Lefty Pundit: Conservatives’ Opposition to Political Correctness Rooted In Loss of White Male Privilege

If Paul Waldman had wanted to put the main argument of his Monday American Prospect column in Obamaesque terms, he might have written that conservative opponents of political correctness have gotten bitter and are clinging to their supposed right (and maybe even their duty) to act like jerks.

“For today's Republican, if people think you're a jerk then you must be doing something right, and the political correctness charge has become an all-purpose answer to criticism of any sort,” contended Waldman. “You say my beliefs are abominable? Take your political correctness and shove it! It's a way to pose as a brave truth-teller, even if all that's actually happening is that people are pointing out that you're a brave crap-teller.”

Waldman believes that at bottom, conservatives detest PC because they resent “the slow decline of a certain kind of privilege certain people used to enjoy…As women and minorities of all kinds have fought for their rights in recent decades, they've also drawn attention to the ways oppression is enacted in a broad range of behaviors and language.”

From Waldman’s piece (bolding added):

2016 marks the first election where so many presidential contenders are taking the crusade against political correctness as their rallying point…

…[This is a Republican] field that takes its cues from the rhetoric of conservative media, where political correctness has been a regular topic for years. In the telling of people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, conservatives live their lives in fear of the vicious mobs of liberals wielding political correctness like a nail-studded club. Speak the truth about anything, and the politically correct shock troops will swoop in to strike you down…

…[W]hat conservatives call political correctness is often better described as "people telling you not to be such a jerk." But for today's Republican, if people think you're a jerk then you must be doing something right, and the political correctness charge has become an all-purpose answer to criticism of any sort. You say my facts are wrong? I'm not going to knuckle under to your political correctness! You say my beliefs are abominable? Take your political correctness and shove it! It's a way to pose as a brave truth-teller, even if all that's actually happening is that people are pointing out that you're a brave crap-teller.

There's no question that the obsession with political correctness on the right has its roots in the slow decline of a certain kind of privilege certain people used to enjoy. Not caring about other people's fortunes, let alone their feelings, is a big part of that privilege. But as women and minorities of all kinds have fought for their rights in recent decades, they've also drawn attention to the ways oppression is enacted in a broad range of behaviors and language…

But fear not: There's an entire political movement that's here to tell you that you're the victim in all this, particularly when it comes to race…Those who make up the audiences for conservative media have been fed a steady diet of racial resentment for years, and the force-feeding became particularly vigorous when Barack Obama became president…

…When Trump and other Republicans pledge that they won't abide political correctness, they're saying to the (largely) older and (almost entirely) white people whose votes they seek: I'll be your voice. Everything you think but realize you shouldn't say out loud, I'll say for you…

…Trump…and the other GOP candidates promise liberation, that they'll unshackle suffering white men from the rhetorical chains that bind them.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters