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GOP attacks on woke America are ‘hypocrisy of the highest order’

A gripping exchange between Jon Stewart and Sen.Nathan Dahm (R-Okla.) dramatically illustrated the stark difference between woke Americans and GOP politicians.

In the exchange, Stewart — a comedian, political commentator and now the host of “The Problem with Jon Stewart” — asks Dahm to explain his hostility toward — and legislation against — drag shows.

The Republican attacks on LGBTQ+ Americans are a sad reminder that Republicans campaign on hating diversity in any shape or form. Former Vice President Mike Pence’s recent attack on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reads as hateful and homophobic. Such ridicule from Republicans and their attempts to oppress via legislation suggests a tawdry vendetta against gays, not to mention other minority groups and women. 

Dahm has sponsored bills that would loosen gun restrictions in Oklahoma. He has also introduced legislation that would ban drag performances with children in attendance. His position, as Stewart points out, indicates he believes the government has a responsibility to protect kids from drag queens but doesn’t have the responsibility or right to save them from school shooters or other forms of gun violence.

Like any good interviewer, Stewart let his guest hang himself with his own words. He branded Dahm’s support for a ban on drag performances and opposition to steps to reduce gun violence “hypocrisy of the highest order.” Stewart pointed out that there were lots of children who died from gun violence — in fact, it’s the leading cause of child mortality in the United States — yet, no documented cases of kids dying from exposure to drag queens.

The state senator came back at Stewart with a lame response that suggested gun owners somehow enjoyed more significant constitutional rights under the Second Amendment than crossdressers had under the First Amendment.

Stewart certainly made a solid case about the young victims of gun violence. But their debate raises a larger issue about the political battle over “woke.” 

Republicans have blamed progressive woke policies for everything from the tragic train crash in East Palestine, Ohio to the failure of the Silicon Valley Bank.GOP politicians criticize “woke” morning, noon and night. Florida Gov.  Ron DeSantis, a prospective Republican presidential candidate, seems to invoke “woke” anytime someone turns on a microphone and points a camera at him.

The new national survey from USA Today suggests Republican candidates might be in for a rude surprise.

When pressed, Republicans have a hard time defining “woke,” so the folks at USA Today did it for them. Most Americans thought the word “woke” meant “to be informed, educated on and aware of social injustice.” Only one-third of the public thought it meant “to be overtly politically correct and police others’ thoughts.” Republicans like to rail against drag queens — but woke really means respect for all Americans regardless of race and sexual preference.

The GOP’s affinity for cultural warfare and its apparent hostility to social justice is the trigger to a demographic time bomb that could damage the Republican Party for a generation. America is changing, whether the social conservatives who dominate the GOP like it or not.

President Obama’s strategists credited his victories in 2008 and in 2012 to the “Coalition of the Ascendant,” which included non-white and young voters who put him into the White House for eight years. That coalition is now an even more serious problem for Republicans as Generation Zers, millennials and minorities have become a deeper part of the voting pool, while the wave of electoral power from Baby Boomers and white Americans has ebbed.

The USA Today survey illustrates the problem Republicans have with their anti-woke message. Most young Americans in the ascendant generation accept the progressive interpretation of “woke,” while the declining population of older Americans believe in the repressive version of the word.

America is changing in other ways whether the GOP likes it or not. The majority of Americans will be nonwhite by 2045, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Republican attacks on diversity will boomerang during the transition from a majority-white to a majority-minority multiracial society.

Why does the Grand Old Party continue its attacks on social justice when it blows back on the party’s present and future wellbeing? The answer is Republicans cling their base of seniors and white Americans instead of fighting to expand their support. Attacks on diversity help Republicans win their own primaries but make makes it difficult to win over the independents who are more likely to equate wokeness with social justice and diversity.

America is changing whether Republicans and social conservatives like it or not. Most Americans like John Stewart have woken. It’s time for Republicans like Sen. Dahm to wake up, too.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster, CEO of Bannon Communications Research and the host of his weekly “aggressively progressive” podcast, Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags conservatives GOP John Stewart Jon Stewart Mike Pence Pete Buttigieg Politics Republicans Ron DeSantis Social justice woke

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