The first woke president
Joe Biden has institutionalised identitarian dogma.
‘If you hate wokeness, you should vote for Joe Biden.’
So proclaimed writer Yascha Mounk in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election. His piece, in the Atlantic, summed up the sentiments of many prominent anti-woke liberals: those who despised critical race theory and gender extremism but who despised Donald Trump (and his riffraff voters) even more.
The argument then was that the madcap Trump is to the culture war what gasoline is to a dumpster fire. His mere presence in the White House fuels the worst excesses of the identitarian left, they said. Meanwhile, we were told Biden was a centrist Democrat who would keep the blue-haired loons in his party in check.
I wonder how they’re feeling about that particular take now. Now that Joe Biden has announced he will seek a second term as president and Trump once again has a commanding lead in his fight for the Republican nomination.
As it stands, America is faced with a deathly rerun of 2020. No doubt, this is an unpalatable choice for most Americans: according to a recent poll, 70 per cent would rather Biden didn’t run again, while 60 per cent would rather Trump didn’t run again.
But whatever else one might say about the relative merits – or lack thereof – possessed by these two candidates, one thing is crystal clear: those who said Biden would put a lid on the mini cultural revolution engulfing America were completely and utterly wrong.
We at spiked were never under this illusion to begin with. But even I’ve been surprised at the speed and extent to which Biden has put identitarian dogma at the core of his presidency. He hasn’t just paid rhetorical lip-service to the diktats of gender extremism or the new woke racialism – he’s firmly institutionalised them.
Amid a flurry of Executive Orders, signed on his very first day as president, Biden pledged to ‘advance racial equity’ and crack down on ‘discrimination on the basis of gender identity’. His actions since have made abundantly clear that these are not the progressive, humanistic crusades they present themselves to be.
As anyone acquainted with woke euphemism knows, ‘racial equity’ does not mean racial equality. Nor does protecting trans people ‘from discrimination’ mean ensuring they are afforded the same rights and dignity as any other citizen. If they did mean those things, no decent person would be opposed to them.
In truth, racial equity means reverse-discrimination – the notion, popularised by the likes of racialist author Ibram X Kendi, that ‘the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination’. This is a theory that Biden has set about testing with alarming zeal.
In the wake of the pandemic, Biden allocated recovery funds on the basis of race and gender. In 2021, his Small Business Administration set up a fund aimed at firms owned by women and minorities. The Department of Agriculture similarly set up a scheme to forgive the loans of farmers, provided they weren’t white.
He hasn’t stopped there, either. As Sean Collins reported on spiked recently, Biden has recently issued another sweeping Executive Order on ‘racial equity’. This one is aimed at embedding the malign, divisive notions bound up in ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ policies throughout the federal bureaucracy.
On gender identity, Biden is also all in. His Education Department is currently trying to ban schools and universities from protecting single-sex sports. He has also ordered his health agency to bolster and protect ‘gender-affirming care’ for minors – that is, the dangerous and discredited practice of socially and medically transitioning children.
Many of Biden’s identitarian initiatives have ended up being stalled in the courts, accused of being unconstitutional. But there’s really no doubting his commitment to the cause.
Indeed, he didn’t need to do any of this. Woke dogma remains wildly unpopular, including among minorities. Following the ripping up of Roe v Wade, and the brutal Republican clampdown on abortion that has followed, Biden didn’t need to do much to sound like the more liberal candidate in 2024.
And yet he has effectively become America’s first woke president. He doesn’t just genuflect to identitarian narratives, as Barack Obama was wont to do later on in his presidency, following the first blush of Black Lives Matter. Biden has put them at the centre of governance.
There are those who will say it’s ridiculous to suggest that Biden, an octogenarian machine politician who wasn’t even particularly socially liberal for much of his career, is now some sort of leftist ideologue. But such people are letting the old political labels obscure the new and sinister things that are taking place.
Wokeness – though it might have first germinated among sections of the left – has never been progressive in the slightest. It wants to rehabilitate racial categories. It wants to rip up sex-based rights. It relies on coercion and censorship to defeat its opponents. It cannot compute class politics. Indeed, its obsession with race only pits working-class people against one another.
No wonder this divisive agenda appeals to a centrist political class that is keen to recover its moral authority, while also keeping ordinary people in their place – which wishes to bask in the glory of a phoney progressivism, while doing nothing to improve the lot of ordinary Americans of all pigmentations and preferences.
Far from slaying wokeness, Joe Biden has road tested it as a ruling-class ideology – and the results are as ugly as you’d expect. We can only hope he gets some better opposition, and Americans are spared a second term.
Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
Picture by: Getty.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.