‘Woke’ – the new dogwhistle Skip to content

‘Woke’ – the new dogwhistle

It’s time to call it out for what it truly is.

2 min read

Dog whistle – A surreptitious inclusion of code words or phrases that will be heard by some of those listening, while not disturbing the other listeners, who may not appreciate the hidden message(s). – from Urban Dictionary

States’ rights. Cadillac-driving welfare queens. Young bucks buying steaks with food stamps. International bankers. Globalists. Real Americans.

Dog whistles have been a part of politics for a long time, especially on the Right. Ronald Reagan was famous for “welfare queen.” Trump used them as well, although his dog whistles were often more like bullhorns.

And now, we have a new dogwhistle to add to the list: “woke.”

Kelly Craft used it constantly, in her speeches, her ads, her answers to questions. I suspect that if you walked up behind her and said Boo, her response would be “woke!”

But now that he’s won the nomination, Daniel Cameron is on his way to outdoing Craft when it comes to using this new dogwhistle. He’s used it on the campaign trail, and tweeted about it, calling it “political correctness on steroids.”

And just as “welfare queens” was a racist trope against blacks in general and black women in particular, “woke” has its own target: the LGBTQ among us specifically, and the idea of diversity in general.

Using “woke” in a speech or an ad lets voters know that you are against a diverse society if that society includes gays and trans. It lets people know that you will fight to get gays back in the closet, and to keep discussion of sexuality out of the classroom.

I keep hoping that some moderator or reporter will ask right-wing candidates like Cameron to define “woke” – and then follow up with “So, you believe any depiction of gays as actual people is harmful to children? And that discussion of sexuality at any grade level is also harmful? If a child has gender dysphoria, should they attend public school?”

Let’s be clear: “woke” has become as much a dogwhistle as “welfare queen.” Instead of letting candidates get away with using it, we should call it out, forcefully, and get them on record with what they actually mean.


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Bruce Maples

Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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