What if the defining issue of this decade isn’t terrorism, war, immigration, the deficit, taxes, gun control, the environment, health care, education, police brutality, or any of the other problems that Presidential candidates’ websites have devoted sections to? What if the defining issue of our time is political correctness?
This autumn, I’ve started most of my days by clicking on realclearpolitics.com, an aggregator of opinion columns from what most people generally call “the media.” So I’ve been reading most of the opinions from (I know, I must hate myself) The New York Times, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Fox News, The Daily Beast, The Federalist, New Republic, National Review, The Nation, The Week, The Washington Post, Commentary, The Boston Globe, Bloomberg, The New Yorker, The New York Post, et cetera. To give you a sense of their perspicacity, at least half of these outlets regularly pay someone who has repeatedly predicted Trump’s imminent demise. I may have missed it, but absolutely zero of them have suggested that political correctness is the country’s major issue.
What if there’s a reason that no Republican candidate in 2015 has polled in national double digits without either being a non-white-man – Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio – or confronting political correctness directly, as with Donald Trump? What if Cruz and Carson shoehorning attacks on political correctness into the last debate is evidence that they realize Trump is onto something?
Did Trump 1) get extremely lucky (very possible), 2) steer the political discourse in America toward the playing field of political correctness that best suits him, or 3) recognize that political correctness was the overriding issue of our time before the day he declared and he knew he wanted to take it on (by equating Mexicans with crime and rape, to start)? If it’s the latter one – and I believe it is – then the major media sources (check earlier paragraph) have failed to account for it. Oh, sure, they’ll tell you that it’s the year of the outsider, and that’s why people love Trump, Fiorina and Carson. They’ll tell you that people are truly angry at Washington for 15 years of abject failure. And then when you ask why non-Beltway types like Scott Walker and Rick Perry were hammered to the point of dropping out this early, they’ll say that they looked like “professional politicians.”
What they haven’t dared suggest – perhaps being burned so often on Trump has hurt their writerly ambitions – is what physicists call a “unified field theory.” Just for kicks, here’s one: Republican voters feel that more than anything else, the Obama era has been marked by political correctness, and they wish to either beat the Democrats at their own game with their own non-white male – Carson, Cruz, Fiorina, or Rubio – or just take down the game entirely, with Trump. All of a sudden, the failures of Walker and Perry and all the other single digit candidates – Bush, Christie, Kasich – make a lot more sense, right? It’s not simply “the establishment” versus “populism,” because clearly Cruz and Rubio, either of whom could still win, are establishment guys, right? (Well, they’re both sitting Senators.)
The question becomes: why would Republican voters think that “PC” is so important? When the media have made it so, so clear what issues we should be worried about (see above list that starts “terrorism, war…”) and that “PC” isn’t one of them?
What if I could give you 100 answers?
Now, this list is not, and I repeat not, things that I am personally mad at, it’s just…things (and far from a comprehensive list). Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009:
1. Sonia Sotomayor becomes first Latin@ Supreme Court Justice, and first of three women appointed to Supreme Court by Obama, of his three nominations
2. Dr. Henry Louis Gates, chair of Harvard African-American Studies department, arrested outside his house by white cop; Obama brings both to White House for “beer summit”
3. Glee and Modern Family begin, draw large audiences, hype
4. Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize, even he is taken aback at its undeservedness
5. Nidal Malik Hasan kills 13, injures 30 at Fort Hood, Texas
6. The Princess and the Frog becomes first Disney African-American princess movie
7. SB 1070 goes into effect in Arizona, media condemns harshest immigration law
8. Shirley Sherrod forced to resign after Breitbart’s reverse-racism accusations
9. Plans to build a mosque/cultural center near Ground Zero are hotly debated
10. “Arab Spring” occasions dramatic hopes, eventually bitter disappointments
11. After Oprah Winfrey’s retirement, Ellen DeGeneres becomes #1 daytime show
12. Occupy Wall Street calls attention to the richest 1%
13. Iraq War is declared over
14-26. Many, many celebrities tweet/say prejudiced things, are vilified; examples:
- Larry Johnson, 2009: “Think about what a clever diss then that wit ur fag pic. Christopher Street boy, is what us east coast cats call u.”
- Rahm Emanuel, 2009: Liberals are “fucking retarded”
- John Mayer, 2010: “I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock.”
- Paula Deen, revealed 2010 (said 2007): “Well what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to dance around. Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.”
- Saul Bellow, 2011: “Women are the rails on which men run.”
- Joakim Noah, 2011: “Fuck you faggot!”
- V.S. Naipaul, 2011: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me… My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”
- Brett Ratner, 2011: “Rehearsal is for fags.”
- Dennis Miller, 2012: “Elizabeth Warren? Is that the chick that says she’s an Indian?…She’s about as much Indian as that stripper chick Brando sent to pick up his Oscar for The Godfather, all right?”
- 50-Cent, 2012: “Yeah i just saw your picture fool you look autistic…I dont want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else.”
- Amare Stoudamire, 2012: “Fuck you I don’t have to do anything fag.”
- Riley Cooper, 2013: “I will fight every nigger here!”
- David Gilmour, 2013: “[W]hen I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women.”
27-30. Many celebrities come out of the closet, from Anderson Cooper to Jodie Foster
31. Unarmed Trayvon Martin is killed by George Zimmerman in gated community in Florida
32. “Linsanity” as Jeremy Lin becomes a beyond-NBA thing for 15 minutes
33, 34. Steubenville rape and impunity goes viral, inspires new speaking out against abuse, especially after Cong. Todd Akin (Republican) says women rarely become pregnant from “legitimate rape”
35, 36. Scandal, starring and created by black women, becomes this decade’s West Wing; The Mindy Project becomes best thing to come out of The Office
37. Obama finally supports same-sex marriage in 2012, and only then does that become a wedge issue against Republicans
38. Wade Michael Page kills six people at Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin
39. Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained tells how the West was won – by blacks, for the first time
40. Jesse Jackson complains about lack of color in Silicon Valley companies
41-44. “Gangnam Style,” “Harlem Shake,” Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry inspire new debates about cultural appropriation
45. In 2013, the Senate welcomes its highest-ever amount of women – 20 of 100
46. African-American Jason Collins becomes first openly gay player in a major American sport, in this case the NBA
47. Supreme Court rules Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional
48. Black Lives Matter founded
49, 50. “Lean In” by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg becomes a thing, as do her projects like banbossy.com
51-56. Top pop divas struggle over word “feminist,” give excuses, then finally embrace the label in these years – 2012, Lady Gaga; 2013, Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus; 2014, Katy Perry; 2015, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande
57, 58. In 2013, Frozen and Hunger Games 2 are year’s top-grossing films; Gravity and 12 Years a Slave are year’s most honored films
59, 60. Star Wars and Saturday Night Live receive internet-driven pushback on less-than-diverse casting, then capitulate
61. Colleges report increased safe spaces, 62. trigger warnings, 63. microaggressions, 64. under-reported sexual abuse, 65. “disinvitations” of scheduled speakers
66. #heforshe founded by United Nations, Emma Watson
67. Heretofore unknown old white men Donald Sterling and Clive Bundy say ridiculously racist things, lose previous positions
68. Washington Redskins’ name loses trademark status, becomes more controversial
69. Time announces “Transgender Tipping Point” with Laverne Cox on cover
70. As first Indian-American Miss America, Nina Davuluri endures threats, slurs
71. Gamergate controversy reveals rampant, codified sexism in world of gamers
72. Marvel Comics announces female Thor, black Captain America
73-80. Videos reveal white cops using undue force on blacks, including Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, and many others; protests erupt; NYPD claims victim status, literally turns its back on its mayor and refuses to routinely patrol streets
81. Michael Sam becomes first openly gay player drafted by NFL
82. #oscarssowhite becomes a thing
83. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launches investigation into sexism in Hollywood
84, 85. “Checking your privilege” becomes a thing, “gender fluid” becomes a thing
86, 87. Jon Stewart retires, hands over Comedy Central between 11:00 and midnight to Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore
88. Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states
89. Caitlyn Jenner becomes most famous transgender person, oldest woman on cover of Vanity Fair ever
90. Rachel Dolezal, ostensibly black NAACP leader, “outed” as white, compared to Jenner
91. “Hamilton” recasts Founding Fathers as persons of color
92, 93, 94. Blackish, Fresh Off The Boat, Jane the Virgin negotiate new PC and POC realities
95. Ben Affleck lies about slavery ancestry on “Finding Your Roots,” leading to show’s cancellation
96. Sequel released to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” liberals freak over racist Atticus Finch
97. Furious 7 billion-dollar haul cements franchise’s reputation
98. Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, and even Jennifer Lawrence rev up criticism of patriarchy
99. Dylaan Roof massacres nine in black church; leaders call for Confederate flag removal, and many heed the call
100. “Jefferson-Jackson” organization phased out of Democratic Party
Again, I am not registering any personal animus against any of the events of the preceding list. (Well, okay, Donald Sterling is a douchebag.) Frankly, I’m happy that liberals are “winning” recent culture wars, less happy that people are paying more attention to this list than to school shootings and our deficit. But back to “unified field theory” – the list provides evidence of the somewhat sudden hegemony of political correctness, or as Chris Rock said, “people now are getting less crazy.” Rock had an excellent point, but it’s also true that white straight people have seen a preponderance of PC or at least a lot of change. I don’t really blame liberals for this, but an unintended side effect of all this less-crazy-getting is that white working-class people have reason to feel that they’ve been labeled a problem in this decade. Let’s say some influential media source complains about the whiteness of the Best Actor Emmy nominees. Would it be crazy for Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion on Game of Thrones and who must know one or two things about discrimination, to say, “hey, I didn’t realize I was part of the problem”? That’s pretty much the way that working-class whites have been made to feel, right?
A genuine problem that our media (again, as represented by sources aggregated by realclearpolitics.com) doesn’t discuss – I wonder why? – is the the media, run by elites, tends not to discuss poor whites as a class that suffers disadvantages comparable to those suffered by many minorities. That elitism hasn’t helped the country, for various reasons. Certainly, the media never thought to register “PC creep” (comparable to “mission creep”) as a 2016 issue. That’s one reason they’re utterly blindsided and baffled at the tenacity of Trump; they just didn’t realize how culturally disenfranchised a wide swath of the country has become.
What if the recession created an over-saturation of under-employed white males with too much time to chase twitter feuds?
Here’s how most of the media would write the paragraph on Obama’s presidency:
President Barack Obama inherited two misbegotten wars and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He wound down both wars even while killing Osama Bin Laden, and enacted various programs meant to stimulate the economy. The Affordable Care Act, both celebrated and reviled as “Obamacare,” fell short of promised universal health care but still resulted in expanding health coverage to tens of millions. The rise of the TEA Party resulted in a 2010 midterm backlash that gerrymandered the electoral map, ensconcing Republicans in safe districts and assuring Republican opposition to Obama’s domestic agenda. In foreign affairs, Obama improved relations with Cuba and concluded a nuclear deal with Iran even as many other regions seemed to spiral into chaos and disaster.
But what if this was the paragraph?
President Barack Obama passed a few laws and was thwarted on most others. He and his wife, an African-American couple standing next to white statesmen and leaders, both demonstrated how far America had come and how far it had to go. On some level, Obama’s presence said: if him, why not others? This accelerated a trend, also abetted by Twitter and other internet sources, of locating prejudice wherever and whenever it might exist, even amongst persons and institutions who had long escaped criticism. Same-sex marriage, for example, went from bipartisan anathema to bipartisan fait accompli. In the end, the most remarkable facet of the Obama presidency was a new “PC era” that surprised even progressives, leading to a 2016 Presidential contest showdown between the PC-defending Hillary Clinton and the PC-offending Donald Trump.
Doesn’t sound like something the media would write. But then, during this election cycle, how often have they been right?