Policy Issues / Budget

Defining “Woke” in the context of the Federal Budget and Appropriations Process

The taxpayer-funded, woke federal bureaucracy threatens the American way of life. Elsewhere (here, here, & here), the Center for Renewing America (CRA) continues to give specific examples of how these funding streams operate. Yet, the political and media elite are vested in keeping the details of wokeness murky. In this brief, we explain how and why the language employed by the Left furthers the woke agenda. The Left abhors clear and consistent definitions precisely because they understand their ideas when plainly presented, will be rejected by sensible people. They use language as a tool to hide and advance their destructive agenda. This tactic is consistent with postmodernism, which asserts there are no universal truths, only social constructs, which makes it necessary to constantly redefine terms for political expediency. This paper will explain the Left’s strategy for using language to hide and obfuscate; it then clearly defines the woke movement so that it can be exposed, defunded, and defeated. 

How Woke Ideology Advances: the Motte and Bailey Strategy 

The Left aggressively employs a Motte and Bailey strategy against any effort to expose their ideas and stymie their advance. In Medieval times, a Bailey was a loosely defended hub of commercial and social buildings for the surrounding populations. A Motte is a more fortified structure used for serious defense against invading groups. To illustrate this concept, the Left will consistently push the envelope of radical ideas. To the degree that they are allowed to operate like this openly, they do so in the loosely defended Bailey. 

For example, the Left will unapologetically claim or suggest that it is impossible to be racist toward white people. The definition of racism – believing some human beings are inherently superior and inferior because of race and treating the “inferior” poorly – is well known. One must rightly conclude it is, in fact, possible to believe white people are unworthy of equal treatment because of their race and that such a position is definitionally racist. However, that does not fit the woke framework for understanding all of society as a zero-sum game between oppressor and oppressed, so words must be redefined. “Racism” then is redefined to mean “racial prejudice plus power.” Colleges have adopted the new definition along with the activists who now run the Merriam-Webster dictionary. This redefinition is a microcosm of the Motte and Bailey Strategy. For them to operate in this manner openly, they redefine words to assist in escaping broader scrutiny. They want to avoid actual accountability for their actions so that they can avoid having to explain why their position is racist. When challenged, they will retreat into the Motte by proclaiming that their objective is to oppose racism and accuse you of being against that proposition. They want the fight to remain in the Motte. Force them back into the Bailey, call them out on what they are actually doing, and force them to defend being racists.

In another instance, the fashion company Balenciaga ran an ad campaign last year that depicted children with BDSM teddy bears. The line of what is appropriate with respect to children was approached and intentionally crossed using imagery instead of linguistic gymnastics. The horrific idea of children and BDSM being openly blended was exposed and followed by an immediate retreat into the Motte of “child abuse is terrible.” If there wasn’t a public outcry, it is doubtful that the company would have backpedaled.

Thus, when the ideas and radical concepts of the Left are exposed to public scrutiny and challenged, as they were with the Balenciaga ad campaign, they retreat back into the Motte, an ideologically fortified safe space. In this case, the offense was so egregious that they went deep into the Motte, apologizing for the content. This is Motte and Bailey playing out in real-time. The strategy, broadly speaking,  is to sprinkle radical ideas about race, sex, and identity and then retreat to the Motte until retreat no longer becomes necessary and, in this case, pedophilia is redefined as “minor-attracted person” and just one of many equally valid sexual orientations (see Queer Theory below). Some may recognize this as the “slippery slope” argument, once derided as a fallacy, but which should no longer be dismissed. Over time, one can argue that the “slippery slope” inevitably comes to pass.

Retreating into the Motte often works because the Left appears to abandon the most controversial aspects of their ideology and move into the most innocuous and generally acceptable foundations of their ideas. It amounts to framing the concepts they support in the most innocent, benign, and dishonest contexts. Importantly, such “abandonment” is only temporary. Once they believe it is safe to revert back to espousing their more radical views, they utilize other angles to facilitate the same societal softening toward their extremism. 

Ibram X. Kendi and his proponents can say, for instance, that “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” With such statements, the Left is operating in the Bailey by discussing radical ideas about the need for and the justness of racial discrimination in the present and future. Once challenged on the radical nature of such a viewpoint, the Left will retreat into the Motte by pivoting away from discussing the need for present and future racial discrimination and instead back into the relative safety of their support for anti-racism. For most people, the notion that one is an anti-racist must logically mean that one is against racism, and therefore if someone opposes anti-racism, they must be FOR racism. This is the ground on which the Left wants to debate. To expose the truth, we must deny them their safe space and force them out of the Motte and back into the open air of the Bailey. The Left must be forced to defend its support for systemic and institutional racial and sexual discrimination. 

The entirety of the woke movement within government, the activist Left, and the private sector operate in some manner according to the Motte and Bailey strategy. The truth behind every motive and action they take is hidden by shifting terms and concepts. 

As a final example, the media will say it is a right-wing fringe, obsessed with race and identity politics, that is making ‘woke” a wedge issue to divide Americans. They will argue that the racial struggle for equity is not new in America, but that the radical conservative base is aggressively turning “woke” into a wedge issue to send cultural signals that are rooted in racism. In essence, the media narrative will obfuscate that it is the Left that has engaged in and called for sweeping racist and sexist societal and cultural changes, but the Right is to blame for noticing. 

Wokeness permeates the economy and corporate HR departments, hiring and promotion practices, healthcare, K-12 schools, colleges and universities, churches, homeowners associations, government agencies, grants, and contracts, even in states that are ostensibly “conservative.” Nowhere is immune to the threat of wokeness because it is an ideology that has infected American cultural, political, and economic institutions. It is difficult to overstate the dominance of this ideology, such that it is now the driving force behind every aspect of economic, domestic, and foreign policy. As evidenced by the Biden administration’s recent DEI executive order, the highest office in the country is fulfilling Kendi’s call for present and future discrimination. What is only now, sometimes discussed openly in the Bailey, will soon be institutionally agreed upon and mandated. 

The threat posed by wokeness is existential for a free nation. And while the corporate media will deflect, run cover, and insist it is the MAGA base that is obsessed with woke (gaslighting in its purest form), it can be defeated by exposing it. Americans need to be aware of the realities behind woke terminology, not the sanitized Motte-version, but the truth. The remainder of this brief is an effort to expose “woke” and its real-world impacts, which are destroying communities and families while bankrupting our nation. 

While “woke” as a line item, depending on the agency, may seemingly only correlate to a smaller proportion of federal spending, the reality is it is the constant filter for all of the spending. Woke is the ideologically-based prism through which trillions of dollars are spent every year by elected officials, politically appointed staff, and a mountain of federal bureaucrats.

What is Meant by “Woke” Ideology:  

The Left will define “woke” benignly as part of their Motte and Bailey strategy. In its most insincere form, the Left will define “woke” as being “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination,” both individually and institutionally or systemically. This conception, originating in the 1930s, is proper framing for its time and is uncontroversial. There was indeed widespread systemic racism in the United States, coupled with significant cultural and societal racial biases, both conscious and unconscious. In that framing, what reasonable person could oppose being woke? Shouldn’t we be aware of these things in our society? This is the Motte and Bailey tactic because “woke” in modern usage means something very different. 

The woke ideology or movement could go by several tag lines: “the intersectionality cult,” “the oppression Olympics,” “critical theories,” “the grievance industrial complex,” or “DEI dogma.” 

What “woke” is, as the Left now uses it, is adopting a neo-Marxist view that all of Western society is intentionally structured to oppress. Every socioeconomic disparity between groups illustrates that oppression. This alleged oppression is itself defined through the lens of neo-Marxist concepts like Critical Race Theory, Gender Ideology, and Queer Theory. Wokeness also states that the only way of correcting these injustices is to abolish the old oppressive society and rebuild a just society through the implementation of “equity,” wherein there is proportional representation and rewards provided to oppressed groups without regard to performance or merit. 

If one is “woke,” the Left will claim that individuals are awakened to this particular worldview. In essence, it is “knowing” how everything is “racist,” “bigoted,” “sexist,” “transphobic,” or “oppressive.” “Woke” now occupies a space that, in current usage, essentially encompasses the entire network of far-left progressive radical theories and agendas. It will continue to expand within these contexts. General Relativity for the field of physics is what woke is to the radical Left political movement, minus any scientific validity. It is what animates and drives the activity of the Left.

“Woke” includes Kendi’s remedy for past discrimination – “present discrimination.” Prior to the more recent advancement of woke ideologies, our society made major and significant actual progress toward justice and equality of the law. Ironically, wokeness threatens to erase actual social progress, the advancement of equality of opportunity, and merit-based accomplishment or advancement, all while proclaiming that doing so is social justice. 

Recent Gallup data shows a massive decline in the number of U.S. adults who believe relations between white and black Americans are good. In the past ten years, the number of white adults who believe relations with black Americans are good has plummeted from 73 percent in 2013 to 43 percent in 2023. For black adults, that number has plummeted from 66 percent to 33 percent in the same time frame. It is no coincidence that this declining trend began around the same time that Black Lives Matter popularized the term “woke” in 2014 as part of the Ferguson riots.

For the Left, the goal isn’t to advance equality or improve race relations; it is to drive wedges in society to facilitate their agenda of destroying the culture and institutions that are in the way of their radical vision.

In short, and though clearly contradictory to the original meaning, “woke” activism in the United States is just the anti-American umbrella term for old-school systemic racism and discrimination that is disguised through the language and neo-Marxist propaganda of the radical Left.

Common Terms and Concepts Evidencing the Woke Agenda in Government Policy and Through the Appropriations and Budgeting Process.

The terms below represent concepts that overlap and indeed are often used interchangeably by the Left. Organizationally, wokeness relies on numerous underlying theories, including Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory, and Queer Theory. The goal of each of these is to achieve equity and social justice in terms consistent with those theories. Finally, there are a number of tools used to achieve those goals: DEI, anti-racism, cultural responsiveness, climate justice, and health equity, to name a few. What follows is a brief unpacking of each of those terms and concepts to provide a handle for understanding wokeness as it functions in American society today.  

1) Critical Race Theory (CRT): The Left claims that CRT is just a set of ideas about how racial bias interacts with legal and social institutions and that it is only taught in law schools. 

CRT is the theory that says America is fundamentally, systemically, and irredeemably racist against people of color.

A social theory that first gained traction in law schools during the 1980s, Critical Race Theory (CRT) takes the view that racism is baked into every aspect of American life. CRT teaches that every social structure (including churches, businesses, and family units) contains elements of racism and that most, if not all, white Americans are racist. CRT further states that this racism is permanent and that it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to remove. Additionally, CRT claims that concepts such as merit, metrics, testing, grading, and objectivity are skewed to make white people and white culture the standard by which all others are judged. In other words, CRT says that society defines these apparently neutral concepts in ways that elevate whiteness above all other races.

There are a plethora of books about CRT in education meant to teach teachers how to inject CRT into the curriculum. For example, this book is being promoted at Columbia University, Critical Race Theory in Teacher Education: Informing Classroom Culture and Practice.

2) Queer Theory: The Left generally says Queer Theory is the study of ideas promoting the understanding of LGBTQ identities and the acceptance of those identities as normal and needing protection.

Queer Theory is activism dressed up as an academic discipline, and its goal is to attack, subvert, and erase traditional sexual morality, including the nuclear family.

Queer Theory (and Gender Theory) is one of the major branches of Critical Theory but is particularly interested in, though not exclusively, issues of sex, gender, and sexuality. It seeks to deconstruct heteronormative structures which dominate and allegedly oppress society. It asserts that these identities are socially and experientially created and can, therefore, always be reconstructed. 

3) Gender Ideology: This does not refer to the exceedingly rare instance when a baby is born with the biological characteristics of both male and female. Rather, it refers to the whole corpus of support for the notion that biological sex and gender are distinct and sometimes do not match or that one must choose one’s gender and that may be different than the biological sex. The Left often claims that “Gender Ideology” as such does not exist and instead reverts to Queer Theory. 

Gender Ideology refers to the same set of ideas and ideologies as “Queer Theory.”

Gender ideology is a term that was created by so-called “Detranstioners” (people who were formerly transgender) to describe the ideology which drove them to attempt sex transition in the first place.

4) White Privilege: The Left says this refers to the benefits that accrue to white people because they are part of the dominant (read white) culture, and the most important benefit is power. It can also be applied across the intersectional framework to heterosexual males having “male privilege.”

White Privilege is racist scapegoating and group stereotyping that requires judgment to be rendered based on skin color. White is synonymous with privilege and power and, therefore, oppression. Nonwhite is synonymous with victim and oppressed. This eliminates notions of personal responsibility. 

According to Critical Social Justice, “white privilege” is the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people by society solely because they are white.

According to Critical Social Justice, white people unjustly get a head start in everything that happens in society and, therefore, must adopt the Critical Social Justice worldview and learn to deconstruct their privilege.

5) Whiteness: The Left says this refers to the normalization of white racial identity throughout American history, which created a culture where non-whites “are seen as inferior or abnormal.” It is inherently linked to notions of white privilege, white supremacy, and microaggressions. As such, Whiteness must be “confronted.”

The political Left avoids using this term, understanding the weakness of this phrasing as it pertains to their Motte and Bailey strategies. Still, to the activist class, there is near universal buy-in, which makes it difficult for the political Left to avoid it. The sanitized version will be described as “how white culture differs from other cultures” or just “white culture.”

Whiteness is a framework used to drive wedges between Americans by defining aspects of American culture as exclusively white. Thus any sense of agreement or belonging to that shared culture is seen as upholding systems of discrimination. In CRT, whiteness is the original sin, the source of all oppression and injustice, and as such, it must be “confronted” and rooted out everywhere it is found.

Whiteness in practice is Joe Biden telling African Americans, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” or maintaining that effective teaching requires black students to have black teachers.

The ideas that should lead all Americans to unify, including basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives, and experiences, are said to belong only to white people creating an unjust system of privilege that is inaccessible to non-white Americans. Under this framework, no non-white person can embrace or benefit from traditional patriotism and American culture. Any racial minority who pushes or adopts so-called whiteness is a “race traitor” or accused of “acting white.” 

6) Intersectionality: The Left says that intersectionality is the intersection or interdependence of multiple social categorizations known as identities that correspond with systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Viewed through an intersectional lens, a gay Hispanic has two identities that overlap or double the discrimination and disadvantage doled out to him by the system.

Intersectionality is a concept developed by a founder of Critical Race Theory in order to aid the Left in pursuing identity politics by combining traits and characteristics to form ever-cascading and increasingly complex identities that enhance the perception of being more oppressed than other oppressed groups.

Intersectionality is a race to the bottom that incentivizes competition between groups to determine who is the most oppressed. This mindset leads to a sort of “Oppression Olympics” to discover new offenses and disadvantages in order to not slip down the intersectionality ranking list.

Intersectionality was a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a key founder of Critical Race Theory, to describe the relevant social categorizations such as race, class, ability, and gender as they relate under Critical Social Justice. 

7) Equity: The Left says that equity is the action of using fairness and justice to level the playing field and ensure that outcomes are equal in society. 

Equity is one of the goals of the woke enterprise. It contradicts the basic Constitutional promise of equality under the law. Instead, it requires identity-based distribution of benefits, from hiring to promotions to product access in the corporate and business spheres to accessing benefits or services in the government space, including college admissions and healthcare services. Supposed inequity is always the reason for whatever differences, distinctions, and disparities exist among groups of people. Different outcomes can only be explained by systemic identity-based injustice and oppression, never by individual choices, character, or work ethic.

Equity espouses proportional representation and rewards provided to oppressed groups without regard to performance or merit. 

Equity rejects equality of opportunity in favor of forced equality of outcomes. It thus seeks to redistribute anything that is perceived as a pathway to more social power, whether that be money, jobs, benefits, or opportunities.

Under the guise of equity, the radical Left has proposed approving or denying healthcare services based on a patient’s identity, including race, sex, or sexuality.  For example, proposals were introduced to prioritize access to vaccines on the basis of race. 

8) Social Justice: The Left says that social justice is about achieving a fair and just society, where justice is viewed in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.

Social Justice has become “Critical” Social Justice (CSJ). It is an ideology that seeks to uncover the power dynamics allegedly endemic to all of society which are based on group identities. It calls for specific corrections to right the perceived injustice or inequalities. Social Justice is, in practice, selective and at the expense and harm of others. 

CSJ’s goal is to identify, expose, disrupt, dismantle, subvert, and overthrow the institutions that uphold our current society in a radical revolutionary process to remake “the system” in the image of wokeness more broadly defined. 

9) Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI): The Left claims that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are values that support making sure different people are treated equally and included in society. 

DEI is the institutional bureaucracy that enforces the radical woke agenda. 

The DEI bureaucracy embraces Diversity as a virtue, but only if that diversity benefits the perceived oppressed groups in society. Equity, as described in the previous section, rejects merit-based policies and concepts in favor of overtly racist and discriminatory policies and concepts. Inclusion is an enforcement mechanism to exclude those who disagree, often through cancel culture or through “safe space” requirements and false claims of hate speech, bigotry, and violence.  

For instance, DEI is used as a hurdle to block conservatives from employment as university professors in many publicly funded institutions, despite the vast, overwhelming majority of professors being committed leftists who donate or advocate for the Left, which is a clear void of substantive diversity. Many schools require a pro-DEI statement to be signed or submitted, and DEI often comes up in the interview process. Any deviation from the desired answer is seen as grounds to reject applicants, either formally or informally. DEI is used to destroy substantive diversity of thought and opinion, ensure the destruction of equality of opportunity, and further the propaganda regime. Diversity of thought and opinion is not actually the goal, especially if that kind of diversity harmed the Left’s political ambitions and agenda, and especially if someone from a perceived oppressed demographic happens to agree with the political right. 

DEI is a significant tool for furthering the woke agenda to remake American society. Diversity is measured against the Left’s intersectional framework. Equity requires equal outcomes but only for the favored segment of the intersectional framework. Inclusion is for only the woke or those espousing its worldview.  

10) Anti-racism: The Left claims that antiracism is active opposition to racism.

Anti-racism promotes and supports systemic racism for the purpose of forcing equal outcomes (equity).

Consider the following two Ibram X. Kendi quotes (author of How to Be an Antiracist):

“If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist.” 

“The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” 

If the previous two quotes read awkwardly, then you read them correctly. The purpose of anti-racism is to justify racial and sexual discrimination so long as it is pursued in the name of achieving equity for the perceived oppressed groups in our society. Anti-racism, as it is commonly used, almost always accepts the main tenets of Critical Race Theory and Critical Social Justice.

Anti-racism justifies current methods of systemic racism and discrimination within a woke regime.

11. Culturally Responsive: The Left claims that this is about understanding cultural differences, recognizing and avoiding potential biases, and looking beyond differences. In education, it means including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning because current instruction is built around European (read oppressive) cultural values. Culturally Responsive Learning will change the standards that a student is judged by based on cultural “identities”–including ethnic, racial, religious, sexual, and gender.

Culturally Responsive” drives a wedge between people based on identities and rejects conformity to a shared American culture, preventing Americans (and, in the context of schooling, children) from uniting as one people.

Thus, “Culturally Responsive” is an anti-American term meant to undermine and vilify American culture and society while promoting and elevating other cultures in a way that goes far beyond the mere intention of understanding and being respectful of different cultures.

This means that even the standards that are used to judge true and false, success and failure, or right and wrong, must be relative to each individual culture. Under this framework, the elimination of homework has been proposed, as has grading (failing no students), grading differently based on identities, and eliminating disciplinary actions. These policies create more divisions amongst student groups and lead to an unwanted increase in racial division and animosity. 

Federal agencies are expanding the scope and application of Culturally Responsive beyond K-12 applications. Culturally responsive policing or culturally responsive health services, for example.

12) Social Emotional Learning (SEL): The Left says SEL is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.

SEL is used as the vehicle through which Critical Social Justice (CSJ) and Critical Race Theory (CRT) are injected into the K-12 education system in order to educate future generations to be woke-compliant.

When the Left repeats the debunked talking point that CRT only exists in law school, it is because the praxis (practical application of theory) of CSJ and CRT almost never proceeds under those labels. The theories and concepts within CSJ and CRT are embedded into the “whole child” framework, which SEL then draws directly upon. As such, SEL is used to teach kids how to interpret the people around them, how to think about society, and then intentionally how to behave socially according to a woke worldview. 

As such, SEL is best thought of as a mechanism through which woke ideology can be injected into K-12 education.

12) Climate Justice: The Left says this concept is meant to recognize the disproportionate impacts of climate change on low-income communities and communities of color around the world in order to identify solutions to stop climate change and provide affected communities with equitable remedies.

Climate Justice uses Social Justice notions to justify climate and environmental policies and legislation and engage in wealth and power redistribution.

Climate Justice fuses concerns about climate change through an equity lens and demands Critical Social Justice, all of which leads to a belief that any solution to climate change must also solve inequality. Therefore every solution to every environmental issue requires the radical redistribution of wealth and power. 

13) Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): The Left claims this is just a free market tool for ethically and financially responsible investing.

ESG is a financial tool that is meant to punish non-woke companies by depriving them of the ability to access loans and capital. Furthermore, it is an activist investment scheme that ties people’s retirements and pensions to the advancement of far-left ideological causes.

ESG refers to a scoring metric primarily within investment finance using those three dimensions as the basis. Large investment banks use ESG scoring as a form of what they claim is risk assessment for long-term investments like those in an index or mutual funds and other forms of pooled or passive investment portfolios. They also use them to engage in what is known as “impact investing,” which is investing in order to create desirable social or political outcomes, i.e., to make an “impact.” In this regard, they can be thought of as a kind of impact-based credit system (that is, a social credit system) for investment capital, mostly retirement pension capital that is invested for long periods of time in passive investment portfolios.

The central scheme described above—how to do massive-scale impact investing with other people’s money—was the purpose of ESG investing from its inception. The ESG investing scheme was begun in 2003 by a young United Nations staffer named James Gifford. The team he joined and helped shape defined the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. Gifford’s ambitions were specifically to connect the huge reservoirs of passive investment (retirements and pensions) under management to (especially environmental) impact investing programs. The goal of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment program was to determine how to get fund managers to “view sustainability as central to their entire mandate.” (source: https://newdiscourses.com/tftw-esg/)

The goal of ESG is to make it so that woke metrics become part of the overall “credit score” earned by a person or corporation. The point is to ensure that only companies that operate according to woke principles are able to succeed in the financial sector.

14. Affirmative Action: The Left claims this is a set of procedures designed to; eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future.

The Left claims this is how to make up for past discrimination and how to treat minorities fairly. Affirmative Action incorporates elements of equity and anti-racism. And while the Left asserts affirmative action is designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination, that generally only applies to groups found with the intersectional paradigm. Furthermore, affirmative action adopts positions that favor overt discrimination, not just on the basis of race, but more broadly, if it benefits the perceived oppressed.

Affirmative Action is a form of “positive discrimination” in which a government or organization attempts to select membership or services on the basis of  oppressed identities (formerly race and sex, but now expanded to the whole intersectional framework) rather than on skill or merit alone.