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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Explains Why Democrats Don't Have a 'Woke Problem'

Newsweek logo Newsweek 11/8/2021 Matt Cannon
U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a press conference urging the inclusion of the Civilian Climate Corps., a climate jobs program, in the budget reconciliation bill, outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2021. The New York representative has urged her fellow Democrats not to abandoned issues that some have dubbed to be "woke." © Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at a press conference urging the inclusion of the Civilian Climate Corps., a climate jobs program, in the budget reconciliation bill, outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on July 20, 2021. The New York representative has urged her fellow Democrats not to abandoned issues that some have dubbed to be "woke."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has fired back at political commentators who suggest Democrats face a "woke problem," following last week's poor election results.

Webster's Dictionary defines "woke" as: "Aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)." However the term has also been used as an insult.

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called on Democrats to come "face to face" with what he called "wokism" after the party's defeat in the Virginia governor's race; CNN anchor Don Lemon reiterated his calls for the party to focus more on how to win elections, instead of worrying about "who's more woke;" while Democratic political strategist James Carville blamed the defeat on "stupid wokeness."

Right-wing commentator Candace Owens also weighed in on Republican Glenn Youngkin's defeat of Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, insisting "Democrats went woke against parents" and that "America is tired of woke."

New York Representative Ocasio-Cortez said that narrative could have "dangerous" implications, however, and warned that ignoring "racial justice issue of voting rights" would be detrimental to Democrats' chances of reelection in the future.

In a series of tweets on Sunday evening, Ocasio-Cortez accused pundits of using the term "woke" as a derogatory euphemism for civil rights and justice.

She wrote: "One dangerous aspect of thinking there's a 'woke problem' is that Dem chances for re-election or majorities in House, Senate, & WH [White House] rely on the racial justice issue of voting rights."

Her comments come days after Republicans blocked efforts to prevent U.S. states such as Texas from rolling back electoral rules that encouraged voting by mail and protect partisan poll watchers.

Republicans argue the restrictions are needed to safeguard against voter fraud, while Democrats say they are a partisan attempt to disenfranchise voters of color.

The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which aimed to end state-level voting restrictions, was blocked by Senate Republicans on November 3, leading the White House to warn "the soul of America is at stake."

Ocasio-Cortez continued: "Making up a 'woke' problem results in putting civil & voting rights on the backburner. In a year state legislatures are planning out GOP majorities & voter suppression, that's dangerous.

"People think Fox News is just about indoctrinating right-wingers, but it's also about conditioning Dems on what to run away from. Framing racial justice as 'controversial' is key to delaying the protection of voting rights (& others) until it's too late. We shouldn't indulge it."

Ocasio-Cortez's representatives have been contacted for further comment.

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