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Why Attacking ‘Cancel Culture’ And ‘Woke’ People Is Becoming The GOP’s New Political Strategy

Featuring Perry Bacon Jr.

MAR. 17, 2021, AT 1:38 PM



This is the second in a two-part series on the ideas related to race, status and equality influencing the current political divides in America, you can find part 1 here.


“Woke” was originally a term used largely by Black people in activist circles, particularly after the rise of Black Lives Matter, to signify a consciousness around racial issues in America. The term is still sometimes used in that context.


But in culture and politics today, the most prominent uses of “woke” are as a pejorative — Republicans attacking Democrats, more centrist Democrats attacking more liberal ones and supporters of the British monarchy using the term to criticize people more sympathetic to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Those critical of so-called woke ideas and people often invoke the idea that they are being “canceled” or a victim of “cancel culture.”


As we explained in a piece earlier this week, ideas cast as woke are often coming from progressives and involve identity and race (like the notion that white people in America have privilege or that Black Americans should get reparations.) Cancel culture is broadly the idea that people advocating more liberal ideas, particularly around identity and race, have too much power and can publicly shame those who don’t agree with them, sometimes leading to those who don’t share these ideas being removed from their jobs or having their speaking invitations withdrawn (so “canceled.”)

But there is no agreed-upon definition of “woke” or a formal political organization or movement associated with it. Nor is there an exact definition of what constitutes being “canceled” or a victim of “cancel culture.” However, despite their vagueness, you now see conservative activists and Republican politicians constantly using these terms. That’s because that vagueness is a feature, not a bug. Casting a really wide range of ideas and policies as too woke and anyone who is critical of them as being canceled by out-of-control liberals is becoming an important strategy and tool on the right — in fact, this cancel culture/woke discourse could become the organizing idea of the post-Trump-presidency Republican Party.


There are at least five reasons why Republicans are likely to keep focusing on the woke and cancel culture over the next few years: >> MORE



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