"Political correctness is just absolutely killing us as a country." -- Donald Trump
"Political correctness is antithetical to our founding principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Its most powerful tool is intimidation." Dr. Ben Carson
Republicans believe in the superiority of America, in an American Exceptionalism, or as Reagan termed it, the country is: "a shining city on a hill." At the same time, they wholeheartedly believe that political correctness is a sort of Manchurian candidate unleashed by Democrats to undermine our greatness and establish conformity and mediocrity.
To be fair, such radically left comedians as Bill Maher and Chris Rock have insisted political correctness is undermining comedy, a much narrower and more coherent argument than the Republican one. In fact, Chris Rock went so far as to state he no longer plays college campuses because college audiences are too "conservative," not in their political views but in their social views and their unwillingness to offend anybody.
Perhaps there are actual examples of political correctness run amok as when five California students were sent home for wearing American flags on their t-shirts on the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Of course, Republicans may think it too politically correct even to have a traditionally Mexican holiday in American schools.
However, does political correctness really signal the downfall of the country or is it just an argument made by rigid personality types threatened by change? Republicans and Democrats often speak different languages. The term "illegal alien" is widely used among Republicans, while the more inclusive "undocumented immigrant" is preferred by the left. Trump was, after all, defending his use of the term "anchor baby" which is an inherently offensive term. It infers an insidiousness to an otherwise inherently innocent being, especially so given that Republicans are so reflexively protective of the unborn child even when the life of the mother is at risk. Ironically, Republicans would object to an undocumented woman having an abortion, but then turn around and want to deport her American born baby who has citizenship status.
Why do Republicans use such terms as "anchor babies?" It objectifies and dehumanizes what can not be otherwise described as anything but an infant with no inherent guilt. If the immigrant baby is conceived just as a ploy to have citizenship status conferred on it, surely the parents are all the more cunning, crafty, and undeserving of sympathy, like modern day Fagin's. In the Vietnam war, our soldiers called the communist soldiers "gooks" to have less guilt and cognitive dissonance about taking their lives. After all, it is much easier to live with the fact that one has killed a "gook" than taken the life of another human. In Somalia, our soldiers used the somewhat less pejorative term "skinnies" for enemy soldiers and the term "Hajji" in Iraq. Roughnecks in Boston recently beat a homeless man while shouting their sympathies with Trump. "Donald Trump was right," the two men said, according to police, as they beat the man with a metal pipe and then urinated on him. "All these illegals need to be deported." The objectification of people has real consequences.
Ironically, Republicans are masters of changing the meaning of language for political gain when it suits them. The inheritance tax becomes the "death tax," which was conjured from the Orwellian mind of Republican pollster Frank Luntz. He was also the initial advocate of the right's use of the term "climate change" as a less frightening expression for global warming. "As one of Luntz's focus group participants noted, climate change "sounds like you're going from Pittsburgh to Fort Lauderdale." While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge."
Emotion is what Republican use of language is all about. "[C]onservatives use language more effectively than liberals in communicating their deepest values," writes George Lakoff, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, in "The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic." Liberals "present the facts and offer policies," he claims. Republicans, by contrast, go straight for the gut. The term "death panels" comes to mind!
However, the real argument here is why do Republicans always use diversionary tactics as a substitute for substance? One can think of much greater problems pressing America, like such as things as poverty, the increasing income gap, stagnant wages, mass incarceration, etc., as opposed to the use of politically correct speech being the death knell of the country. In reality, illegal immigration has little impact on wage stagnation or unemployment, as opposed to what Republican front-runner Donald Trump and also-ran Rick Santorum both claim.
According to the Washington Post:
"One report, published in June by the American Enterprise Institute and Immigration Works, found that immigrants today dominate the labor market in almost every job that entails a high level of danger, discomfort, repetition or extreme temperatures."
"According to some experts, the flood of Hispanic immigrant workers in the past 25 years -- both legal and illegal -- has had a much smaller effect on employment patterns than other trends, including factory flight overseas, weakened labor unions and a spate of recessions.
"We have to be honest here. Low-skilled immigration has costs, but it also has benefits," said Harry Holzer, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University. While some individuals and locations can be harmed, he said, the positive impact on the U.S. economy is unquestionable."
"According to Holzer, removing immigrants from the job market would not necessarily drive up wages to a level Americans today would accept -- or companies would be willing to pay."
"Sure, that would add appeal," Holzer said. "The problem is that if wages kept on rising, employers would start eliminating jobs, substituting technology and other norms of production. Immigration is really only one small factor."
The real fear of Republicans about politically correct discourse is their over-reliance on offensive language to arouse the emotions in their base of marginally-educated white males by appealing to their fear of "the other." At the same time, Republicans want to divert our attention from real issues. Thus, we have Fox news claiming billionaires are the real victims in our society, discrimination ended with the success of the civil right's movement in the 1960s, and the network's nostalgia for the hegemony of the white male, for the re-birth of a society resembling the television show Mad Men.
The presidential primary season should be one for important debates on pressing issues, certainly not silly, impotent calls to repeal the 14th amendment demanded in all seriousness. The fact that Republicans use such an important platform for such babble is lamentable. The fact that the press covers both parties as equally sane when one, the Democratic party, at least speaks to real issues offering practical solutions, while the other has seemingly fallen through the looking glass, is the real tragedy of our times. So Trump dictates the terms of the debate and the political discourse stagnates and takes a hateful turn. The world watches somewhat bemusedly, if sadly.