Woke Got What It Wanted—and Then What?

The woke movement was giddy after January 20, 2021. The Left controlled both houses of Congress.

Joe Biden was drafted as the necessary veneer of 1980s Democratic normality to ram through an otherwise hard Left agenda. 

All the major cultural, financial, economic, entertainment, and media institutions had played various roles in seeing Donald Trump not just defeated, but also impeached twice. He was written off as persona non grata after the January 6 riot at the Capitol.  

So, academia, the corporate boardroom, Hollywood, the media, the Pentagon, professional sports, Silicon Valley, and Wall Street in near hysterical fashion all boarded the woke train. 

All now boasted of ferreting out “white rage,” and hiring legions of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” czars. 

Critical race theory would be mainstreamed to excise racism and discrimination by embracing racism and discrimination. 

“Crime” was to be seen now mostly as a construct created by the elite to protect their own privilege, prerogatives, and property. Shoplifting, looting, and street thuggery were just part of living in a normal city. 

Social justice warriors could replace defunded police. Gone would be most bail, incarceration, mandatory jail time, stop-and-frisk, and broken-windows deterrent policies. 

Green agendas would fundamentally transform America to put an immediate stop to man-made “climate change.” So, lots of oil and gas leases were either canceled or their fees vastly increased. 

Pipelines were stopped. Gas and oil companies were warned that everything from lack of financing to new regulations would put them soon out of business. The golden age of wind and batteries was already upon us. 

Modern monetary theorists assured us that printing money “spread the wealth”— devaluing the cash of undeserving capitalists who had too much and implanting it in the hands of the needy who unfairly had too little. 

To the extent inflation followed, it would be a good thing—a sign of a newly empowered robust consumer class too long denied “equity.” 

COVID was virtually over. We were assured by Joe Biden that Trump had killed over 350,000 Americans by his lax policies. 

In contrast, Biden would soberly vaccinate us all, claiming its efficacy as his own. He would predict victory over the virus by the Fourth of July. The Delta variant was still then just an obscure rumor from abroad. 

The border would be opened—and stay open. No more walls. As citizens of the world, the Left welcomed in 2 million, arriving illegally without audit or vaccinations in time of a pandemic. 

As the woke drove terrified old liberal Democrats into hiding, all the old wisdom about human nature vanished. 

Forget that criminals hurt the poor the most. Discard the quaint idea of Martin Luther King, Jr. that our character not our color determines who we are. Ignore the passé idea that inflation eats away at the wages of the working class. 

We could always resume the quarantines, lockdowns, and shutdowns that made Amazon, Target, Walmart, and other conglomerates hundreds of billions in profits, while the mom-and-pop small businesses went broke. 

So, what did the people conclude 10 months out from the Woke getting their wishes? 

The polls reveal that voters don’t like open borders at all. They disapprove of illegal immigration as much they support legal immigrants. They worry about crime and drugs. They don’t want the unvetted and unvaccinated flowing across their open border. 

The people want cheaper, not pricier gas. They prefer American energy self-sufficiency. Why, with cup in hand, go begging to Saudi Arabia and Russia to pump more supposedly Satanic oil? 

The people like the police and hate crime. Even the rich among the woke are now scared—some of whom sowed the wind of decriminalization and are themselves reaping the whirlwind of crime. 

Most voters care less about our color, but far more about our character. They think a meritocracy, not quotas and tribal chauvinism, explains the exceptional American standard of life. 

They despise inflation as much as recession—and fear they may now get both soon. 

Freedom-loving individuals don’t like cancel culture, ostracism, iconoclasm, Trotskyization, and commissars. They prefer free speech. They treasure the Bill of Rights. 

So, in just 10 months the Left got what it wanted. And the people are becoming not just sick of what has followed, but disgusted. They are terrified that the Left is not just failing, but also wrecking the country and them along with it. 

The ages have left us adages for the people’s growing anger at the hubristic and now unpopular Left. 

We know the ancient warnings variously as, “What comes around, goes around,” “You reap what you sow,” “Be careful about what you wish for,” and “The law of unintended consequences.” 

Words like “nemesis and “karma” also come to mind. But of the collapse of the woke appeal, perhaps we could say, “It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of zealots.”

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004, and is the 2023 Giles O'Malley Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush, and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson is also a farmer (growing almonds on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen, and the forthcoming The End of Everything (May 7, 2024).

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