Bill Maher: “I know you feel the same way I do, that Donald Trump is largely a result of a backlash to political correctness.”
Seth MacFarlane: “Yeah…I think the rise of social media has something to do with it, I think the good part of social media is that it gives voice to the voiceless, I think somebody like Caitlin Jenner would not have been as accepted had it not been for social media, so I think that’s the good part, but when we get on the bandwagon to take down Kim Davis, that is politically correct, that’s a good thing to do because she’s actively curtailing somebody’s rights…The flipside of that is Justine Sacco, who was the woman who was on the plane, and Jon Ronson writes about her in his book extensively, who tweeted the joke about AIDS in South Africa…the joke was maybe not your cup of tea, maybe not my cup of tea, but she was descended upon by progressive social media, and they ruined her life, she lost her job, she had to move, and we lose a little bit of credibility when we go after the Kim Davises. When that happens, we say to the conservatives these people are kind of half-baked. We have to sort of get smart about picking our battles. The guy who owns the cake shop must be compelled to sell the cake to the gay wedding, because otherwise it’s a short hop to I don’t want such-and-such in my diner. But we are trying to get him to like it. And that’s…”
Bill Maher: “He’s not gonna like it.”
Seth MacFarlane: “You know, you go after your racist uncle, and the harder you go after him, the more he retreats. And I think that’s…there’s some of that in play.”
– on Real Time with Bill Maher, January 22, 2016
You might think that an American Presidential election in 2016 would be about big issues: national security, income inequality, the debt and deficit, the environment, the economy, education, or likewise.
If When Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, this election won’t be about any of that. It will be about a war on political correctness. One reason for this is that in our relatively peaceful country and our relatively improving economy, Trump and Hillary Clinton more or less agree on most of the issues in the above paragraph, and they’ll be emphasizing their differences, not their similarities. A culture war is not just more palatable but more understandable than a war over budget minutiae. A second reason is that a war on PC is a war Trump can win.
I realize how dispiriting this information is for people who have watched Trump belittle Mexicans, Muslims, the disabled, war veterans, blacks, and women…and watched his numbers rise as he refuses to apologize for any of these comments. However, it’s time to accept reality: you ain’t seen nothing yet.
If there’s one thing the Obama era has taught us, it’s that there will always be new, barely anticipated flareups regarding political correctness, as with the #oscarssowhite hashtag and story that dominated the entertainment news cycle this month. The difference will be that after Clinton and Trump are the official nominees, the media will insist on asking them both about these flareups in a way that they didn’t with #oscarssowhite. Trump, I am certain, will take the official anti-PC line – in this example, inveighing against the Academy making policy changes – while Clinton will be more or less forced to either apologize for or defend the more PC position, as that becomes something that fewer and fewer Americans agree with.
This war has been brewing ever since the Tea Party was called racist for disagreeing with Barack Obama’s policies. Sure, perhaps some Tea Party members had a skin color issue, but the left did itself no favors by repeated, dismissive insinuations that conservative opposition to Obamacare was simply a matter of racial prejudice. This is still happening in 2016, as when Drew McWeeny, the lead writer of HitFix, tweets “People saying ‘I hate PC’ are really saying ‘I wish I could still say the n-word.’” Uh, no, when Lawrence Summers, former Obama cabinet member and former Harvard President publicly inveighs against PC at Yale and Princeton, upbraiding protestors who can’t sleep near dorms named for antebellum slave owners (you know, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson), that doesn’t mean that Summers sneaks into bathrooms when no one is looking and yells the n-word at the top of his lungs. Thanks a lot, Drew, because you just did Trump’s job for him: you united together KKKers and reasonable people.
It’s when people treat every Trump supporter like a neo-Nazi that he gets more non-Nazi support; it’s tweets like McWeeny’s that are going to spell trouble for Hillary Clinton. What many on the left don’t realize is that the right already blames political correctness for literally killing people, as in cases where Muslims aren’t “properly vetted” before an act of terrorism, or in cases where police departments don’t pursue the most likely criminal because they fear giving offense. Is this a massive over-simplification? Sure! Will it matter, when Trump is the anti-PC guy and Clinton has to sometimes defend it? Of course not!
What I like about Seth McFarlane is not Ted or Ted 2 (I haven’t seen them) but instead that he, unlike McWeeny, understands that Trump’s followers see all of these flareups both as connected and as repeated, ongoing proof that the country they love is becoming unrecognizable. Essentially, the PC-supportive are like the hippies in 1968, and Trump is like Nixon, invoking a “silent majority” that has had it up to here with pressing 1 for English, complaints about movies not being diverse, pop divas calling themselves feminist, transgender accommodations, disinvited commencement speakers, bakeries being forced to cater gay weddings, Rachel Dolezal hypocrisy, police wearing cameras, and much, much more. Like Hubert Humphrey, Clinton won’t really agree with all of the left, but she’ll look weak trying to split the difference.
The left might respond that the trick is targeting those who can handle it, like Kanye West; in other words, punch up, don’t punch down. Certainly, that’s the lesson of Jon Ronson’s book “So You’ve Been Publicly Attacked”: don’t attack the Justine Saccos of the world for stupid tweets. Unfortunately it’s not quite that easy for most of the left, when a dentist who can obviously afford an African safari kills a beloved endangered lion, or when some misogynist gamers complain about free speech, or when a heretofore anonymous county clerk or baker seems to be getting in the way of diversity and inclusion. And if it’s not easy for the leftish twitterverse to avoid punching down, think how much harder it will be for Hillary Clinton, who, after Angela Merkel, is pretty much the most powerful woman in the world.
Right now, Clinton can get away with blanket statements where she tweets that Trump’s war against Megyn Kelly proves that Trump disrespects women and is unfit to lead this country. Right now, that’s fine. But if when Hillary becomes the official Democratic nominee for the Presidency, her previous public humiliations of her husband’s mistresses will be the tip of the iceberg. The next level will be Hillary’s claims – much clearer in 2016 than in 2008, as dozens of pundits have noted – that she should get the Presidency because she’s a woman. The next level of the iceberg will be every single un-PC thing she’s ever said, for example on gay marriage. The next level will be old photos with Bill Cosby, John Edwards, or heck, why not Steve Jobs for all the handicapped spaces he used to park in? The next next level will be statues of Confederate heroes. An important manifestation of this will be over immigration and “amnesty.” I happen to think that Trump has overplayed this beyond what a majority of Americans consider to be reasonable, but some of that majority will give him points for consistency. Whatever other points Clinton gets, she’s not getting those, and these repeated flareups will see to that.
The real war on PC is coming to 2016. As Bette Davis once said, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s gonna be a bumpy night.”