Published April 25, 2022
New York Times columnist Charles Blow recently claimed to be “truly shocked” by a poll showing President Biden with a 33 percent approval rating. I was shocked, too — how could his approval rating be that high?
Blow, of course, is surprised at Biden’s unpopularity, and worried that the Democrats are stumbling into a bloodbath in the November midterms. Blow is paid to understand and explain politics and culture to his readers. That he is surprised reveals a lot about the bubble he is in. And his meandering analysis of Democrats’ problems illustrates how the ideology making Democrats unpopular is also preventing them from understanding why they are unpopular.
Blow initially blames Biden — for being too much of a “decent man … sober and straightforward” rather than a “showman.” This is a ludicrous assessment of a politician, who, until age caught up with his tongue, was one of D.C.’s preeminent bloviators. Nonetheless, Blow’s ordinary partisan delusion is less interesting than the ideological blind spots revealed when he turns to genuine sources of Biden’s unpopularity, such as “the fear of crime and the pinch of inflation” and that “Republicans are playing heavily into culture war issues.”
Class and Culture Wars Merge
Although Blow does not seem to realize it, these issues combine to reinforce voters’ disapproval of Biden. Democratic failures on bread and butter issues such as crime and inflation are related to the culture-war radicalism that has captured their party.
Twitter, not the blue-collar union hall, is now the heart of the Democratic Party, which is controlled by the educated, urban professional-managerial class, epitomized by woke, union-busting CEOs. This faction has merged the class and culture wars — championing cultural radicalism, entrenching its own economic interests, and neglecting the common good.
The Democrats are the party of wealthy diversity consultants lecturing hourly workers about white privilege and cis-heteropatriarchy while inflation eats away at wages and investment firms buy up homes in the hope of making America a nation of permanent renters. The governing priorities of those running the Democratic Party are sending government money to their clients (from teachers unions to Planned Parenthood) and waging culture war.
Dems Are Fanatical Culture Warriors
And they are fanatical culture warriors. Consider Blow’s complaint that the GOP is “challenging the teaching of Black history and the history of white supremacy in schools, as well as restricting discussions of L.G.B.T. issues and campaigning against trans women and girls competing in sports with other women and girls.” He adds that “Republicans are using white parental fear, particularly the fears of white moms.”
This litany of whines highlights the bubble Blow and his audience at The New York Times are in. Ordinary Americans know the difference between teaching history and teaching poisonous ideology derived from critical race theory. Americans understand that it is unjust for males to compete in women’s sports, and that it is perverse to teach young children about sex and gender ideology. They are angry when educators encourage children to transition, and outraged when they hide it from parents.
Voters have also noticed that the cultural left never stops where it says it will. We were assured that the LGBT movement was about tolerance for consenting adult relationships; now it is about transgender toddlers, child drag queens, and men in girls’ locker rooms. We are also now told that being anti-racist somehow means judging people based on the color of their skin. Blow and other bubbled liberals may be okay with mastectomies for confused teenage girls, but most Americans are not.
This cultural radicalism erodes Democrats’ ability to govern competently. Sometimes this is the result of neglecting the basic tasks of government in order to prioritize boutique cultural issues, other times it is a direct consequence of ideology, as exemplified in the crime wave resulting from woke prosecutors and defunding the police.
Cushioned from Consequences
In either case, wokeness is an ideology for those who are cushioned from its consequences. Indeed, wokeness is primarily a phenomenon of the college-educated, and especially the well-off; it is a niche, luxury political philosophy that thrives among the privileged and in the shelter of academia.
But though it is often a political liability, there are ways it serves the interests of its adherents. In particular, woke ideology legitimates the rule of the woke over the non-woke, and justifies economic exploitation and socio-political repression.
Wokeness claims to reveal the systems of unjust oppression that permeate society; it focuses on race, sex, and gender, and relegates economic class to a second-tier concern. This allows many of the privileged and powerful to claim to be righteous allies of the oppressed without having to sacrifice economic or social power or position. Indeed, many can claim to be oppressed themselves. This is why wokeness tends to focus on BIPoC and LGBT representation in boardrooms and Ivy League campuses, rather than helping the working class.
The Wicked Working Class
Thus, it is to be expected that woke discourse often suggests that the working class (especially working-class whites) have it coming for their sins of racism, sexism, transphobia, and so on — the wicked deserve punishment, not sympathy. This is why pundits such as Blow are so quick to accuse dissenters of racism and bigotry. And it is why the woke left supports oligarchic power in pursuit of its aims, and eagerly uses economic, technological, and cultural power to suppress dissent.
This is why professors are having to submit woke loyalty oaths in the form of diversity statements, and why mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion training has become the norm in the corporate world. This is why the left is eager to use social media censorship to suppress “misinformation” — which in many cases is truth that is inconvenient to the regime (e.g., the Hunter Biden laptop story).
It is also why the left cannot understand its own failures. They have isolated themselves in a bubble that has drifted so far from reality and the concerns of normal voters that even electoral disaster may not bring them back to Earth. Cocooned in privilege and ideology, they think Biden is doing just fine. But most Americans have had enough of a government that is more committed to transitioning children than to controlling crime and inflation.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.