The boost Republicans are getting from attacking ‘political correctness’

December 30, 2015
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, December 21, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook - RTX1ZT14

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, December 21, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

The GOP has become the party of angry white men. What are they angry about? Political correctness. White working-class men see political correctness as a way of shutting them out.

And worse. “Political correctness is killing people,” Ted Cruz said at the last Republican debate, meaning that it is inhibiting the Obama administration from going after the bad guys for fear of racial profiling. Ben Carson, a physician, said the United States is a patient in critical condition “and will not be cured by political correctness.”

Trump is leading the charge. “I am so tired of this politically correct crap,” Trump said at a campaign rally, eliciting the biggest cheers of his speech, according to news reports.

For decades, the left has used political correctness to shut down debate. Activists on the left refuse to allow people to say things that might offend less privileged groups like women, gays, African-Americans and immigrants. It’s become a real issue at universities, which are supposed to be bastions of free speech.

The Harvard Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion recently distributed a “Holiday Placemat for Social Justice” in dining halls. The placemats gave students a script for answering questions about race and justice from friends and family over the holidays.

If someone asks, “Why are black students complaining?” the politically correct way to respond is, “I don’t hear complaining. Instead I hear young people uplifting a situation that I may not experience.” They better hope they don’t get punched in the mouth.

Embarrassed by the backlash, the Harvard administrators quickly recalled the placemats and apologized because they “failed to account for the many viewpoints that exist on our campus.” Meaning, they failed to account for freedom of speech.

White working-class men are enraged because they inhabit a world they don’t recognize. It’s a world with a black president, same-sex marriage, illegal immigration, empowered women, anti-police protests and radical Islam. They want the Old America back — when white men were in charge, gays stayed in the closet, women were compliant, Muslims were far away and the police had unquestioned authority. It’s a world they have lost. And good riddance to it, the rest of us say.

Obama has become the symbol of political correctness. He knows it. And he’s not unsympathetic to his critics. Speaking about white blue-collar men, Obama said on National Public Radio, “I may represent change that worries them.”

White working-class men seethe whenever political correctness denigrates them as “privileged.” They certainly don’t feel “privileged,” not after the economic devastation of the past decade. Their response? Defiance.

Enter Trump. When Latino protesters show up at Trump rallies, the candidate’s supporters have been heard to shout, “Somebody press 1 for English!” Here’s how Trump described negotiating with the Japanese and Chinese: “When these people walk into the room, they don’t say, ‘Oh, hello! How’s the weather? How are the Yankees doing?’ They say, ‘We want deal.’” Trump has bragged about having “a great relationship with the blacks.” He has been described as “fluent in the native tongue of disaffected whites.”

Trump is not just politically incorrect. He’s proud of it. It’s his whole campaign.

The backlash to political correctness has deep roots in the Republican Party. Racists were one of the earliest constituencies in the current Republican coalition. They were almost all Senator Barry M. Goldwater had supporting him in the 1964 presidential campaign, and they were the target of Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 “Southern strategy” to woo Southern white voters.

Republicans like Goldwater, Nixon, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes perfected the art of appealing to racial resentment without sounding like racists. The assault on political correctness is the latest tactic. A psychologist described Trump as “the walking id of the Republican base.”

Political correctness turns conflicts of interest into conflicts of values. That immediately escalates the stakes. There are no two sides to an issue if one of them is labeled “politically incorrect.”

As it happens, Trump is wrong on just about everything. The rules of political correctness say that if you are wrong, you don’t get to speak. Trump’s response to that is “Phooey!”

Once, when I was covering a local election in Chicago, I interviewed an older Jewish woman working the polls on the north side of the city. I mentioned that I had just met an outspoken African-American activist who was serving on the City Council. I asked her what she thought of the activist. The poll worker motioned for me to lean over so she could whisper in my ear. “The mouth on her!” the woman said.

That’s Trump in a nutshell. “The mouth on him!”

9 comments

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Republicans like to act as though they hate political correctness. But start talking second Amendment or taxes with them. They’ll try to correct your politics right away.

They don’t hate political correctness. They hate having to talk to smart people.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Reuters, again, do your job and post my comment.

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

test

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

Very good Reuters, you posted two of my comments that had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Now how about posting my comment that was on topic and ‘politically correct’ enough to pass your standards. tia

Posted by Whipsplash | Report as abusive

Liberals aren’t leftists. There isn’t a major movement or party in the united states with roots in socialism or labor.

Posted by islandsun | Report as abusive

Seventh paragraph from the end begins, “The backlash to political correctness has deep roots in the Republican Party.” From that point on, the article speaks only to one political agenda. In contrast to this writer’s opinion, I believe the Republican Party has always been anti-slavery of any kind: human, economic, healthcare, housing, jobs, education, religious, or political party.

Additionally, I don’t believe this writer, this news service, or this blog can pigeon-hole any of us into any category we don’t wish to belong. May everyone enjoy 2016 as a freeman.

Posted by hometown | Report as abusive

The censorship of even the opinion comments-the elimination of all in other categories-by this MSM means this outlet isn’t worth “visiting”. The articles contain bias and misinformation as readers are led into horrific untruth.

Posted by SaveRMiddle | Report as abusive

Republicans are free to irritate and keep making fun of who ever they want. And they are free to keep losing elections.

Posted by Solidar | Report as abusive

Most political correctness is fake and originates from people hired to look like they are without rational thought. For instance, college campuses are said to be hotbeds of political correctness, but they are not really. The administrations of universities simply only allow fools to speak and everyone else is censored with the threat of expulsion. Combined with gullible and child -like students and what do you expect? The GOP cannot, on the other hand, truly benefit from this approach because only the irrational believe them to be rational themselves. They sell just as much made up indignation as any other brainwashed group. You know, the war on Christianity, their gonna take our guns, jesus wrote the constitution, etc. etc.

hometown: the GOP party of today depends on the old southern democrats and thus are racist. There is no way to get elected as a republican without playing some racist games. You may have to speak in code words but you must let everyone know what you hate and you hate the same things as the KKK.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive