Confession: I have been a profiteer of political correctness. During my time as a high school debater, I argued for a wide range of feminist ideologies in debates where they were only loosely tied to the topic. When my opponents would counter by questioning the relevance of my points, I would dismiss their arguments as sexist and silencing. I can vividly recall saying, “How dare you as a white male tell me what I can and can’t say in this debate space? How dare you try to silence me?”
Obviously, there are many more newsworthy examples of political correctness. For example, at one high school in California, five students were sent home on Cinco de Mayo for wearing shirts with the American flag. An elementary school in North Carolina ordered a six-year-old girl to remove the word “God” from a poem she was supposed to read during a school veteran’s day assembly. A Florida Atlantic University student was suspended from class after refusing to take part in an activity that required students to stomp on a piece of paper with the name “Jesus” on it. The University of New Hampshire published a bias free language guide with suggestions such as “person of size” instead of “obese,” “people of material wealth” instead of “rich,” “children who are gender non-conforming” instead of “tomboy,” and “resident of the U.S.” instead of “American.” The phrase “all lives matter” has even been deemed problematic. Most recently, Donald Trump has been enduring the endless wrath of political correctness.
While very few parallels exist between Shania Twain and Donald Trump, they do agree on one thing. Trump like Twain “ain’t gonna act politically correct,” because they “only wanna have a good time.” Donald Trump spews what Jon Stewart termed “verbal vomit.” When announcing his presidential candidacy, he said, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.” Most recently, Trump attacked GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, saying, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” He continued, “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
Yet, to almost everyone’s disbelief, Trump continues to triumph over all other candidates in the polls. A recent SurveyUSA poll shows Trump beating every one of the Democratic candidates and leading the GOP field by a substantial margin. Jon Stewart joked, “I really feel like he’s some sort of Jewish holiday waiting to happen. Like, ‘We thought the craziness would only last a day. But by a miracle, it burned for eight, 10, holy s**t!” Trump’s success could be a miracle, could be partially attributed to his name recognition, but it can be primarily traced to his aggressively politically incorrect statements.
Americans have grown tired of, as Hal Holbrook put it, lying “silently instead of saying what we think.” Political correctness proponents have pushed the societal pendulum so far to the left that even well-intentioned, tolerant individuals feel that they no longer know the proper terminology to discuss issues such as race, gender, and sexuality. What goes up must come down, and the societal pendulum, as evidenced by Trump’s success, is going to swing violently to the far right.
As I reflect on my own experience with political correctness, I realize that I was the one doing the silencing. Instead of confronting the merits of my opponents’ arguments, I quickly silenced any dissent or discussion of fairness with the mere accusation of sexism. On the surface, I certainly profited from this approach, winning multiple debate rounds and broadcasting my ideas about feminism to judges and opponents. With reflection, however, I question whether I could have won as many debates if I had confronted the issues directly using logic and reason instead of using exaggerated offense as a shield. For all I know, I may have even indirectly encouraged opponents to become Trump supporters.