Donald Trump is succeeding, we’re told, because he appeals to angry voters—but that’s obvious; tell me more. Why are they angry, and how does he appeal to them? In 2016, Americans want to vote for a person and not a white paper. If you care about America’s fate under Obama, naturally you are angry; voters should distrust a candidate who is not angry.
But there’s more to it than mere anger. Chris Christie was angry, and he’s gone. Trump has hit on important issues—immigration, the economy, appeasement unlimited—in ways that appeal to voters emotionally. There’s nothing wrong with that; I trust someone who feels what I feel more than a person who merely thinks what I think. But though Rubio and Cruz are plainly capable of connecting with voters emotionally, Trump is way ahead—for many reasons, but the most important is obvious and virtually ignored.
Political correctness. Trump hasn’t made it a campaign theme exactly, but he mentions it often with angry disgust. Reporters, pundits, and the other candidates treat it as a sideshow, a handy way for Trump (King Kong, Jr.) to smack down the pitiful airplanes that attack him as he bestrides his mighty tower, roaring. But the analysts have it exactly backward. Political correctness is the biggest issue facing America today. Even Trump has just barely faced up to it. The ironic name disguises the real nature of this force, which ought to be called invasive leftism or thought-police liberalism or metastasized progressivism. The old-time American mainstream, working- and middle-class white males and their families, is mad as hell about political correctness and the havoc it has wreaked for 40 years—havoc made worse by the flat refusal of most serious Republicans to confront it. Republicans rarely even acknowledge its existence as the open wound it really is; a wound that will fester forever until someone has the nerve to heal it—or the patient succumbs. To watch young minorities protest their maltreatment on fancy campuses when your own working life has seen, from the very start, relentless discrimination in favor of minorities—such events can make people a little testy.
We are fighting Islamic terrorism, but the president won’t even say “Islamic terrorism.” It sounds like a joke—but it isn’t funny. It connects straight to other problems that terrify America’s nonelites, people who do not belong (or whose spouses or children don’t belong) to the races or groups that are revered and protected under p.c. law and theology.
Political correctness means that when the Marines discover that combat units are less effective if they include women, a hack overrules them. What’s more important, guys, combat effectiveness or leftist dogma? No contest! Nor is it hard to notice that putting women in combat is not exactly the kind of issue that most American women are losing sleep over. It matters only to a small, powerful clique of delusional ideologues. (The insinuation that our p.c. military is upholding the rights of women everywhere, that your average American woman values feminist dogma over the strongest-possible fighting force—as if women were just too ditzy to care about boring things like winning battles—is rage-making.)
The mainstream press largely ignored the Marines story. Mainstream reporters can’t see the crucial importance of political correctness because they are wholly immersed in it, can’t conceive of questioning it; it is the very stuff of their thinking, their heart’s blood. Most have been raised in this faith and have no other. Can you blame them if they take it for granted?
Why did the EPA try to issue a diktat designed to destroy the American coal industry in exchange for decreases in carbon emissions that were purely symbolic? Political correctness required this decree. It is not just a matter of infantile posing, like pretending to be offended by the name Washington Redskins. Bureaucrats have been ordered by those on high to put their p.c. principles into practice, and the character of American government is changing.
The IRS attacks conservative groups—and not one IRS worker has the integrity or guts to resign on principle, not one. Political correctness is a creed, and the creed holds that American conservatives are ignorant, stupid, and evil. This has been the creed for a generation, but people are angry now because we see, for the first time, political correctness powering an administration and a federal bureaucracy the way a big V-8 powers a sports car. The Department of Justice contributes its opinion that the IRS was guilty of no crime—and has made other politically slanted decisions too; and those decisions all express the credo of thought-police liberalism, as captured by the motto soon to be mounted (we hear) above the main door at the White House, the IRS, and the DOJ: We know what’s best; you shut up.
It’s a gigantic, terrifying problem—and no other candidate even mentions it! If Cruz and Rubio and Bush choose to be taken seriously by voters (versus analysts), they will follow Trump in attacking this deadly corrosion that weakens democracy from the inside, leaving a fragile shell that crumbles to powder in the first stiff breeze.
The State Department, naturally, is installing the same motto above its door—together with a flag emblazoned with a presidential phone and a presidential pen, the sacred instruments of invasive leftism. Christians are persecuted, enslaved, murdered in the Middle East, but the Obama regime is not interested. In a distant but related twist, Obama orders Christian organizations to dispense contraceptives whether they want to or not. This is political correctness in action—invasive leftism. Political correctness holds that Christians are a bygone force, reactionary, naïve, and irrelevant. If you don’t believe it, go to the universities that trained Obama, Columbia and Harvard, and listen. We live in the Biblical Republic, founded by devout Christians with a Creed (liberty, equality, democracy) supported directly—each separate principle—by ancient Hebrew verses. Christianity created this nation. But p.c. people don’t know history. Don’t even know that there is any. Stalin forced the old Bolsheviks to confess to crimes they never committed, then had them shot. Today, boring-vanilla Americans are forced to atone for crimes committed before they were born. Radically different levels of violence; same underlying class-warfare principle.
And we still haven’t come to the main point. Many white male job-seekers have faced aggressive state-enforced bigotry their whole lives. It doesn’t matter much to a Washington wiseguy, left or right, if firemen in New Haven (whites and Hispanics) pass a test for promotion that is peremptorily thrown in the trash after the fact because no blacks scored high enough. Who cares? It hardly matters if a white child and a black child of equal intelligence study equally hard, get equally good grades and recommendations—and the black kid gets into college X but the white kid doesn’t. Who would vote for a president based on that kind of trivia? This sort of corruption never bothers rich or well-educated families. There’s always room at the top. But such things do matter to many citizens of this country, who are in the bad habit of expecting honesty and fairness from the institutions that define our society, and who don’t have quite as many fancy, exciting opportunities as the elect families of the p.c. true believers. In analyzing Trump, Washington misses the point, is staggeringly wide of the point. Only Trump has the common sense to mention the elephant in the room. Naturally he is winning.
Why, by the way, was Trump alone honored by a proposal in the British Parliament that he be banned from the country? Something about Trump drives Europeans crazy. Not the things that drive me crazy: his slandering John McCain, mocking a disabled reporter, revealing no concept of American foreign policy, repeating that ugly lie about George W. Bush supposedly tricking us into war with Iraq. The British don’t care about such things one way or the other—they are used to American vulgarians. But a man who attacks political correctness is attacking the holy of holies, the whole basis of governance in Europe, where galloping p.c. is the established religion—and has been effective for half a century at keeping the masses quiet so their rulers can arrange everybody’s life properly. Europe never has been comfortable with democracy.
The day Obama was inaugurated, he might have done a noble thing. He might have delivered an inaugural address in which he said: This nation used to be guilty of race prejudice, but today I can tell you that there is no speck of race prejudice in any corner of the government or the laws of this country, and that is an amazing achievement of which every American ought to be deeply proud. An individual American here or there is racist; but that’s his right in a free country; if he commits no crime, let him think and say what he likes. But I know and you know, and the whole world knows, that the overwhelming majority of Americans has thoroughly, from the heart, renounced race prejudice forever. So let’s have three cheers for our uniquely noble nation—and let’s move on tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.
But he didn’t.
Worst of all its crimes is what invasive leftism has done to our schools. Trump’s un-privileged, un-classy supporters understand that their children are filled full of leftist bile every day at school and college. These parents don’t always have the time or energy to set their children straight. But they are not stupid. They know what is going on.
Cruz, Rubio, Bush, and Carson—even Kasich—could slam thought-police liberalism in every speech. They’d concede that Trump was right to bring the issue forward. Their own records are perfectly consistent with despising political correctness. It’s just that they lacked the wisdom or maybe the courage to acknowledge how deep this corruption reaches into America’s soul. It’s not too late for them to join him in exposing this cancer afflicting America’s spirit, the malign and ferocious arrogance of p.c.
David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.