Updated: Aug 16
A video of Vice President Kamala Harris has been making the rounds recently to much derision on social media. In the out-of-context clip, she appears to be introducing herself with her personal pronouns as well as color of her suit. (check out the opening remarks in the following video:)
Twitter trolls have predictably jumped on what they are describing as “woke-run-amok.” One commenter mocked it by saying “My name is G*** Pr***, my pronouns are Busch/Light, I am wearing black shorts and a white shirt stained with buffalo sauce from the wings I had for lunch.” Another said, “How are we expected to take any of them seriously when they are nonsensical from the start? This is just embarrassing.” And these are some of the less insulting responses to the video. Even Jan 6 Committee “hero” Adam Kinzinger jumped in with “If you ever wonder why the left still can’t win elections despite the insanity of Trumpism, save stuff like this for reference later 👇👇👇. You can get mad at me, but I’m not wrong.”
Some Democrats pointed to this “excessive” sensitivity as the reason Democrats have been losing elections.
There are so many things to unpack with these responses.
First of all, VP Harris was speaking at a disability conference, and describing your attire is the professional and courteous address as requested by disability rights advocates for the benefit of the visually impaired. Mocking it out of context is the provenance of trolls and those with a complete insensitivity to the needs of the disabled. Democrats can take heart that Twitter accounts and bots that spread the hate are NOT Democratic voters. These are not people who can be wooed over to our side.
Secondly, for those Democrats who believe that our “wokeness” is affecting our performance at the polls, it’s time for a reality check.
Democrats are struggling to maintain their majorities in the House and Senate not because of language. Rather, the headwinds we face are – gerrymandering, control of messaging in non-urban areas by the far right, voter suppression tactics in Republican-controlled states, Republican tactics of stoking fear and outrage to motivate their base, and apathy by Democratic voters, especially wage earners who do not have time to stand in long lines and miss out on hourly income.
I very much doubt if the bulk of Democratic voters even hear of the big “scandals” on Twitter.
In the meantime, what does this performative outrage over Democratic “wokeness” do?
It diverts media attention.
It takes away the fact that, during this conference, Vice President Harris emphasized the Administration’s commitment to protecting reproductive rights and shared how the Administration will continue to fight for the bodily autonomy and self-determination of all individuals with disabilities.
It burnishes the far-right credentials of Republican incumbents and hopefuls, since the modern GOP seems to be a party solely fueled by hate.
It creates a convenient scapegoat for why the Democratic Party is struggling despite its policies being so popular with the people, ignoring the structural issues with the American system of government.
Yes, there is a price we pay for being “woke.” The price is that our “wokeness” creates a straw man for the xenophobia of the Republican party and its voters to aim their vitriol at. It makes for a more polarized country, not because we are being “too nice” but because one party has decided to wear the mantle of selfishness and cruelty and is constantly instigating the worst impulses of its voters.
But if being “woke” means caring about the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our community, then let’s wear the mantle of wokeness proudly. And let’s ignore the trolls. Getting the American public to support the party that is interested in governance and the well-being of the people is a matter of better messaging and intense voter registration and GOTV efforts, not language policing.
And a big kudos to VP Harris for caring. I’m sure the representatives and advocates in the conference were glad to be treated with the respect that they asked for and deserve.