Tell Us What You Really Mean By “Political Correctness,” Conservatives!

Okay, I’ve had it. Led by Ben Carson and Donald Trump, Republicans are incessantly nattering about “political correctness.” Here is perhaps the ultimate abuse of the term by, unsurprisingly, Trump:

And now we have S.E. Cupp claiming that “liberal political correctness” is the reason for the rise of Trump:

Thanks to unrelenting demands by the left for increasingly preposterous levels of political correctness over the past decade, people are simply fed up. Trump survives — nay, thrives! — because he is seen as the antidote, bravely and unimpeachably standing athwart political correctness.

The new era of liberal political correctness — in which colleges designate “free speech zones,” words like “American” and “mother” are considered discriminatory, and children are suspended from school for firing make-believe weapons — has reached critical mass. If not for the loony sensitivities foisted upon us by the left, someone like Trump would be immediately dismissed as unprofessional and unserious, an incoherent blurter. Instead, he’s the equally extreme response to extreme correctness — if everything is offensive in Liberalville, then nothing will be offensive in Trumpland.

Is that the source of all this hysteria? Conservative media accounts of random college speech code incidents and the occasional dumb move by a school principal? Something that affects maybe a tenth of one percent of the population? That has conservatives backing a deliberately offensive celebrity like Trump and a conspiracy theorist like Carson?

I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. The Trump supporters and proto-Trump supporters I know are upset by things like having to listen to Spanish-language messages on customer service lines, not being able to call women “chicks” without someone frowning at them, and having to stop telling racist jokes at work. That’s what “political correctness” is code for: having to worry about the sensitivities of people who were invisible or submissive not that very long ago.

If Cupp is right and I’m not, then let’s all cooperate in convincing Republican politicians and conservative pundits to stop using the term “political correctness” and come right and and tell us what the beef is about. Is it really “trigger warning” requirements at scattered liberal arts colleges? Or is it this whole new world we’re in where people have to question old habits? When Ben Carson calls inhibitions about torturing terrorism suspects “political correctness,” it’s pretty clear he’s yet another apostle for the Church of the Day Before Yesterday, when America was never wrong and dissenters kept their mouths shut.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.