U.S. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022. REUTERS/Marco Bello
Polls show why DeSantis leads crusade against 'wokeness'
03:12 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

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Some in today’s Republican Party are trying to ban abortion, books they find objectionable, Black history from being taught fully, transgender teens from playing sports, and discussions of sexual orientation in schools, and now they’re even going after Mickey Mouse.

Yet Democrats say they plan to make the 2022 election about “kitchen table issues.” At this rate, Republicans may seek to ban kitchen tables – or at least punish companies that make them if they espouse what the GOP calls wokeness.

Dean Obeidallah

The incumbent President’s party traditionally loses congressional seats in the midterm elections. But 2022 is unique. Some in the GOP are waging a coordinated effort to impose their radical, right-wing beliefs upon Americans. The Democrats should make the 2022 election a referendum on the GOP’s extremism.

On Friday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law to punish Disney for daring to speak out in opposition to the GOP’s recently enacted anti-LGBT legislation that critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. DeSantis has taken a page from the playbook of people such as Russian President Vladimir Putin by using state action to punish corporations that dare defy him.

Some Republicans are also imposing their religious beliefs with a slew of abortion laws – such as the near-total abortion ban that Oklahoma enacted recently. Abortion is set to become illegal, with an exception only in the case of a medical emergency. Under the law, it will be a felony for anyone in the state to help a woman have an abortion who has been raped and becomes pregnant. Women who have been raped will be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. That’s not only barbaric and un-American, it’s also religious tyranny.

Then there are efforts to ban books. Yes, some in the GOP are trying to make it easier to remove books from libraries that critics don’t like. Does that sound like American values to you? It sounds more like something you would see in a dictatorship.

Polls show most Americans deeply oppose these GOP actions.

For example, a February CBS poll found that 8 in 10 Americans oppose banning books in school that discuss race or criticize US history. The politicians trying to enact these book bans are out of step, even with the bulk of the Republican base on this issue.

And on abortion, a January CNN survey found that 69% of all adults oppose ending the right to abortion.

Beyond making 2022 a referendum on Republican radicalism, Democrats should also embrace being woke. After all, what would you call people who ended slavery and Jim Crow, championed the 19th Amendment ensuring women had a constitutional right to vote, protested leading to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act and more, all in an effort to perfect our nation? They were woke.

Democrats should frame wokeness as people who have pressed for equality and progress. Contrast that with those in the GOP who want to take the United States back to a time where women didn’t have reproductive freedom, books were banned and worse.

On Friday, DeSantis signed a bill known as the “Stop W.O.K.E Act,” which will likely curtail academic freedom by not allowing instructors to teach about slavery in a way that will “persuade students to a particular point of view.” How can you not teach about slavery in way that persuades students it was evil?

As The Washington Post reported in February, the real-world impact of similar GOP-enacted laws have resulted in a less robust education on topics of race and Black history. Teachers have reported having to “edit” themselves because of fear of running afoul of these oppressive laws. “Are you willing to lose your job over this kind of thing?” one teacher in Texas told the paper.

A report in The New York Times detailed how an Oklahoma teacher was concerned of being fired for using the word “white” to describe people who fought to preserve slavery. It appears GOP-led legislatures want to rewrite history by teaching slavery in a colorblind way, keeping students ignorant about such issues.

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    I’m not saying Democrats should ignore “kitchen table issues” – especially given that inflation has a real impact on people’s lives. But there’s no easy way to address that issue. There is when it comes to extremism.

    Many of today’s Republicans are not just talking about punishing those who defy them; they are enacting laws that do just that. Democrats not only have a winning political argument but an obligation to stand up against such an onslaught. They may be the only thing standing between us and tyranny.