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Rescuing Ireland won’t save Biden The only Democratic future is post-woke

He needs a post-woke revolution (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

He needs a post-woke revolution (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)


April 12, 2023   4 mins

President Biden may have received a rapturous welcome in Ireland yesterday, but Democratic strategists in Washington will have taken little notice. With next year’s election looming, they increasingly look like they are stuck with a candidate who most in the party do not want and whose poll numbers remain consistently underwater. And these foreign forays won’t do much for this. While media baths can be helpful, the key challenge for Biden and the Democrats lies not in promoting his leadership profile, but in finding ways to distance the party from the divisive agenda associated with progressive politics.

To an extent, this shift is already taking place, as leading Democrats, from Biden to California’s Gavin Newsom, start to inch away from orthodoxies of 2020. Take the movement to “defund the police”, which, observes former Clinton advisor Bill Galston, “is now over”. Even the increasingly Left-leaning USA Today admits the slogan has little support and that it is particularly resented among Latinos and African-Americans.

Aware of this change, Biden has correspondingly worked to bolster his crime record. He recently dropped his opposition to a Congressional initiative to clamp down on a lenient sentencing bill that would have lessened penalties for property crimes and even carjacking in Washington D.C. — to the great agitation of his progressive media allies. On the southern border, meanwhile, the administration has begun revamping its stricter asylum policies, particularly in border states with large Hispanic populations.

Perhaps more remarkably, the Democratic “post-woke” turn has also extended to climate policy. Of course, the spectre of ecological crisis still obsesses many on the Left. But barely 3% of the broader population consider it America’s most pressing concern, something some Democrats appear to have finally registered. Biden, for instance, recently stopped echoing the extreme predictions of the climate lobby. Instead, he appears more relaxed about fossil fuel development than early in his term — to the chagrin of green activists — and has taken tentative steps to restart the US’s largely moribund nuclear industry. Such changes are critical, notes long-term Democratic strategist Ruy Teixeira, to winning over the increasingly diverse working class.

Even in the bluest of states, political reality is reasserting itself. California’s Gavin Newsom has kept nuclear and natural gas operating (in large part to prevent politically unpalatable blackouts) and has even suggested amending the state’s landmark environmental law. Newsom and other Democratic governors are also having to revise their free-spending ways. Faced with an economy weakened by Silicon Valley’s meltdown, Newsom has tried to reinvent himself as a fiscally conscious moderate in the mould of Bill Clinton, making budgetary trims while avoiding the large wealth taxes which could prompt a brain drain from his state.

After all, it is increasingly embarrassing that the two rival states Newsom likes to criticise — Florida and Texas — enjoy large budget surpluses, and that several red states are initiating tax cuts. Aware that disorder in Californian cities is becoming a potent talking point on the Right, Newsom has also abandoned several other progressive shibboleths. Last year, for example, he even vetoed a bill that would have legalised “shooting alleys” — so-called safe drug-injection sites — in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

Despite this necessary ideological moderation, it is unclear whether this is anything other than a short-term feint. By and large, there has not been any wholesale change to the party’s approach to education, once a Democratic prop, and now a Republican hammer. The largely Democratic educational establishment continues to defend a system that has produced the first reduction of the average American IQ in 100 years and which has increasingly allowed China to dominate STEM fields. The progressive embrace of critical race theory, overwhelmingly opposed by most Americans, remains unbroken and increasingly threatens Democratic allegiance among aspirational groups such as Asians and Jews. The parental rebellion against race and gender-dominated teaching has instead made stars of its Republican champions, particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Virginia’s Greg Youngkin. The recent election of far-Left union hack Brandon Johnson as Mayor of Chicago, by contrast, suggests that the core urban base of the party is nuttier than ever and will, once 2024 is over, reassert their agenda.

However, for the time-being, moderation will be needed, particularly to win the suburbs and exurbs who will determine the election. On economic and tax issues, in particular, the Democrats may need (at least for the short-term) to temper their redistributionist obsessions. No longer the party of the working class, Democrats now rely on an increasingly gentrified base, who will not want more of their wealth siphoned away. The ultra-rich now tend to be on what passes for the Left, and have consistently outraised and outspent the political Right in recent years by a margin of nearly two to one. These realities could, at least in the future, constrain the Democrats from proposing radical tax increases.

In California, Newsom seems likely to resist progressive attempts to raise the state’s income tax, already the nation’s highest, or add new payroll taxes to pay for universal healthcare. Yet there remains an initiative within the state’s party for a wealth tax that even would apply to some people who move out of the state. In reality, though, California and other blue states may need to lessen, not increase, the tax burden, if for no other reason than to keep their main funders in the state to to pay for pensions, climate change initiatives and maintain basic infrastructure. Newsom seems to recognise this, as do blue-state governors such as New York’s Kathy Hochul and Illinois J.B. Pritzker, who fear the loss of high-income residents. Biden, as President, is not so challenged, but proposals to raise taxes, as are now being contemplated, are not likely to appeal to those who stock the party larder.

To win in 2024, particularly if the opponent is not Donald Trump, the Democrats therefore need to do more than lower their threadbare “woke” colours. A wholesale revision of economic outlook is required, towards a centrist pragmatism that the American middle class can aspire to. The rewards of moderation are clear. Around the country, red-state Democrats — such as Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear or Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards — have remained competitive with middle-of-the-road voters by cleaving to a moderate, pro-business course. But in the leading blue states, the party is dominated by diehard progressives, who make up roughly 8% of the electorate. This grouping, which will never vote Republican, might be able to dominate elections in urban centres such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland , Houston and Boston, but it won’t win over the country. For that to happen, a new Democratic agenda is necessary.

What this looks like isn’t too hard to discern. A common-sense politics built on the bread-and-butter issues they used to run and win on: restoring manufacturing to the country, improving basic infrastructure, aiding low-wage service workers, student loan reduction and healthcare coverage. Such a shift in priorities will immediately be shouted down by the party’s vocal progressives. The only question then will be whether the Democrats have the political fortitude to complete the post-woke revolution that is only just beginning, but holds their surest prospects of remaining in power.


Joel Kotkin is the Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and author, most recently, of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (Encounter)

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Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Another 4 years of Biden…good grief. That this is a serious proposition tells me how terrible the Republicans are.
Not that America is that good a friend to the UK, but I’m sure the good people of Britain will be quite happy to send God over to the US once He’s done saving the King because I think the Yanks need saving more right now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

Another 4 years of Biden…good grief. That this is a serious proposition tells me how terrible the Republicans are.
Not that America is that good a friend to the UK, but I’m sure the good people of Britain will be quite happy to send God over to the US once He’s done saving the King because I think the Yanks need saving more right now.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I’d love to believe the author is correct, but the Dems recently won the midterms despite being as woke as ever. The problem is the lack of a compelling alternative. The Republicans are in disarray and if that situation continues through 2024 all Biden has to do for reelection is hide in his bunker while the Republicans implode, just as he did for 2020.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Bryant
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Abortion, Medicare, and Social Security are the words you are looking for. The Republican party leadership picked the massively unpopular sides of those issues and got crushed. If the Democrats had anything close to good approval ratings, the midterms would have been a blow out (the GOP not having a real platform did not help). These issues motivated many to go to the polls who would not have voted otherwise. Exit poll after exit poll shows this to be the case but Republican leadership will not listen. Now it looks like DeSantis is just going to destroy his presidential run by signing a 6 week abortion ban in Florida. It seems Trump’s political instincts are back (after being completely absent for his 2020 run) and the GOP is still clueless. In almost every way other candidates are trying to dethrone him they are picking the worse position. It turns out the American public as a whole does not want abortion bans (even in places like Kansas), or touching Social Security or Medicare.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Hindman
Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

No, it was Trump. He essentially picked many of the R candidates, and they were awful and seen as his surrogates. Trump is reviled even among sensible Rs. Get rid of Trump and the Rs will waltz to victory because the Ds are on the wrong side of most important issues – economy, immigration, climate, gender, schools – and apart from Trump only abortion keeps the Ds engaged.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

No. Honest elections are over. The GOP may be allowed to “win” a few here and there for form’s sake and to keep the pretense going, but the Great Experiment is well and truly over. The odious won.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry M

No. Honest elections are over. The GOP may be allowed to “win” a few here and there for form’s sake and to keep the pretense going, but the Great Experiment is well and truly over. The odious won.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Therein lies the key to winning. Completely lie about your views and then force your agenda through. It’s called Idiocracy.

Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

No, it was Trump. He essentially picked many of the R candidates, and they were awful and seen as his surrogates. Trump is reviled even among sensible Rs. Get rid of Trump and the Rs will waltz to victory because the Ds are on the wrong side of most important issues – economy, immigration, climate, gender, schools – and apart from Trump only abortion keeps the Ds engaged.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Therein lies the key to winning. Completely lie about your views and then force your agenda through. It’s called Idiocracy.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Abortion, Medicare, and Social Security are the words you are looking for. The Republican party leadership picked the massively unpopular sides of those issues and got crushed. If the Democrats had anything close to good approval ratings, the midterms would have been a blow out (the GOP not having a real platform did not help). These issues motivated many to go to the polls who would not have voted otherwise. Exit poll after exit poll shows this to be the case but Republican leadership will not listen. Now it looks like DeSantis is just going to destroy his presidential run by signing a 6 week abortion ban in Florida. It seems Trump’s political instincts are back (after being completely absent for his 2020 run) and the GOP is still clueless. In almost every way other candidates are trying to dethrone him they are picking the worse position. It turns out the American public as a whole does not want abortion bans (even in places like Kansas), or touching Social Security or Medicare.

Last edited 1 year ago by Matt Hindman
J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I’d love to believe the author is correct, but the Dems recently won the midterms despite being as woke as ever. The problem is the lack of a compelling alternative. The Republicans are in disarray and if that situation continues through 2024 all Biden has to do for reelection is hide in his bunker while the Republicans implode, just as he did for 2020.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Bryant
Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

“Irish” Joe Biden, steeped in dreamy emerald-green nostalgia, badly needs a history and geography lesson, but given his supposedly “Irish roots” he no doubt thinks he already knows it – and thus blunders into the fray trying to exert pressure over the UK/EU’s Irish border negotiations and talking about the GFA as though the DUP were not a part of it.
His total lack of understanding is only likely to embolden Republicans and EU negotiators against the UK Govt and Unionists, once again turning the border into a potential flashpoint for trouble.
As for Biden’s attitude towards Britain, you’d think even in his addled state, he’d go to the trouble of learning the name of the leader of his nation’s most stalwart ally. But no, Joe publicly congratulated “Rashid Sanook” on becoming PM.
Rishi would have won my vote in perpetuity if, in response, he’d thanked President Jim Bowen for his kind words. 

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

You’ve hit the bullseye there, Paddy.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Smashing, great, lovely, suuuper.
Okay Steve, let’s see what you could’ve won ….

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Smashing, great, lovely, suuuper.
Okay Steve, let’s see what you could’ve won ….

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

What about President Brendon.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

You’ve hit the bullseye there, Paddy.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

What about President Brendon.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 year ago

“Irish” Joe Biden, steeped in dreamy emerald-green nostalgia, badly needs a history and geography lesson, but given his supposedly “Irish roots” he no doubt thinks he already knows it – and thus blunders into the fray trying to exert pressure over the UK/EU’s Irish border negotiations and talking about the GFA as though the DUP were not a part of it.
His total lack of understanding is only likely to embolden Republicans and EU negotiators against the UK Govt and Unionists, once again turning the border into a potential flashpoint for trouble.
As for Biden’s attitude towards Britain, you’d think even in his addled state, he’d go to the trouble of learning the name of the leader of his nation’s most stalwart ally. But no, Joe publicly congratulated “Rashid Sanook” on becoming PM.
Rishi would have won my vote in perpetuity if, in response, he’d thanked President Jim Bowen for his kind words. 

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

“Rescuing Ireland won’t save Biden”President Plastic Paddy won’t save Ireland either.
I’m sure that decent Americans and decent Irish folk don’t deserve this man but, sometimes, what you deserve don’t come into it. Perhaps Tony Blair could lend a hand – That would be the icing on the cake..

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I suppose Blair and Biden would make good bookends
 Not much use for anything else.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Parker
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The Plastic Paddy who claims he’s Irish because of his great grandparents, yet neglects to mention a different set of great grandparents (and the ones from which he gets his surname) are from Sussex.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Precisely! Well said BB!
The personification of the ‘Plastic Paddy’ like so many other US morons it must be said.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There is no internal political mileage in the US by being a “Bakelite Brit” / claiming to be “British American”. British American de facto is the Republican party.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Word you are looking for is WASP – and you find them in both parties. TBH, I wish Biden was honest and admitted he is neither Irish nor Catholic in any meaningful sense. Because the US Dems very much want Ireland under its own terms as is clear from the last couple of decades of culture wars and the current hand wringing on the issue of neutrality among the Irish establishment.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

You wish Biden was honest? Honestly? Baaahaahaaaa! Bahaaahaa! The man has been a pathological liar for his 50+ years as a public servant grifter.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

At last an accurate description of the most powerful man in the world.
God help us, for no one else can,

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

Well, Sir, if you are suggesting only God can help, we really don’t have any hope.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

Well, Sir, if you are suggesting only God can help, we really don’t have any hope.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

At last an accurate description of the most powerful man in the world.
God help us, for no one else can,

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

You wish Biden was honest? Honestly? Baaahaahaaaa! Bahaaahaa! The man has been a pathological liar for his 50+ years as a public servant grifter.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Word you are looking for is WASP – and you find them in both parties. TBH, I wish Biden was honest and admitted he is neither Irish nor Catholic in any meaningful sense. Because the US Dems very much want Ireland under its own terms as is clear from the last couple of decades of culture wars and the current hand wringing on the issue of neutrality among the Irish establishment.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Precisely! Well said BB!
The personification of the ‘Plastic Paddy’ like so many other US morons it must be said.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

There is no internal political mileage in the US by being a “Bakelite Brit” / claiming to be “British American”. British American de facto is the Republican party.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I suppose Blair and Biden would make good bookends
 Not much use for anything else.

Last edited 1 year ago by Richard Parker
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The Plastic Paddy who claims he’s Irish because of his great grandparents, yet neglects to mention a different set of great grandparents (and the ones from which he gets his surname) are from Sussex.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

“Rescuing Ireland won’t save Biden”President Plastic Paddy won’t save Ireland either.
I’m sure that decent Americans and decent Irish folk don’t deserve this man but, sometimes, what you deserve don’t come into it. Perhaps Tony Blair could lend a hand – That would be the icing on the cake..

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago

It wasn’t that long ago that US schools and universities educated students. Now you’ve got multiple counties around major cities that don’t have one student regarded as ‘proficient’ in maths and reading in the public schools. I don’t hold out much hope. They continue to spend more and to deny access to alternative schools, while holding down the populace.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Yes, we are quickly turning into an Idiocracy.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Don’t despair the ’Darwinian Imperative’ will soon assert itself, and all will be well.

Micheal MacGabhann
Micheal MacGabhann
1 year ago

How then did you manage to survive this long?

Micheal MacGabhann
Micheal MacGabhann
1 year ago

How then did you manage to survive this long?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Don’t despair the ’Darwinian Imperative’ will soon assert itself, and all will be well.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  philip kern

Yes, we are quickly turning into an Idiocracy.

philip kern
philip kern
1 year ago

It wasn’t that long ago that US schools and universities educated students. Now you’ve got multiple counties around major cities that don’t have one student regarded as ‘proficient’ in maths and reading in the public schools. I don’t hold out much hope. They continue to spend more and to deny access to alternative schools, while holding down the populace.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Maybe wise heads in the Democratic Party know that things have to change, but can anyone get through to the “activists?”
My line is that the modern Activist Culture is very similar to the Medieval Romance culture. Noble knights on their chargers rescuing damsels in distress on their palfreys are just as fantastical as the idea that activists are compassionate Allies doing activism to rescue the Oppressed from the vile oppression of the White Male Oppressors.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Maybe wise heads in the Democratic Party know that things have to change, but can anyone get through to the “activists?”
My line is that the modern Activist Culture is very similar to the Medieval Romance culture. Noble knights on their chargers rescuing damsels in distress on their palfreys are just as fantastical as the idea that activists are compassionate Allies doing activism to rescue the Oppressed from the vile oppression of the White Male Oppressors.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

The progressive embrace of critical race theory, overwhelmingly opposed by most Americans,
This link doesn’t appear to say what the writer says it does, the headline is:
A GOP war on ‘woke’? Most Americans view the term as a positive, USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds.Is the writer trying to lead us astray or am I misinterpreting the article? It may be a disappointing finding, it may be even a biased finding, but, as it stands, it doesn’t seem to support the writer’s argument.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

You can find a manufactured poll to augment any position if you ask the right questions.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Perhaps, but why does the writer reference this article?

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Perhaps, but why does the writer reference this article?

Last edited 1 year ago by Linda Hutchinson
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago

My son’s work mate just moved with his young family from a Blue to a red State, just to avoid Critical Race Theory. I know of many more examples like this. Tennessee, Texas and Florida are the aim for many families, trying to get away from woke and high taxing blue States. I would be careful with statistics coming from USA Today.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

You can find a manufactured poll to augment any position if you ask the right questions.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 year ago

My son’s work mate just moved with his young family from a Blue to a red State, just to avoid Critical Race Theory. I know of many more examples like this. Tennessee, Texas and Florida are the aim for many families, trying to get away from woke and high taxing blue States. I would be careful with statistics coming from USA Today.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago

The progressive embrace of critical race theory, overwhelmingly opposed by most Americans,
This link doesn’t appear to say what the writer says it does, the headline is:
A GOP war on ‘woke’? Most Americans view the term as a positive, USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds.Is the writer trying to lead us astray or am I misinterpreting the article? It may be a disappointing finding, it may be even a biased finding, but, as it stands, it doesn’t seem to support the writer’s argument.