encouraging people to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
Now Ron DeSantis has declared all-out war on Mickey Mouse for the Disney corporation’s advocacy for the gay community.
In fact, recent legislation pushed thru by Florida’s governor may be among the most transparent examples of stoke policies to date.
The so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law signed by DeSantis in March outlaws “classroom instruction” in kindergarten thru third grade on “sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Now, I’m pretty sure there’s not a lot of sex ed in those early grades, but the legislation is vague enough so teachers could face punishment if they, say, share a book about a kid who has two dads.
Apparently, kids should not be made aware that sometimes kids have gay parents.
The Disney corporation opposed this legislation, which some say ostracizes the gay community. DeSantis, in a pretty clear case of retaliation, promptly sought to strip Disney of a special self-governing status in place for more than 50 years.
However, the action was taken so hastily it isn’t yet clear who will wind up footing the bill for the services previously provided by the corporation.
Ironically, DeSantis claimed he’s making this move because he wants to protect children from indoctrination.
Which is funny, because I first became aware of the guy when a 2018 gubernatorial campaign ad featured him reading to his infant son a book from everyone’s favorite children’s author, Donald J. Trump.
So now Disney, which has defined the term “family-friendly” for multiple generations, is being portrayed as a woke corporation out to brainwash kids, and DeSantis is concocting stoke legislation to cast himself as a defender of the masses.
But he’s not alone. In fact, it’s been downright entertaining to watch some of these hard-right folks try to top each other’s anti-woke histrionics.
One particularly surreal episode occurred recently when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin presented the Pentagon’s national defense budget before a congressional committee.
Florida congressman Matt Gaetz (what is it with Florida Republicans?) questioned him about some obscure lecture previously given at the National Defense University, then embarked on a tangent about wokeism in the military.
We’ve seen some curious moments of political theater in recent years, but watching Eddie Munster’s frat-boy kid brother try to lecture a retired, combat-tested four-star general – a guy who served multiple stints in the 82nd Airborne and was awarded the Silver Star for leading troops in battle in Iraq – about military preparedness is one of my all-time favorites.
Now let’s be honest, Matt Gaetz will never be the sharpest tool in the shed, but even he knows a classroom lecture on socialism isn’t going to make our armed forces any less lethal.
Nothing of significance was accomplished by his grandstanding, but I’m sure he was able to stoke the indignation of those being told they are victims of wokeism.
No doubt he was thinking along these same lines when he later tweeted, “How many of the women rallying against overturning Roe are over-educated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no bumble matches?”
Whatever your political stripe might be, just ask yourself: How is such a dumbass statement constructive in what is an otherwise serious and divisive debate?
Sometimes I really think these folks are simply competing to see who can be the biggest asshole. I’m not kidding.
Consider, for instance, the clown currently heading Oklahoma’s Republican Party, who is now running for Congress.
This guy – he doesn’t deserve to have his name mentioned – does not really believe Dr. Anthony Fauci should be tried and placed “in front of a firing squad,” as he exclaimed recently.
But the shock value of his line drew cheers and applause at a campaign rally, and he’ll no doubt get some of the spotlight he clearly, desperately craves.
Likewise, DeSantis taking away Disney’s status of self-sufficiency doesn’t make life any better for his constituents or their community.
It’s not going to repair roads or build bridges or reduce health care costs or make higher education more affordable. It doesn’t lower taxes or make people safer or improve their situation in any tangible way.
If anything, this move could wind up increasing taxes for neighboring towns who may have to pick up the bill to pay for services previously covered by the corporation.
But that was never the point. These political opportunists are playing to a particular segment of the population who have been persuaded smaller segments are getting special treatment. This is what drives a lot of folks now.
The Republican Party I remember stood for small government, big business, a strong national defense, love of country and minding your own business (unless you were gay or a woman). Now there seems to be an ever-growing faction simply terrified of losing their place in line.
Many of today’s Republicans sound like the crybabies they always accused Democrats of being. They’ve flipped the script so much the GOP of old has become the POG – the Grand Old Party is now the Party of Grievance.
I dunno, maybe it’s always been this way. But during the most recent heyday of Republicanism, the Reagan era, I don’t recall quite so many whiners. And all you have to do to win their support, apparently, is loudly bash what I believe used to be called political correctness.
You don’t even have to actually get anything done – you just have to stoke to fight the woke.