AmPop Missive #1: Wokeness

Understanding the enemy

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One of the most well-known strategic truisms of all time is that in order to defeat your enemy, you must understand him first. The fundamental mission of American Populism is to restore prosperity and a meaningful existence to the people of our country. American Populism has many different enemies, but one thread that binds most of them together is the doctrine of wokeness. In order to defeat them, we must first understand the true nature of their belief system.

Wokeness is a fairly recent arrival to the American political mainstream, only emerging as a fully-fledged ideology in the mid-2010s. Weaving together earlier strands of thought dating back to the 1990s, such as political correctness, critical race, and gender theory, and so-called cultural Marxism, wokeness initially rose to dominance on the political left, before being co-opted and institutionalized by the center, and then cowing much of the right into submission. Adherents of wokeness see their ideology as progressive, the natural outgrowth of the ideals of justice and equality.

In reality, however, wokeness serves an imperial function, not a populist one; an ideology allowing the elites to control the masses. The leap of woke thought from the far left to the ruling center is the key to understanding this. Wokeness is no longer merely a weapon for the left to use against the right in ideological turf wars; it is a dogma through which the ruling elites can impose control from the top down, and eliminate any threats to their positions of power.

Imperial systems have been used throughout human history to control diverse populations of subjects. These systems have always relied on the principle of divide and rule. An empire co-opts the loyalty of a small portion of a subject territory’s population (generally the native economic elite along with any ethnic minorities) by elevating them with special privileges, in return for their help in keeping the rest of the people in line.

In their endless pursuit of profit and self-advancement, America’s own elites embraced globalist ideology, seeing themselves as citizens of something above a mere nation-state – the vantage point of an imperial ruling class looking down on its subjects. Because they view America as just another colony, they have also governed it like one, extracting its wealth for their own enrichment.

But there is more to ruling a colony than mere economic exploitation. Enduring empires have always needed the support of people of good conscience, people who believe they are serving a just cause. To that end, along with the resource extraction, imperialism has always featured the element of enlightenment, of uplifting the backwards and immoral subject peoples to a higher state of civilization. In the empires of the past, this could take the form of bringing them a new language or religion, founding new cities, introducing new technologies or new ideas like democracy or communism.

Today, it means bringing wokeness to the masses, whether they want it or not. Wokeness checks all the boxes of an imperial ruling ideology as described above. It demands no fundamental changes to the political or economic system of America – no check on the power of America’s elites, no restoration of material living standards for ordinary Americans, no reorientation of the American economy from short-term profit of a few to long-term prosperity for the many.

All wokeness demands from America’s ruling class is seats at the table for a few striving members of America’s aggrieved minorities – gays, blacks, immigrants, Jews, transsexuals, women of color, and so on. Only the handful of members in these groups who are promoted to elite positions will benefit materially from wokeness. The system will not change, and life will stay the same for the ordinary members of these minorities – instead, they will be contented with pride days, faces like theirs on TV, faraway promises of reparations or Green Revolutions that will never actually arrive – and the occasional opportunity to vent their frustrations on members of America’s white Christian majority for breaking one of woke ideology’s arbitrary rules.

To America’s white majority, woke ideology offers nothing but harsh judgment. White people are the villains of the woke worldview; at best they have a chance to become allies instead, second-class sidekicks to the true heroes of color. Ironically, of course, adherence to wokeness is more widespread among white people than any of the racial minorities it allegedly benefits. 

The lack of diversity among these devotees of diversity is frequently pointed out by their opponents on the right. This is a facile observation, however, and it has done little to stop the spread of wokeness. It is more important to understand why this is so. Why are white people more drawn to an ideology that punishes them than the minorities who will allegedly benefit from it?

The answer lies in human nature, which, contrary to what it may seem at times, is more good than evil. The vast majority of human beings get more happiness from doing good for the people they love than from inflicting pain on the people they hate. When people do stray from their morals, greed is far more often the motive than sadism. 

Wokeness promises no material gain to all but a handful of its adherents, black or white. To white people, it offers redemption; to black people, it offers revenge. And for most people, the opportunity to do good is far more tempting than the opportunity to do harm. Wokeness thus has broad and substantial appeal among white people. Among minorities, it only appeals strongly to a fraction of strivers who will receive affirmative promotions from it, and to a fraction of malcontents who enjoy the opportunities it affords them for petty acts of cruelty and domination. From the rest, it commands no more than indifference and idle conformity.

Understanding this is key to understanding how wokeness will be defeated. Appealing to the white majority through the offer of cruelty and revenge, as many white nationalists and other advocates of violent revolution have attempted, is a doomed and misguided venture because most people are motivated more by the chance to do good than the chance to do harm. It is no coincidence that these movements have always attracted angry malcontents and failed to find support from a broader majority.

Trumpism did, however, and while Trump has failed to actually deliver on his populist promises, it is important to understand how he attracted mass support for populist ideas. Trump achieved this by appealing to the higher nature of his followers, not, as his critics (and some of his supporters) argued, their base and feral instincts. His slogans – Make America Great Again, Drain The Swamp – were unimpeachably moral. His opponents could only argue that he was not really going to do these things, not that they were wrong to begin with. Even his most famously divisive proposal, building a wall on the border, was fundamentally a move of defense, not attack. Trump offered his supporters a chance to take part in the building of a better future for their country; revenge on their enemies only factored into it in the form of justice, against those who had broken the law (Hillary, the swamp in DC, illegal immigrants). It was Trump’s supporters who were violently and physically attacked by those of his rivals throughout his campaign, not the other way around. Trump was abrasive, vulgar, and brutal in his rhetorical attacks on his rivals, and many of his supporters delighted in this – but only because he had carefully presented both himself and his agenda as heroic, and because his opponents had stepped so eagerly into the role of card-carrying villains.

Trump may have won the presidency, but he has not won the battle against wokeness, which has only widened and tightened its grip on American life under his tenure. Indeed, it is Trumpism, not wokeness, that has softened since Trump took office, that has retreated from its boldest proposals. The GOP, the conservative movement, and even Trump’s own personal hangers-on have become more and more compliant to the prevailing wokeness, unflinchingly expelling those who reject or run afoul of woke ideology. Woke commissars like Jared Holt and collaborators like Charlie Kirk are invited to patrol Trumpist gatherings and screen out any ideological resisters to their agendas. Meanwhile, no institutions or movements that were woke before have become less woke under Trump.

Nothing encapsulates the triumph of wokeness over Trumpism more than Trump constantly extolling the low unemployment and other benefits his administration has brought for blacks and other minority groups, but never acknowledging the same for white people. Nothing would stop him from continuing to do the former while also doing the latter – nothing but fear of confronting wokeness openly on its most central tenet, that white people and white racism are the source of all evil in society.

More than that, Trump’s constant refrain of “Unemployment rate low! Stock market high!” signals another key failing afflicting Trumpism since he took office – the retreat from a transformative vision for society. Trump ran for office on an agenda that was not only positive and moral but transformative as well. America after Trump got everything he wanted would be a radically different place from the one it would have been without him. Prosperous and reindustrialized, secure in its borders, free from wars and entangling alliances, purged of corruption and PC censorship, and with money to spare for tackling drug epidemics, infrastructure decay, and out of control healthcare costs.

Now that his re-election slogan is Keep America Great rather than Make America Great Again, it seems Trump was willing to settle for a lot less than a transformation of the country. In fact, America is still pretty much the same place it was before. The same corrupt political establishment ruling over it, the same lying journalists, the same failing healthcare system, the same crumbling roads, the same dying towns in the Rust Belt, the same tech oligarchs controlling what you are allowed to say on the internet, the same out of control demographic change, the same woke activist lynch mobs punishing people however they see fit. Was making a few little tweaks here and there all it took to make America great again? Is that what Trumpism was all about?

Of course not, which is why American Populists will not settle for this sad and diminished state of affairs. There is still so much work to be done. The American people need real and transformative change to make their country and their lives great again. Wokeness, the ideology of the ruling elite, stands in the way of this change. American Populists must challenge and defeat wokeness at every opportunity, and never allow its adherents any inroads into our movement. To defeat wokeness, we must understand it and act accordingly. Wokeness may be dominant on the political left, but it is those in the center and at the top who reap the real benefits of it. Our attacks on wokeness will, therefore, be the most successful when they are directed not leftward, but upward, at those in the ruling class using this ideology to divide and control the American people. Wokeness attracts most of its supporters through the opportunity to feel that they are doing something good for other people. To defeat it, we must offer people the same thing, not the opposite: a chance to do good, in support of a just cause. American Populism is both a positive and transformative vision for the future of our nation, and it must remain so in order to win, neither sinking to destructive nihilism nor settling for compromise and a handful of scraps.

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