Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who announced his intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination last month, has waged an all-out culture war that has pitted him against Disney. His battle against “woke culture” seems to be the basis of his platform – but he is hardly alone.
Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy, who is also seeking the GOP nomination and is seen as a long-shot candidate at best, has also labeled “wokeness” as a “cultural cancer.”
It isn’t just companies like Disney that are caught in the crossfire. Bud Light recently lost its sales crown to rival Modelo after an online marketing campaign featuring a transgender social media influencer irked some conservatives. The company’s efforts to backpedal only served to enrage others, and now no one seems to want to crack a cold Bud Light.
Retail giant Target had to do damage control after its Pride Month display resulted in calls for a boycott, while the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise faced backlash for its Pride Month celebrations. Even country singer Garth Brooks – someone who should be seen as far from “woke” – faced a boycott after he announced his bar would even dare serve Bud Light!
Winning Strategy – Nope!
It would seem based on the way that Target, Bud Light, and other brands have responded that the war on wokeness would be a solid strategy for any GOP candidate.
It may help Ron DeSantis, but the Republican Party simply can’t get on the culture war bandwagon and not expect that it will deliver the party to grand old oblivion.
It is absolutely true that the current Republican base may view wokeness as a threat to the future of the country. But the base, especially the hardcore Republican base, just isn’t large enough to win national elections.
It is also true that DeSantis won reelection in Florida last year by nearly 20 percentage points, but it must be remembered that the Sunshine State is no more representative of the United States of America than California. More than 50 million senior citizens live in the United States – making up 16.5 percent of the total population, yet Florida’s seniors account for 21 percent of the state’s population.
Even many “liberal-leaning” seniors may not understand the “wokeness” that is being embraced by the “kids today.” However, Generation Z is so much more politically engaged than their elder peers were at their age, and that’s unlikely to change. Wokeness is an issue that Gen-Z actually embraces and that’s also unlikely to change.
Changing of the Old Guard?
We must remember too that it was Kid Rock who engaged – and came armed – in the culture war with Bud Light, literally shooting a case of beer. Now with all due respect to Kid Rock, there was a time when his music and general persona would have turned off even the most liberally-minded American. It is hard to see even “cool characters” like John F. Kennedy flashing his smile next to Kid Rock.
The same holds true for the likes of Ted Nugent and Gene Simmons – who have publicly supported Republican candidates in recent elections. Really, would even Jimmy Carter have approved of daughter Amy listening to the Motor City Madman or cranking up anything from Kiss?
Though rock music was once seen as a threat to traditional American values, by the 1980s even Ronald Reagan employed the music of Bruce Springsteen in his rallies – despite apparently missing the message, so much so that Springsteen actually veered further to the left!
Yet, Sammy Hager, Kid Rock, Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, and other old-time rebels didn’t really change. Their audience grew older, and today those rockers are the “mainstream.”
We also have to accept that millennials aren’t the young kids anymore. The “youngest” millennials are already 27 – coincidentally the age that Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain were when they died and joined the infamous “27 Club.” Millennials are quickly approaching or are already middle-aged.
Generation Xers (of which this reporter is one) are now quickly racing towards being senior citizens.
Millennials and Gen-X weren’t all that political in their youth, but Gen-Z is, and likely will continue to be. They’re an angrier and more passionate generation that is focused on issues such as the environment and climate change, mental health, racial and gender equality, gun control, and economic concerns.
This doesn’t mean that the country has to embrace every aspect of woke culture today, nor should it in the future. But an all-out war on it is only going to make an enemy of a lot of “youngsters” who are likely to cast their ballots like never before.
That also explains why so many companies are going woke – they know the youth of today is their future. Those seniors who may have cast a vote for DeSantis simply won’t be around in future elections.
Today’s culture war platform could win the hardcore base, but it may not win a general election in 2024, and it certainly won’t win in 2028 and beyond. It is a long-term losing strategy.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.