Wokeism Should Terrify Liberals | Opinion

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a rally at Howard University May 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. Liberals should be terrified of wokeism. Alex Wong/Getty

This essay is being co-published with Kausfiles

I suppose it's conventional wisdom that the pandemic is Joe Biden's friend. It gives him a unifying project for a year that can distract from his shortcomings as a leader (including, but not limited to, inability to inspire with soaring rhetoric). Most Americans will support any reasonable anti-COVID actions he takes and be grateful when they eventually succeed. Does Biden want to wriggle out of domestic policy promises? Delay them with a Covid excuse.. He's Dr.-End-The-Virus, not Dr.-Ban-Assault-Weapons, at least for the moment. Meanwhile, Republicans are going to criticize his virus policies... how? Well, they can lead an anti-lockdown, anti-mask resistance. But Biden isn't an obvious foil because he seems to want to open up the schools--and it's not clear that Berensonian resistance is the path to a majority as long as the virus stays at scary levels..

What I'd like to suggest is that the virus has also opened up a bigger opportunity for Biden, via a more circuitous route. Start with last week's controversy over vaccine distribution. The Centers for Disease Control's own data showed that the way to save the most lives was to vaccinate older people (65+) ahead of "essential workers," who'd be next up. But the CDC's expert advisory committee was initially poised reject this approach on "social justice" grounds. The problem? "[R]acial and ethnic minority groups are under-represented among adults 65 [and over]." The worker group was simply more "diverse." White people "live longer," explained Harald Schmidt, an expert in ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. It was time to "level the playing field a bit." Even if it meant letting more people (including more black people!) die.

A trans-partisan outcry from left, right, center, and Tulsi -- plus opposition from higher ups like HHS Secretary Azar -- put a partial stop to this idiocy. Now people 75 and up will apparently be recommended for priority, with the 65-74 and "essential-but-not-frontline" group fighting it out after that.

A big improvement. But the most important point had already been made. You may have assumed that woke activism was a sideshow, destroying academic institutions and The New York Times.Yet here it had penetrated an important, once-revered government scientific agency and it was affecting, not who gets to edit the Times op-ed page but basic questions of life and death for millions.

For liberals, this should be especially terrifying--most crucially for backers of "Medicare for All" and other ambitious health plans. I think I'm one of them — I've always supported some kind of universal, national health insurance. Medicare seems like a program that works--why not expand it? Claims from conservatives that this gives government too much power have always seemed like a rote application of abstract dogma. Did Medicare — run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services -- have too much power? Hard to see how. There's no obvious rationing. No death panels. Of course there are always worries about cost-cutting, and the insidious culture of "good death," including creepy end-of-life maneuvers (like the UKs infamous Liverpool Pathway). Yet we could seemingly rely on voter demand for care to overhwelm lugubrious proponents of medical austerity.

But what happened last week was not abstract: The near-hijacking of a universal medical instiution, and a potential denial of care, not in the name of budget-cutting but in the name of two-wrongs-make-up-for-racism social justice. Fight it and you're not just self-interested and wrong. You're self-interested and wrong and racist.

Where'll this line of argument crop up next? Do I have to worry that in the future, when I'm wheeled into the ER, some Ivy League bioethicist will have decided I'm too white to get care? Or — further up the medical supply chain — that valuable medicines won't even be developed because'If the government paid for this procedure it would save lives, but they would not be diverse lives ...'

If you thought Woke CDC was bad, wait till you see Woke CMS.

Yes, I'm quite paranoid about this, for good reasons. Put crudely, our colleges have been churning out these Woke folk for many years now. They've infiltrated themselves into every institution of society -- including the state, apparently-- where they reward each other with tenure and civil service protections. They'll be hard to root out! You can't fire a civil servant without months, or years, of due process. Even then you can't fire them just because their loony views clash with the policies endorsed by the voters. That would violate the First Amendment! (See Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347). Now I know how Joe McCarthy felt.

Actuallly, the Woke have a weapon that 50's Communists never did -- the power of cancellation, which works in some contexts at least, including agencies that are terrified of even a day's bad PR. (Ask Shirley Sherrod.)

And if Wokeness gained power under Trump, what about under a Democrat? Here is Biden's historic opportunity to perform a service for his party. If you're a Big Government liberal, you want to strangle the Woke baby in the bathtub, before it grows up to thoroughly undermine public support for finishing the great Democratic project (including universal health care, but also ending exclusionary zoning and stratified schooling, providing a safe environment, etc.).

Biden's not 'the perfect man for the job'--that would be 1992's Bill Clinton. (Ask Sister Souljah.) But Biden's a solid candidate. He's already pushed back against the left wing of his party on Medicare for All, and more recently on immigration-- where he contradicted his whole campaign pitch by suddenly worrying, post election, about "two million people on our border" trying to get in. There are signs he's ready to do the same thing on the HUD "fair housing" plan that Trump warned would "destroy our suburbs."

It's not hard to see Biden drawing the line at Woke. He's not typically mealy-mouthed about such things. 'C'mon man.,' he might say. 'That's not what this is about.' It wouldn't exactly be a Souljah moment -- and it would be far more effective if some woke bioethicist were slam-dunked, Souljah-style. (May I suggest Harald Schmidt?) But it's a start, and it could be enough — especially if it were coupled with a less-publicized plan to keep the Woken out of government.

We're told Biden doesn't have a "vision." He doesn't. We're told he doesn't have an ideology. He doesn't. But he has a public image, which is that he's a middle-class guy in the center who knows what he doesn't like — and he doesn't like departures from common sense. In this initial, breath-gathering post-Trump moment, that might do as a Vision Substitute. It's not asking not what your country can do for you or having a dream or a shining city on a hill or "as Americans that is not enough we must be equal in the eyes of each other." It's just "C'mon man." Like Biden, it might do.