VIOLA: Giving The Left A Taste Of Its Own Medicine Might Make Them Reconsider Their Woke Tyranny

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Mike Viola Contributor
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Recently, Florida governor Ron DeSantis used his campaign launch on Twitter Spaces to tout his successes standing up to woke ideology in his state’s institutions. He has a lot to brag about, having just signed a bill in May prohibiting colleges receiving state funds from implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs and from using Critical Race Theory in general education curricula. This is a laudable move. As the bill notes, these programs often distort American history and indulge in the conspiracy theory that the American Founders built our government to maintain “systemic racism, sexism, oppression, and privilege” in American society. These ideas should have no place in educational institutions at all, least of all those receiving government funding.

For years, colleges and universities in Florida have been teaching courses on how color-blindness is actually racist and supporting groups associated with Black Lives Matter and LGBT advocacy, enabled by state-run college and university systems that together cost taxpayers $7.1 billion last year alone. And that’s not counting $164 million in subsidies for ostensibly private institutions.

It’s great to see DeSantis finally set things straight, but the Florida DEI case is only part of a bigger truth: The more the government expands into areas like education or the economy, the more power it has for ideological social engineering. Until now, that power has historically served the aims of the progressive Left. But as DeSantis has shown by flipping the script in Florida, their time may be up.

Social engineering enabled by big government is a problem that extends beyond just education. This month, the Biden administration launches its new “Tech Hub” program, which is full of potential for waste, abuse, and politicization. The program stems from last year’s costly CHIPS Act, authorizing the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to start a competition for grants of about $15 million each to form Tech Hubs in at least 20 metropolitan areas around the country. However, it comes with curious strings attached: per the program’s fact sheet, “successful applicants will pursue specific, impactful diversity and inclusion strategies that… increase the equity, accessibility, and diversity of the innovation economy.” That mouthful of corporate DEI buzzwords comes with the promise that increasing diversity will improve “the pace of innovation,” but the EDA offers no evidence to why that will be the case.

While the EDA says it is also focusing on “geographic diversity,” it’s hard to imagine many Tech Hubs in red states like Idaho or Wyoming (or ultra-white blue states like Vermont) if ideological DEI programs are a core factor in receiving funding. It’s bad enough that the program uses government funds to pick winners and losers in the tech world, but its reliance on ideological criteria means those winners won’t even be the best and brightest. Instead, like many subsidies and stimulus packages, it is meant to prop up the administration’s ideological allies and impose its vision of the social order.

Though there are many cases like these of government largesse supporting leftist social aims, there is still hope, and not just in Florida. In recent months, GOP state officials have barred firms using Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing from public retirement plans in recent months. State and local government pension plans alone account for 19% of the nation’s retirement assets, and firms with substantial ESG portfolios like BlackRock and Vanguard manage a significant portion of that money.

The Republican counter-strike is working — asset managers are changing their tune. For example, BlackRock pleaded with Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt to give them another chance earlier this month. Keeping ESG investments out of public portfolios is smart and fair, and only pecuniary factors ought to be considered when investing state funds. However, smaller state governments with fewer employees and simplified retirement plans might have avoided such an issue in the first place.

Progressives have characterized the conservative backlash against ideological influence in government institutions as politicizing them or enforcing “conservative orthodoxy.” This could not be further from the truth. Banishing left-wing social theory from our institutions levels the playing field, leaving questions of cultural preferences to the people. If the Left believes their views are good for society, they can make that case to citizens directly.

Of course, some progressive concerns are valid: The size and reach of the state could potentially be weaponized to promote socially conservative values instead of progressive social engineering. But perhaps making clear to the Left that their economic model can be turned against them will make them reconsider their commitment to big government.

Mike Viola is the Director of Business Intelligence at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) and a Young Voices contributor. His work has appeared in National Review, the American Spectator, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter: @mf_viola.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.