Is Stupid Wokeness to Blame for Democrats Losing Elections?


Despite how far apart the political left and right often seem to be in the United States, there is at least one thing on which they almost always seem to agree: the far left is often a liability to the rest of the left. James Carville has made this point repeatedly, most recently blaming "stupid wokeness" for the loss in the governor's race in Virginia. I think it is an interesting hypothesis and one that deserves some attention. I suspect that most elections are multi-determined such that pointing to a single cause of an outcome is usually incomplete; however, the concept of over-reach by the far left does have a certain appeal. Why? I think it is something many of us have personally experienced.

The idea that some statements and policy recommendations offered by some on the far left may at times alienate moderates who would otherwise vote for Democratic candidates is hard to argue with. Most of us know people who have told us they felt this way. That is, we hear from people who tell us that they'd like to have supported a particular Democratic candidate but could not do so once they learned that this candidate had embraced one or more of the nuttier far left positions. If most of us know some people like this (I certainly do), it is not hard to imagine that there are probably many more of them out there we haven't personally met.

This can be an urban/rural thing, but it isn't always. As Carville mentioned, these people can be found everywhere because much of what comes from the far left simply isn't popular among many Democratic voters. "Defund the police" is one of the more commonly cited examples for good reason. Some of us understood what it meant and even agreed with much of what was behind it, but it was the kind of thing that had to be translated since it didn't mean what it sounded like. This was a problem because not everyone had a translator on hand, and first impressions are quick to form. It was clear from the beginning that it would alienate many voters.

I can empathize with someone running for office who hears some of these ideas from the far left, thinks they are more popular than they are (likely because their advisors are half their age and spend much of their time on social media), and expresses support for them without realizing just how unpopular they really are. In a political climate as divided as ours where landslide wins seem to be a thing of the past, it isn't hard to see how this could cost someone an election. Still, campaigns that have access to polling data should be able to avoid these kind of self-inflicted wounds.

The recent issue around how much say parents should have in how their children are taught in public school classrooms is an interesting one. I'm not a parent, so it might be too easy for me to dismiss this by saying that parents who want to control every aspect of their children's education should pull them out of school and homeschool them. As far as I'm concerned teachers are the ones who have been trained in how to teach and should be free to do so without parental interference. But it still strikes me as odd that someone running for office wouldn't realize that they need to be careful in how they address this subject during a campaign. They could support teachers while praising parents who wanted to be involved in their children's education.

Is Carville right? Is 'stupid wokeness' costing Democrats at the polls and helping Republicans get elected? If so, what can we do about it? Is there an effective way to embrace the good ideas from the far left without taking on those that face widespread opposition from more moderate Democratic voters?

For additional thoughts on this topic, see Helping the Democratic Party By Criticizing Some of Their Unpopular Ideas.