Back in February, analyzing Donald Trump’s appeal,David Gelernter wrote:
“Political correctness. Trump hasn't made it a campaign theme exactly, but he mentions it often with angry disgust. Reporters, pundits, and the other candidates treat it as a sideshow, a handy way for Trump (King Kong Jr.) to smack down the pitiful airplanes that attack him as he bestrides his mighty tower, roaring. But the analysts have it exactly backward. Political correctness is the biggest issue facing America today. Even Trump has just barely faced up to it. The ironic name disguises the real nature of this force, which ought to be called invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism. The old-time American mainstream, working- and middle-class white males and their families, is mad as hell about political correctness and the havoc it has wreaked for 40 years havoc made worse by the flat refusal of most serious Republicans to confront it.”
I thought Gelernter was onto something at the time, and I thought about this passage again when reading the thoughts of a 22-year-old Trump supporter quoted by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.
Fridersdorf’s correspondent (whose name is redacted) is a prosperous post-collegian in the San Francisco Bay area someone who should be backing Bernie, or Hillary, or maybe Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. But instead he’s backing Trump, and so is his Asian fiancée. And the reason he gives is political correctness.
“For me personally, it's resistance against what San Francisco has been, and what I see the country becoming, in the form of ultra-PC culture. That’s where it's almost impossible to have polite or constructive political discussion. Disagreement gets you labeled fascist, racist, bigoted, etc. It can provoke a reaction so intense that you’re suddenly an unperson to an acquaintance or friend. ... This is a war over how dialogue in America will be shaped. If Hillary wins, we're going to see a further tightening of PC culture. But if Trump wins? If Trump wins, we will have a president that overwhelmingly rejects PC rhetoric. Even better, we will show that more than half the country rejects this insane PC regime.”
It’s not a coincidence that when leftist protesters showed up at a conservative event at Rutgers University, students responded to the leftists’ chants with ”Trump! Trump!Trump!”
Political correctness is not, as some might claim, just an effort to encourage niceness. As Gelernter notes, it’s an effort to control people. Like the Newspeak in George Orwell’s 1984, the goal is to make it impossible for people to speak, or even think, unapproved thoughts.
Of course, by limiting what people can think and say, political correctness has hollowed out America’s universities, cheapened and distorted its politics, and served (and this last is entirely intentional) to make those who favor traditional American values like free speech feel marginalized and at risk. (I saw someone on Twitter talking about “America-shaming” last week, and that term fits pretty well.) But as leftists like to say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
Almost as irritating to a lot of people, though, is the extent to which self-described “conservative” politicians, pundits and media organs have gone along. Part of this is because PC is often misleadingly sold as politeness, and elite American conservatives are suckers for etiquette. Part of it is because those conservative leaders move in an upper-middle-class environment where academic norms govern everyone, including them.
So nobody “respectable” was willing to launch a full-scale counterattack on PC, on or off-campus. Crack the occasional joke, maybe. But actually do something? Not so much.
But when “respectable” people won’t talk about things that a lot of voters care about, the less-respectable will eventually rise to meet the need. That’s what Trump’s doing. And a lot of people are cheering him on not so much because they’re fans of Trump personally as because they’re happy to see someone finally stand up to the PC bullies.
Will electing Trump solve all the nation’s problems? Nope. But, as mentioned above, it will show that more than half the country rejects the culture of political correctness, and the political class that let it take over. And for many people, that’s reason enough.