AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman
In the last week, the challenge the Democratic party faces from the backlash against wokeness was illustrated clearly by two separate viral incidents. The first was a cringe-worthy performance by the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, at a conference hosted by UnidosUSA, which, if it does not ring any bells, is the new name for the infamous National Council of La Raza. The second was the appearance before a U.S. Senate Committee hearing testimony on the impacts of the Dobbs decision by a Law Professor at the University of California Berkely, Khiara Bridges. Depending on whom you ask, Professor Bridges either schooled Senator Josh Hawley or proved his point by alleging that the suggestion that men cannot get pregnant is tantamount to inciting violence against Trans individuals.
The combined effect of these events was to underscore that before Democrats can even try to address the electorate’s concerns about their party’s wokeness, they need to convince their own supporters there is a problem. Both incidents showed that Democrats, whether White House staffers or legislators, are a long way from recognizing how badly they are alienating voters.
Jill Biden’s most newsworthy offense was her ill-advised suggestion that the Latino community was “as unique as breakfast tacos”. The remarks showed the tone-deafness which is now automatically associated with this administration, but the awkward line also served to cover up much greater failures. First, the decision to have Jill Biden attend the conference, hosted by an organization whose former name translated as the “National Council of the Race” and which rejects the very diversity of the Latino and Hispanic communities which Jill Biden uncomfortably attempted to hail. Perhaps all “Latinx” voters were represented, but conservative and even moderate Latinos could hardly have felt included by seminars with such titles as “Latinx IncluXion: DEI Includes Latinos: How is DEI Showing Up for Latinos in the Workplace.” Jill Biden should have been visiting actual communities along the border, school districts struggling to recover from COVID, or small businesses suffering under inflation. Instead, the White House felt the key to Latino outreach was an air-conditioned conference hall filled with unintelligible academic jargon. This is precisely the kind of wokeness that seems to be doing the party no favors among Latino voters.
Back in Washington, the other example of ideological blindness, poor staff work, or a combination of both was playing out in real time. Democrats, desperate to highlight the fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade demonstrated yet again why they have struggled to do so. Testimony that was supposed to focus on abortion issues went badly off script when Senator Josh Hawley challenged Professor Bridges about her avoidance of the term “women” to refer to those with pregnancies. In fairness to Bridges, this was a trap. Also in fairness to Bridges, it was one which rather than dodging, she charged head first into, like Custer at Little Big Horn. After “correcting” Hawley in the most patronizing tone she could manage, saying that some women cannot become pregnant due to medical conditions and that if Trans men are men then some men can become pregnant, she proceeded to add: “So I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence by not recognizing them.”
Hawley must not have been able to believe his good fortune. “Wow, you’re saying that I’m opening up people to violence by asking whether or not women are the folks that can have pregnancies?” he asked, just to make absolutely certain Bridges intended to accuse two thirds of the electorate not just of being bigots but of inciting violence. Bridges doubled down, suggesting that ‘denying Trans people exist’ did amount to inciting violence, and when Hawley asked if she ran her class in this same patronizing manner, she condescendingly remarked, “We have a good time in my class, you should join. You might learn a lot.”
Hawley and his team rapidly grasped the opportunity they had been given, pushing the video viral and taking it to Fox News. But what was more amazing is that the video also went viral on the left. There, the belief was that the “brave professor” had “schooled” the arrogant and foolish senator. “Law Professor takes down Josh Hawley” proclaimed Huffington Post UK, while its American branch declared “Professor Schools Senator Josh Hawley for his transphobic questions in abortion hearing.” The Washington Post led with the title, “Sen. Hawley accused of transphobic questioning at abortion hearing,” and the subtitle “The Missouri Republican refused to acknowledge that some transgender men can get pregnant.”
Less than a month ago, Pew Research found that only 38% of Americans believed that an individual’s sex could be changed, whereas 60% believed it was determined at birth. The latter included 38% of Democrats. Here lies a problem. Whereas the percentage who believe sex is determined at birth is 60%-38% among all Americans, those numbers are reversed among Democrats, 38%-61%. This is why it is such a dangerous wedge issue for them. It puts them on the wrong side of the American public and not a small portion of their own voters.
Yet judging by the reaction to the exchange, much of the left-wing echo chamber believes Bridges conclusively won that exchange. That means that Democratic staffers, who committed political malpractice by inviting Bridges to the hearing in the first place, either receive reinforcement that their decision was correct, or will risk alienating their social circle if they point out the political reality. The result is that those in the latter group depart, leaving the sort of White House staff who think Jill Biden’s taco remarks were appropriate.
As the saying goes, the first step is always admitting you have a problem. When it comes to wokeness, and the electoral threat it poses, Democrats in the last week demonstrated they are still in denial.
Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.