What Does it Mean to be ‘Woke’?

Hint: Do unto others …

Ron DeSantis, and a vast array of like-minded Republicans are constantly railing against those who are ‘woke’. DeSantis even prompted the compliant Florida legislature to pass the “Stop WOKE Act” which he gleefully signed into law. On the stump he regularly says that “Florida is where woke goes to die”. He’s not alone. Nikki Haley recently declared that “Wokeness is a virus more dangerous than any pandemic, hands down,”. To the GOP, ‘woke’ is bad.

But what does it mean to be ‘woke’? In a trial in 2022, Ron DeSantis’ administration was asked by the judge to define woke. DeSantis’ general counsel, Ryan Newman, responded that the term means “the belief there are systemic injustices in American society and the need to address them.” Given that Republicans of all stripes are constantly complaining about the systematic injustices of the liberal press, it’s hard to understand why they would fault the very thing they decry. So if ‘woke’ doesn’t mean what DeSantis’ administration says, what does it mean? To Republicans, ‘woke’ means recognizing the existence of and attempting to address some systematic injustices, specifically racism, discrimination against LBGTQ people, women’s inequality, etc.

But attempting to help those who are oppressed or discriminated against is not a new concept. In fact, it is a founding belief of most of the World’s major religions. It’s most famous expression came from Jesus Christ, who lived in a world where the strong ruled without mercy and the weak suffered. His “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is the essence of ‘wokeism’. And he wasn’t the only one. The Fundamental Buddhist teaching ‘Noble Eightfold Path’ includes the concepts of “Right Understanding”, “Right Intention”, “Right Speech” and “Right Action”. Together these beliefs correlate almost perfectly with being ‘woke’.

The GOP believes just the opposite. In their world, ‘might makes right’. They have the power and money, and they have no interest in sharing either with people who are oppressed. If the GOP actually believed in the moral teachings of Jesus, they would agree that being ‘woke’ to injustice in our society is essential to being a Christian. But while the majority of them claim to be Christians, they in act in ways that betray the teachings of Jesus Christ. They have no shame.

DeSantis Intends to be an Emperor

Florida has been the test run. The United States is next.

Ron DeSantis wields unprecedented power as the Republican Governor of Florida. The Florida Legislature and Supreme Court are completely in his thrall and will obey his every whim. With his recent landslide victory, his mastery of Florida is so total that there are no checks and balances on his ability to single-handedly act as the single Ruler of the state.

DeSantis and his minions control Florida’s executive, its law enforcement, school systems (both public and higher-ed) and health care systems. While claiming to support freedom, he has used and abused the power of his office to punish local schools, locally elected officials, and private individuals in ways that violate norms and the rights of others with impunity.

He is a very smart and very ambitious person. He has his sights set on the White House, and is rapidly becoming the first choice of the huge numbers of GOP voters who have become disenchanted with Donald Trump and his losing ways. Although the GOP nomination is by no means automatic, DeSantis is clearly in the driver’s seat and biding his time while Trump flails as his legal challenges overwhelm him and his campaign collapses. With a recession potentially looming, the possibility of DeSantis being elected President in 2024 is very real.

The recent actions taken by DeSantis show us what kind of a President he would be. He is completely opposed to the rights of the LGBTQ, black, or other minority communities (other than anti-communist Cubans). He has stifled public protests by limiting free speech, taken revenge on Disney for opposing him, flown unknowing immigrants to MA, appointed an unqualified anti-vax Surgeon General, destroyed a liberal arts college, crippled public schools, and shown an unwillingness to protect the vulnerable people of Florida against natural disasters because “that’s liberal stuff”. He recently started a grand jury investigation aimed at criminalizing Covid vaccines. The bulk of these actions (with more every day) are in complete defiance of the wishes of the majority of Floridians. He cares nothing for the people who elected him – rather his actions are all designed to gain him plaudits on Fox News and financial supporters for his ambition to become President.

His version of the cult of personality has taken hold within the Christian right so much so that he (and they) are starting to see him as the second coming of Jesus – albeit an evil Jesus who stands for everything Jesus preached against.

Given the degree to which he has used and abused the Governor’s office, if DeSantis were elected President his powers would be virtually unchecked. Trump, despite his massive incompetence, has shown that laws and norms are no stronger than the people who are elected to enforce them. DeSantis, a graduate of Yale and Harvard Law School, is infinitely smarter than Trump.

With a willing Supreme Court at his side, he would find ways to eviscerate democratic norms and safeguards and bypass any Democratic controlled legislatures or state governments, ruling – as he does in Florida – with an iron fist. Anyone in any field – Government/Corporate/Technology/ Entertainment/Education/Sports – who would dare stand up to him would be crushed under the heel of his dictatorial boot.

DeSantis would remake public education at all levels to be an indoctrination into his Christian white supremacy cult of personality – creating an American version of the “Hitler Youth”. He would eliminate freedoms for everyone: the press, voting, the internet, women, public health records, corporations, educators, entertainers, and more.

With the willing help of cooperative Republicans, he would, over a very short period of time, assume dictatorial powers with virtually unchecked authority. Florida has been the test run. DeSantis has succeeded in becoming the Emperor of Florida. The United States is next. He must be stopped.

Trump Will Burn Down the GOP

In either case, he will once again bring the GOP to a catastrophe in the 2024 general election.

After all the analysis of the 2022 election cycle, one thing is very clear. The tighter a GOP candidate embraced Donald Trump, the poorer that candidate performed in a contested general election. Those GOP candidates who performed well in 2022, like Ron DeSantis and Brian Kemp, typically kept quite a bit of distance between themselves and Trump. This allowed independent voters to see them as mainstream GOP thinkers, even though both have a strong streak of Trumpy behaviors. While many GOP candidates did embrace Trump and still win they were either in heavily GOP areas, or, as in the case of JD Vance in Ohio, they scraped in while vastly underperforming other GOP candidates in the same geography. There is now a widespread realization that Donald Trump’s focus on the 2020 election is a millstone for the GOP.

As we enter the landscape of the 2024 election, Trump has already announced his candidacy in an ill-conceived attempt to ward off the upcoming indictments from the DOJ. Its still not clear how many GOP candidates will challenge him. It could be as few as two or three, but it could also be as many as six or more.

In Trump’s ideal scenario, numerous weak candidates (everyone except Ron DeSantis) will run, therefore splitting the potential opposition votes and letting him win GOP primaries with his 30-40% GOP base vote. That would make him the 2024 GOP Presidential candidate, and likely put him into a rematch with Joe Biden. It’s also very conceivable that the US economy could be in a long recession for which Biden would receive (fairly or not) much of the blame. So, in that scenario, could Trump win re-election?

The simple answer is Hell No. With Trump at the top of the ticket, the GOP would go down to a massive, crushing defeat across the board in 2024. Leveraging his power as the leader of the party, Trump would use the 2024 primary season to once again pick GOP candidates that would pledge undying loyalty to him personally; such candidates would lose in the general elections in such numbers that the Democrats would win control of both houses of Congress, the White House, and multiple additional statehouses. If Trump is the GOP candidate, he will set the party back for years.

But what if he is not the candidate? This scenario assumes that over time the Trump show becomes less and less attractive to enough GOP voters that they slowly lose belief in him. The GOP leadership, realizing that Trump has no chance to be elected, coalesces around a single alternative (likely DeSantis) who then polls higher than Trump in the primaries and wins a messy battle to become the GOP candidate.

What will Trump do? Will he put the party first and support the GOP nominee? Of course not. His narcissism will never allow him to support another GOP candidate, least of all Ron DeSantis. He will claim that the election was stolen, and tell his supporters that the entire party is corrupt and that they should stay home or vote for the Dems just for spite. He may even launch a third party bid, but that would take a lot of work and he’s not likely to want to bother. His goal won’t be to win, just to extract revenge on those who have wronged him. In either case, he will once again bring the GOP to a catastrophe in the 2024 general election.

What about all the legal issues that Trump faces? What impact will they have in 2024? Other than keeping Trump on the defensive and reminding voters what a menace he is, they won’t be definitive. The legal cases need to proceed effectively to ensure that justice is served. The Democrats must do all they can to stay above the fray, and maintain their integrity in the eyes of voters. Then stand by as the GOP self-destructs.

Is there a third scenario? Yes. If Trump dies before Primary season, the GOP would be free of his narcissism and could win it all. Other that that, it’s a done deal.