Woke may have crested among the electorate in Louisiana’s
woke capital, if a couple of recent election results serve as indicators.
Earlier this year, Democrat state Rep. Royce Duplessis won a transfer
to the state Senate in a battle with a colleague, Democrat state Rep. Mandie Landry.
They vied to take the seat resigned last year by Democrat former state Sen. Karen
Carter Peterson after graft
landed her in the big house. That New Orleans district by population had a
slight black plurality but by voter registration a slight white plurality. Duplessis
is black and Landry is white.
Both are considered “progressive” Democrats; i.e.,
largely rejecting the role of government as a corrective agent of alleged
imperfections in a society and economy with policy designed to promote equality
of opportunity by instead embracing wholesale systemic change by use of government
power to promote equality of outcome. “Woke” is a further extension, a
condition that places individuals into silos depending upon their characteristics
and where an understanding has been reached that those contained in the white,
particularly male, particularly believing that biology determines sex, particularly
acting heterosexually, and particularly practicing traditional Christianity silo(s)
act in accordance with an irredeemably noxious set of cultural values that
oppress all others, using disproportionate and illegitimately gained power, requiring
that expression of these values must be censored and those adherents to these identities
must defer to the wishes and values of all others identifying differently.
For example, on criminal justice issues traditional
liberal Democrats would focus on procedural matters to ensure fairness for the
accused and convicted. Progressive Democrats would go further in imposing their
policy preferences on the system, such as great reluctance to pursue capital
punishment and charging suspects in a way that avoids alleged sentencing disparities
for reasons other than facts of the crime. But woke Democrats would act to
eviscerate the system itself because of its presumed built-in inequities, subverting
it by means such as no/cashless bail, decisions to downgrade or not prosecute,
and whether to accept or release prisoners according to various criteria.
Certainly “progressive” and “woke” are highly
interrelated concepts. But one discriminating criterion is the significantly higher
degree of systemic rejection that woke demands. This extends beyond just society
and trickles down substantially into its substructures.
In electoral politics, this means perceptions of
institutions like political parties and the transactional nature of political
campaigns. More purely woke politicians are much more suspicious of working
through existing parties and more hesitant to dilute their agendas with appeals
to out-groups as part of their electoral strategy. Perhaps the best-known in Louisiana
of them is Democrat Gary Chambers, who lost bids for the U.S. House and Senate yet
drawing substantial support despite working entirely outside of the party
These tendencies didn’t appear to be drawbacks to
the 2020 and 2021 campaigns that brought woke New Orleans politicians, all
Democrats, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, District
Attorney Jason Williams,
and Sheriff Susan Hutson, victories. Again
using the policy area of criminal justice where all contribute in its
administration, with voter assent each brought woke agendas to carrying out
their legal duties.
it didn’t work out for the Senate contest for the more woke of the two
candidates, Landry. Duplessis was more willing to engage in transactional politics
with interests opposed to the woke agenda, trying to placate them on at least
some issues, and he more vigorously courted traditional organizations, of Democrats,
blacks, and others. Importantly, his
racial appeals centered on transactional benefits, not woke bromides. Enough
voters responded to hand him a close win.
With his House seat now vacated, a special
election was needed to fill that. A runoff between black Democrats ensued, led
by community organizer Sibil Fox Richardson with small businessman Alonzo Knox not far behind.
Richardson, with a criminal background and whose
post-prison efforts have focused on the incarcerated, articulated the more woke
agenda while Knox, who once worked for various Democrat elected officials and
has served in various local government-related positions, came off as the more mainstream,
even as both articulated progressive issue preferences.
Perhaps indicating wokeism was losing steam as a
distinguishing concept, some groups and politicians including Hutson more often
aligned with woke agendas (including a group focusing on political engagement
of former convicts) endorsed Knox while several party-oriented elected
officials backed Richardson. In the runoff, Knox came out ahead.
It is a somewhat isolated set of cases, one part of
New Orleans with considerable overlap. And a recent recall effort
against Cantrell fizzled, but statute makes these difficult to succeed. Still,
that the less extreme, even if relatively extreme, candidates won election might
serve as the canary in the coal mine suggesting that wokeism has peaked. With regular
legislative elections up to the plate this fall, that thesis will receive a
much more comprehensive test.