DeSantis and Trump Trade Blows in New Battle Over 'Woke'

While Florida Governor Ron DeSantis “proudly” considers his state the place “woke goes to die,” rival former President Donald Trump said many people don’t even know what the term means.

The two contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination have been trading jabs over the past few days regarding the term “woke,” which has become a politically charged word in recent years. It’s often used as a to describe issues or topics that Republicans oppose. Recently, the phrase “go woke, go broke” has been mounting in popularity as a slogan used to boycott companies over their LGBTQ+ support.

DeSantis, Trump’s top rival in the 2024 GOP presidential primary race, is a frequent user of the divisive term – even campaigning on a pledge to eradicate “woke ideology.” His ongoing war against “woke” includes Florida’s Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees (W.O.K.E.) Act, which DeSantis introduced in 2021 and signed into law last year. The law, according to the Governor’s Office, gives businesses, employees and families “tools to fight back against woke indoctrination.”

Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at a campaign rally at Port Neal Welding Company on May 31, 2023 in Salix, Iowa. Former President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower on May 31, 2023 in New York City. The two GOP contenders for president have been trading blows over the buzzword “woke.”
Scott Olson, James Devaney/GC Images/Getty

Newsweek reached out via email to DeSantis’ campaign representatives.

Earlier this week, Trump distanced himself from the right-wing buzzword, indicating that Republicans are overusing “woke.”

While speaking during a presidential campaign stop in Iowa on Thursday, Trump told the crowd at the Westside Conservative Club that “half” the people who use the word “woke” can’t define it.

“I don’t like the term ‘woke,’ because I hear the term ‘woke woke woke,'” Trump said in a video shared on Twitter. “It’s just a term they use, half the people can’t define it, they don’t know what it is.”

The definition of the term “woke” is being “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. On its website, Merriam-Webster states that it “originated in African American English and gained more widespread use beginning in 2014 as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

DeSantis offered his own definition for the term in response to a reporter’s question during a presidential campaign stop in Iowa on Friday.

“Look, we know what woke is, it’s a form of cultural Marxism,” DeSantis said. “It’s about putting merit and achievement behind identity politics, and it’s basically a war on the truth. And as that has infected institutions, and it has corrupted institutions. So, you’ve got to be willing to fight the woke, we’ve done that in Florida, and we proudly consider ourselves the state where woke goes to die.”

DeSantis, when asked again on Saturday about Trump saying he doesn’t like the term anymore, the governor referred to “woke” as an “existential threat.”

“Woke is an existential threat to our society,” DeSantis said in the video clip that was shared on Twitter. “To say it’s not a big deal, that just shows you don’t understand what a lot of these issues are right now.”

Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung told Newsweek in an email that DeSantis misconstrued the former president’s words, saying: “That’s not what President Trump said.”

While Trump said he did not like “woke,” he never said that it was not a “big deal,” as DeSantis said in the video clip.

Cheung lashed out at the governor, accusing him of copying Trump’s presidential agenda, which details his plans if he’s elected for a second term. Trump’s Agenda47 is featured on his campaign website and includes videos of his stances on various hot-button issues, ranging from homelessness to gender-affirming care for trans children.

“DeSantis has tried to steal every single one of President Trump’s Agenda47 policies,” Cheung said to Newsweek. “He is a fraudster and masquerading as someone who knows what he’s talking about.”

DeSantis representatives did not respond a request for comment by the time this article was published.