How the Anti-Woke Movement Can Take the Moral and Linguistic High Ground
I recently hosted a summit on anti-woke public policy and, beneath all of the legal and technical details, I realized that there is an opportunity for a significant shift in rhetoric for the political Right.
For decades, conservatives made their arguments primarily through a statistical frame, using the language of finance, economics, and performance metrics. Think “running government like a business.” But in recent years, the rise of left-wing racialist ideology—BLM, CRT, DEI—has created an opportunity, even the necessity, for conservatives to make their arguments through a moral frame, speaking to the conflict of values that underlies the division between Left and Right.
This linguistic shift is already happening—and paying dividends. At the summit, we discussed two specific examples. First, on education, the activist Corey DeAngelis noted that the school choice movement suddenly started winning when it stopped making statistical arguments about performance metrics and started making moral arguments about parental rights and the content of the curriculum. Second, on the federal budget, Wade Miller of the Center for Renewing America has engaged in a similar strategy, moving the debate from the language of large-firm accounting to the language of moral conflict, arguing that Congress should defund the “woke and weaponized bureaucracy.”
Yes, we should improve test scores and balance the budget. But the deeper purpose of government is to secure the rights of the people and to establish a principle of justice. Conservatives must speak to the ends, not simply the means. And, in our advanced managerial society, this will require a new moral language that appeals to the interests and emotions of the common citizen, who wants to be protected from the institutions and ideologies that have arrayed themselves against him.