A year ago, I said that the real war on PC was coming. And it came, oh, how it came.
We now know that America contains many more openly prejudiced people than anyone thought possible two years ago. And now, many smart people are wondering what we’re going to do with all the “deplorables.” Well, I have an idea, but you’re not going to like it.
After Hillary Clinton is elected President, the temptation for her supporters will be to exult, to taunt, to see-I-told-you-so, especially when it comes to the theoretically moral issue of prejudice. I predict internet memes that say “F— You Racists” and “Suck On It Sexists” and such.
I have a message for my liberal friends: resist that temptation. Instead, love and forgive thy neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Out-Christian the Christians.
There is a narrative that says that this entire election has been a referendum on political correctness. For example, analysts like to point out that the narrative about working whites supporting Trump is problematic, because their median income turns out to be $72,000. But then…what? Nate Silver doesn’t take that leap, but Jill Filipovic laudably does: “It’s power, and fury at watching it wane.”
Here are the two narratives that the left must choose from in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s victory: that Trump lost because of the fact that the left spent the year calling his supporters racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and “deplorable”, or that Trump lost despite the fact that the left spent the year calling his supporters racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and “deplorable.”
For the sake of the Republic, I sincerely hope they choose the latter.
I know, liberals, “racist” and “sexist” are supposed to be, for lack of a better word, your trump cards. They certainly work that way in your Facebook discussions. If you, well-meaning liberal, say “butthurt” or “crack the whip” and another commenter says “that’s homophobic” or “that’s racist,” you’re done. You have no defense. You just apologize and move on. You’re like Devin Faraci after a woman tweeted that he’d grabbed her. He absolutely said the right thing in response, but he lost his job anyway. We’ve spent too long not believing the victim, so now we believe them, right?
If the R-word and the S-word work that way in your Facebook threads, then they should work that way on the other half of the country. But what if…they don’t?
What if calling Trump racist and sexist has actually increased his support, not diminished it? That would explain how he managed to not merely survive but thrive after scandals that would have destroyed any other candidacy.
I know, I know, but he lost the election. The problem there is you can’t actually isolate the factors of his narrow defeat any better than I can, or Nate Silver can, or the Upshot can. Yes, it’s possible that he lost because a majority of the country turns away from the racist and sexist. But it’s also possible that he lost because of his inferior ground game, because he’s not a real conservative on about thirty other counts, because he never did his homework (the reason former supporter Marc Cuban hates him), because he’s actually a terrible businessman, because of his bromance with Putin, or because fear always loses to hope.
If liberals get too smug about this victory, they are very likely to be blindsided by the next Trump who is just as anti-PC, but who actually respects the Constitution and develops a strong ground game *cough*Ted Cruz*cough*Charles Koch*cough*Peter Thiel*cough*John Roberts*cough*you don’t know.
Am I asking the left to excuse racism and sexism? No. As with so many other things, this is partly a matter of tone. It’s partly a matter of finding ways to blame generic white males less, include generic white males as part of a shared destiny going forward. Fewer comments about generic “deplorables” would help.
It’s also about finding limits to PC. During the World Series, I got into one of those Facebook thread discussions with a well-meaning liberal friend about her desire for the Cleveland Indians to change their name. When it comes to the Redskins, I absolutely agree. I find Indians to be more borderline, because it seems to mascot-ize an entire race instead of a tribe (arguably Vikings and Celtics are more tribal). To me, “Chiefs” is a compliment. My friend presented the PC position: change the name of the Indians. I asked her what name she wouldn’t change; she refused to say.
This is the tendency I feel the left needs to amend in the wake of Hillary’s victory. Pull down Confederate flags? Yes, okay, but name some flags you won’t pull down. Remove statues of Civil War heroes? Okay, but also name some statues you’d never remove.
Too often, the left makes it sound like the right is the only problem. The left presents its demands and says the right is racist or sexist if it disagrees.
This sort of argumentation style may feel good to the righteous, but it keeps Americans apart. Leftists should take a page from their favorite lawyers, the ones who successfully argued for same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court. If you read the link, you’ll see that former Solicitor General Ted Olsen pointed out that the right was right: that marriage goes back before the Bill of Rights. Let me say that one more time: Olsen agreed with the argument of the other side…to make his own argument. Obama does this all the time. It’s smart. It’s effective. It’s rational. As my British friends would say, it’s the way forward.
The PC war doesn’t have to be a Manichaean war of right versus wrong. It can be somewhat civilized, as it was when the University of Chicago issued a statement against disinvited speakers and other aspects of the culture wars. Notice how they say, “freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others.” Sounds like something the left might say, correct? That’s called civilized discourse. Make your point by showing your respect for the other side. Too often this year, we forgot about that.
22 years ago, when I saw Pulp Fiction for the first time, I thought it was a little silly when Vincent Vega (John Travolta) blew his top at Jules, Jules replied with “Look, I respect you, but…”, and Vince replied with “See, now when you put it that way, that’s fine.” I thought it was silly because saying effectively “I respect you but you’re wrong” didn’t seem like enough to get a person to meet you halfway. But it turned out I was wrong. The Vince-Jules level of discourse is practically Lincoln-Douglas-debate compared to most of what we’ve seen in 2016. Let’s get back there, my friends.
When someone says something prejudiced, find something that you have in common with them. Maybe you both like Medea movies. Maybe you both like French fries. Maybe you both love your mother. Or something or other. Say, “I like your hairstyle, but I think your views about gender in the workplace may need to evolve.” Because if there’s one message you should have picked up in 2016, it is:
When they go low, we go high.