CPAC participants disagree on what the word “awakened” means

  • The word “woke” has quickly rocketed to the forefront of Republican politics in recent years.
  • It has been used to describe a wide range of things from gender identity to environmental protection.
  • We asked CPAC participants what they thought the word means. Their answers showed little consensus.

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland — In the year 2023, the word “awake” seems to be high on the minds of conservatives.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a likely presidential nominee for 2024, has stated that his state is “the place to wake up to die.” Indiana Rep. Jim Banks has floated the idea of ​​an “anti-Awakened” faction in the House of Representatives. And a Labor Department rule on socially conscious investment decisions, derided by the right as “woke,” has sparked the first veto of the Joe Biden presidency.

But at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — an annual gathering where the Republican Party’s most die-hard activists and political supporters hear from conservative influencers and politicians — the precise definition of the ubiquitous word remains elusive.

“That is hard. let me think about it Give me about two minutes to come up with something good,” said Johnny McEntee, the CEO of a right-wing dating app, which specifically states that “other dating apps have woken up.”

The word “awake” originally came from the African American slang English and means a general awareness of systems of injustice. But in recent years the word has been hijacked by the right and often used as a catch-all for progressive policies, ideas and thinking.

And among participants in the right-wing gathering, the word seemed to encompass everything that conservatives dislike about the world.

“My take is: They’re trying to wake up what shouldn’t be woken up,” said Daniel Francis, 58, who said he traveled from his home in southern Colorado to promote an organization that hosts active duty rodeos military personnel and veterans. “You stir the pot in the wrong direction.”

For Francis, who said he homeschools his own children, the word “awakens” conjures up the idea of ​​an education system that fuels divisions between groups. But it’s also the driving factor behind a broader spectrum of political concerns — and one the Republican Party isn’t doing enough to address, in his view.

“I think the woke side is keeping the line open,” he said. “I mean, that’s what they want.”

Daniel Francis, 58, said people are

Daniel Francis, 58, said people are

Bryan Butcher/Insider

“Political Corruption”

Awakening was also on the lips of the conference’s speakers, who used the word in a variety of contexts.

Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama spoke at a panel Thursday on “Sacking the Woke Playbook,” where he made sweeping claims about a left-wing agenda to uproot existing gender and sexuality norms, and at one point declared that “they’re a want sex.”

Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former US ambassador to the United Nations, declared wakefulness in her speech on Friday to be a “virus more dangerous than any pandemic” and finally concluded by calling on the participants to “save our country from weakness and awakening”.

McEntee, the dating app’s CEO, finally settled on “political correctness” as a fitting synonym, saying that President Donald Trump – McEntee’s former employee – “opened everyone’s eyes.”

“You know, we shouldn’t ban words,” McEntee added. When he asked for clarification on which words were being banned — and by whom — he declined, citing the fact he was there to promote his dating app.

“Political correctness” seemed to be the most popular abbreviation among the participants.

A man wears a Stop Woke Indoctrination sticker at CPAC 2023.

A man enters

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Nigel Farage, the former Brexit leader and ex-Member of Parliament who was able to walk around the conference on Friday, told Insider that vigilance means “a totally extraordinary level of political correctness”.

“If we don’t agree with someone, we try to ban them or cancel them,” he added.

James Winship, 68, a Virginia man who dressed up as George Washington and holds a flag he said he carried at the mall on Jan. 6, 2021, told Insider that “woke up” to ” political correctness” was replaced because the term sounded too much like “political corruption”.

‘Everything must be a hyphen-this, hyphen-that’

Others offered broader—and darker—definitions.

Joe Pinion, a Newsmax anchor who was the 2022 GOP Senate nominee in New York, defined the “gospel of waking up” as the idea that “all things are bad in America” ​​when speaking at a panel about How Conservatives Could Win Young Voters.

Jackson Stallings, a 21-year-old student who attended the conference, said he sees wakefulness as a combination of “that transgender thing,” leftists, and critical race theory.

“I think it’s all directly related,” he said.

Other participants also indicated that gender and sexuality issues were central to what “woke,” including Susan Vandeberghe, 65, who volunteered for CPAC after traveling to the conference from Michigan.

“Well, I have no problem with anyone being gay or anything,” she said, adding that she has a gay nephew. She went on to cite Pride Month, transgender athletes competing, drag queens, and sex education in school systems as key examples of wakefulness rampages.

“I’m not against anyone having those feelings, and it’s more accepted now than ever,” she said. “But they take it to the extreme like no one else.”

Mary Phelps and Robyn Erickson, both 68, said awakening is about separation between groups.

Mary Phelps and Robyn Erickson, both 68, said awakening is about separation between groups.

Bryan Butcher/Insider

Robyn Erickson and Mary Phelps, two 68-year-old volunteers with the #WalkAway movement — which purports to represent former Democrats-turned-Republicans — spoke generally of what they see as division and the misuse of history.

“Everything has to be a hyphen,” Phelps said, arguing that America should be a “melting pot” and that people are “very focused on certain facets and use them to start conflicts.”

Erickson, a chef who noted that her company “tries to remind us weekly about diversity and inclusion,” made a culinary analogy.

“If you’re making spaghetti sauce or chili, for example, it’s better the second day,” she said. “Because it’s all mixed up. It’s come together.”

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