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Counterpoint: The War on Woke Is a Scam on Middle America

For an alternate viewpoint, see: Point: To Be Woke Is to Be MAGA

Buckle up, team: I’m a White man from the Midwest with a story to tell about wokeness.

I live in an Ohio railroad town. Locals hear trains calling through the night, wait them out at crossings, and photograph them trundling along the river past the old mill downtown. But as our neighbors two counties over in East Palestine know, those cars don’t just carry freight or Old World charm — they also bring danger.

While we refreshed local EPA reports in the days after the Norfolk Southern derailment, I wondered who’d get blamed for it. There was no shortage of options.

Norfolk Southern skimped on maintenance, overstretched its workers, and used the profits to hike its stock price.

Ohio’s governor and the local congressman accepted thousands from the company while the statehouse dutifully killed a bipartisan rail safety bill the company lobbied against. Former president Donald Trump, who showed up after the crash to promote his bottled water brand, had killed an Obama-era regulation to prevent accidents like these.

But on the MAGA circuit, none of these were to blame.

Instead, as the Ohio Capital Journal’s Marilou Johanek put it, we got “opportunists exploiting East Palestine’s suffering population with politics and race-baiting.” In this telling, it wasn’t corporate or government corruption that caused the suffering in East Palestine. It was “wokeness.”

Fox host Tucker Carlson proclaimed that East Palestine was affected because it “is overwhelmingly White, and it’s politically conservative.” As writer Greg Sargent summarized, Carlson alleged the administration would have cared more “if the accident had happened in Philadelphia or Detroit — wink, wink.”

“If this train derailment happened in downtown Atlanta in the densely populated Black neighborhoods,” agreed far-right activist Charlie Kirk, “this would be the number-one news story.” The millionaire talk show host insisted that our leaders “hate working-class Whites,” and, in fact, there’s a whole “crusade against White people.”

Fox talking head Jesse Waters played a similar note, asking this about Michael Regan, President Biden’s Black EPA administrator: “Is this his idea of fighting environmental racism? Spilling toxic chemicals on poor White people in Ohio?

Donald Trump Jr., for his part, denigrated Treasury Secretary Pete Buttigieg as “the gay guy.”

This is the “war on woke” sham in a nutshell.

Well-heeled politicians and millionaire MAGA media figures tell poor Whites to blame Black people, LGBTQ people, and vague liberal ideas for troubles any sensible person would blame on a greedy corporation and the bought-off politicians — from the GOP-run Ohio statehouse on up to the White House — who enabled it.

Even while lambasting President Biden, they had little to say about his bad decision to snub the railroad unions, perhaps because most Republicans — many flush with railroad cash — supported that, too. The only beneficiaries are the bad actors who poisoned the poor Ohio community these pundits claim to represent from their perches in New York or Washington.

They play the same game all over.

Right-wing politicians rail against “woke corporations” only to collect corporate campaign cashpush corporate tax cuts, and oppose minimum wage hikes, sick leave, and union organizing. They ban books about race and viciously attack LGBTQ kids to protect education while systematically underfunding schools.

A self-described “anti-woke budget” drafted by former Trump officials would cut the “woke” Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent. What a gift to East Palestine, where the EPA is doing emergency cleanup operations.

This hateful, fact-free rhetoric is doing incredible damage.

It spreads cruel and dangerous anti-LGBTQ laws. It’s gutting classroom libraries. It’s led to absurd conspiracy theories, an emboldened and violent White supremacist fringe, and the January 6 coup attempt. It divides urban and rural communities of every race and color who might otherwise work together against influential people who do them wrong.

In court, a lawyer for Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida recently defined “woke” as the “general belief in systemic injustices in the country.” Ask yourself: Why would a powerful politician want to banish that belief?

Instead, the MAGA bargain for Middle America goes something like this: If we hurt other people worse, is it OK if we hurt you, too?

Sorry, but I guess this White Ohioan would rather be woke.

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GRAHAM: Solve Gun Violence? America’s Pols Would Rather ‘Fight’ Than ‘Fix’

Watching the heart-wrenching scene of sobbing parents mourning school children lost to senseless violence, Americans are asking ourselves once again: “Why can’t we fix America’s gun violence problem?”

As an angry parent, fed-up political junkie, and sick-and-tired citizen, I’ll tell you why:

Because we can’t fix anything.

Fix America’s gun problem? There are an estimated 400 million guns in America right now in the hands of a nation with a culture of violence going back at least 300 years. And we’re going to “fix” mass shootings and gun crime?

Folks, we can’t even fix the post office.

Everybody knows America’s postal service is an obsolete anachronism from the pre-internet era, that driving around house-to-house six days a week to put pieces of paper into a metal box is a ridiculous waste of time and money. But just weeks ago we “fixed” it by committing more than $100 billion in taxpayer dollars to keep the rickety system running.

The point is not to pick on your local postal workers. The point is ending Saturday mail delivery should be simple. It is a picayune problem in our world of COVID, Ukraine, and school shootings.

But our politics are so broken we can’t get that done. And you want to solve the problem of gun crime?

America at the moment is out of the problem-fixing business. We’d rather “fight” than “fix.”

One reason is our lack of faith in our would-be “fixers.” As we learned the hard way during the COVID-19 era, America’s current crop of “elites” — the technocrats, bureaucrats, and politicians who are supposed to be in the solution business — are lousy at their jobs.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention might have many fine abilities, but “controlling and preventing disease” isn’t among them. The Food and Drug Administration’s mishandling of COVID tracking and testing made the pandemic worse, not better.

And the political class demonstrated again and again, from mask mandates to school lockdowns, that it is impervious to data. Did it matter that keeping kids at home was an educational disaster that set back a generation of disadvantaged children? Not a bit.

It was far more important for our elites to virtue signal than problem solve.

And can you blame them? Where is the evidence that American voters are even interested in problem-solving?

Who are two of the hottest fundraisers in American politics right now? The far left’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and the far right’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (MTG). Both spout streams of extremist nonsense – from Modern Monetary Theory to “Jewish Space Lasers” – and the checks keep pouring in. Primary candidates covet their endorsements.

Setting aside how awful their ideas are, do either of these two even want political solutions? They’re fighters, not fixers.

Take the southern border crisis, for example.

One of the hope-inspiring stories emerging from the horrors of Tuesday’s crime is that the murderer was stopped by a Border Patrol agent who acted without waiting for backup.

Confronting school shooters isn’t technically a problem Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) agents are supposed to solve, but he did it anyway – and at the risk of his own life. The irony is his day job is to work on a problem we won’t let him and his fellow agents solve – the chaos at the border.

Is the border problem difficult to solve? Perhaps. But compared to fixing gun violence, it’s middle school math.

But are we “fixing” it? Is there any prospect of even considering a serious solution for our lawless, chaotic border?

No. Instead, we’re using a COVID health regulation to temporarily hold back a wave of migration the Biden administration knows is coming – and that is on top of April’s highest number of CPB “encounters” ever in a single month.

People – it’s a border. It’s not something impossible, like building a self-sustaining Mars colony or figuring out how to get your teens off Tik Tok. All 193 member states of the United Nations have borders, and few of them have the mess we do.

You want a relatively secure border? Put up some more walls, punish businesses that hire illegal immigrants, and deport people who aren’t supposed to be here. Then make it easier for legal immigrants to come here and eventually become Americans.

It won’t be perfect or impervious, but it will work. We just have to get it done.

Except – we are never going to do it. Team AOC will never accept deportations for immigration enforcement; Team MTG opposes immigration and businesses will stop writing checks to politicians if they lose their cheap labor.

And besides, there is a lot more political power from chants of “No More Deportations” and “Close the Border!” than from “We came up with a reasonable, bipartisan compromise that solved the long-term problem!”

What can we do about gun violence? Very little. But until we can stop fighting, stop turning political disagreements into character assassinations, stop declaring political compromise a crime — until we can stop making a virtue out of our willingness to commit rhetorical violence in the name of our petty partisanship — we won’t fix anything.

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