Donald Trump has a realistic chance of becoming president of the United States as a result of the politically correct culture that has disgusted a large share of the population. 59 percent of Americans say “people are too easily offended these days over language others use.” The strong shift toward liberalism, particularly by millennials, has frustrated older, more conservative citizens and elicited the extreme response of nominating Trump. Despite the exposure of his lewd actions in the national media, Mr. Trump still has strong support across the country, polling at 44 percent.
Over the past 20 years, the politically correct culture has arisen with an emphasis on being inclusive towards all groups and being extremely careful to avoid potentially offensive actions. While some words have always been blatantly marginalizing, in the past decade an entire lexicon of language alleged to contain implicit bias has been declared off-limits by the PC culture.
Politically Correct culture also focuses on identifying and mitigating institutional barriers, including institutional racism and socioeconomic “social reproduction.” that perpetuate injustices against historically marginalized groups by making it easier for those in power to stay in power. It’s no secret that this culture has been embraced by millennials, especially college students, while Baby Boomers often reject aspects of it as oversensitivity. This culture has positive intentions, but creates negative consequences.
When certain terms are off-limits, people become hesitant to discuss sensitive topics. Even if someone has politically correct thoughts, they may become discouraged from expressing them because they fear being accused of bigotry due to imperfect word choice. Additionally, the PC culture can be so encompassing in declaring injustices that it can cause people to dismiss legitimate social justice issues. When the average American hears about microaggressions — acts that can often be hard to see without an analytic social science scope —they extrapolate their distaste for the imperceptible problem to a distaste for tangible social justice concerns. Discussing implicit institutional discrimination is important, but when every negative in one’s life is attributed to an implicit cause, focus is diverted from tangible problems. In many ways, the current politically correct culture has turned people away from its original purpose, which was getting individuals to embrace equality and justice.
Donald Trump has said and done numerous things that any other presidential candidate in recent years would never have gotten away with, but he remains in decent shape in the polls because he “tells it like it is.” Trump is as much of a contradiction to politically correct culture as you can possibly find. He has mockingly imitated a reporter’s cerebral palsy, made blatantly xenophobic comments, and even bragged about sexually assaulting women, but none of these actions have dramatically changed his poll numbers. When Trump was heard suggesting that he “grab[s] [women] by the pussy,” his poll numbers fell by a negligible one percentage point.
According to Trump, political correctness is “the cancer that eats away at America.” Many Americans seem to agree, preferring his boisterous bloviating to the perceived malicious mendacity of Hillary Clinton, who will “say anything and do nothing”. The acceptance of Trump’s crude behavior represents a grand resistance to the politically correct culture.
Trump is the Republican nominee largely because many people prefer his behavior during the campaign to the excessive caution displayed by some of his primary opponents. Conservatives across the country are fed up with the coddling, especially that which often occurs on college campuses. Last year’s e-mail from a Yale professor on the issue of appropriate Halloween costumes sparked outrage on college campuses across the country: “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious … a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” While costumes can perpetuate stereotypes of marginalized groups, it is hard to perceive negative intent when a child dresses up as Sacagawea or decides to don a sombrero.
Many felt it was also extremely distasteful to hear privileged Yale students cry out about being discriminated against while they attend one of the most prestigious and accepting universities on the planet. How exactly do they expect to function outside a school where the majority of people are well educated and actively trying to be politically correct? Yale students are censoring relatively innocent actions to protect their own fragile emotional state. While this is an extreme example of political correctness, it was a highly publicized incident and undoubtedly turned off a good portion of the country.
Even President Barack Obama said that he felt students were being “coddled and protected from different points of view." People voting for Trump are effectively saying they would prefer a culture where people are dramatically less sensitive, and a candidate who bloviates about anything and everything that comes to mind irrespective of who is offended.
While the Trump campaign looks likely to lose, it is still quite troubling that a man with no political background and a porous campaign platform has managed to become a major party nominee and still has a chance to win. There are certainly many positives to political correctness, but it is clear that a large portion of the nation is dismayed at how far it has been taken. I would suggest that we shift more of our focus to dismantling institutional barriers that hurt marginalized groups, instead of worrying so much about implicit, and often very unclear, discriminatory action by individuals.