There is plenty to worry about in our world: weather growing more extreme with every passing year due to human-induced planetary warming; the scary specter of artificial intelligence entities getting too smart to tolerate being bossed around by mere mortals; an increasingly belligerent China; an aggressive, klepto-fascist regime in Russia; plus a global economy that is making a very few people extravagantly wealthy while pushing billions of others into an economic sinkhole.
In a serious political environment, those challenges would dominate discussions and debates as the American presidential campaign cranks up. Instead, Republican candidates are preoccupied with bathrooms and “wokeness.”
Sunday, in a CNN interview, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley raised an alarm about an issue that is, apparently, disturbing the sleep of the Republican voters she is courting. “How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker rooms?” Haley asked. “And then we wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year.”
Setting aside the fact that linking teen suicides to the presence of transgender kids is a vicious canard, one may ask if the tiny number of trans folks in America is so threatening to Republicans that it has risen to the top of their concerns.
Transgenderism is just one battlefield in the broader war on “woke” being choreographed by another would-be president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. His ban on discussion of LGBTQ topics in Sunshine State schools and his push to end teaching about racism and slavery, as well, have shaped his campaign for the Republican nomination. DeSantis wants to be perceived as a bold culture warrior, even as he waffles on the real war in Ukraine.
We can assume former Vice President Mike Pence, a devout evangelical Christian, will not allow himself to be left behind on these issues now that he is running for president. Nor will the other contenders (except, perhaps, President Donald Trump, who prefers to drone on about his own magnificence and victimhood).
Big, world-shaking issues like those that dominated the campaigns of Republicans such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush get little traction with today’s GOP voters, so the current crop of contenders for the White House opt for making a big deal about small potatoes. It is easy to imagine the first Republican presidential debate descending into farce as the candidates compete to spout the most strident, alarmist rhetoric about critical race theory, drag queen story times and gender-neutral bathrooms.
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