This is part of a longer answer on political correctness from the new NPR interview that Ed wrote about earlier, and also part of Obama’s attempt to bid farewell to his right-wing critics by throwing a few well-placed gut-punches as he eases out the White House door. The entire Q&A on PC begins below at exactly 40:00; his digression on the conservative version of political correctness begins exactly at 44:00. The tired example he gives, and the conservative pundit he name-checks, are what you’d expect from someone who doesn’t spend much time thinking about the right. He mentions the “war on Christmas” and Rush Limbaugh, which I don’t think is fair to Rush. Rush devotes most of his energy nowadays to praising Trump’s incandescent brilliance, leaving him little time to worry much about which holiday greeting the president is using.
But yeah, true enough about Republicans preferring “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays.”
Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute who has spent some time thinking about the right, wrote a piece a few weeks ago anticipating Obama’s point about right-wing political correctness, which Nowrasteh calls “patriotic correctness”:
More recently, 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat and then knelt for the national anthem to protest police brutality. Tomi Lahren, host of “Final Thoughts,” gave an incoherent rant about soldiers dying for Kaepernick’s right to speak so, therefore, he should shut up and stand for the national anthem. Some fans even burned their Kaepernick jerseys in protest. Others said Kaepernick should “get the hell out” if he doesn’t love America…
Unionized public employees who can’t be fired are bad at their jobs and are more interested in increasing their own power than fulfilling their public duties — except if they are police or Border Patrol officers, who are unselfishly devoted to their jobs. The crime rate is high and rising, so when facts show that criminality has declined substantially over the decades, the patriotically correct respond with appeals to the bubbled feelings of the common man…
Poor white Americans are the victims of economic dislocation and globalization beyond their control, while poor blacks and Hispanics are poor because of their failed cultures. The patriotically correct are triggered when they hear strangers speaking in a language other than English. Does that remind you of the PC duty to publicly shame those who use unacceptable language to describe race, gender or whatever other identity is the victim du jour?
There is no such thing as too much national security, but it’s liberals who want to coddle Americans with a “nanny state.”
“Waving a Mexican flag on U.S. soil means you hate America,” notes Nowrasteh, “but waving a Confederate flag just means you’re proud of your heritage.” Somehow he neglected to also mention that the Republican president-elect wants people who burn the American flag to either go to jail or lose their citizenship. How do you write a piece about “patriotic correctness” and not, er, flag that?
The sore spots mentioned by Nowrasteh existed before Trump’s political career did, but given that part of his appeal has always had to do with beating the left at its own games, it’ll be interesting to see whether the right begins to defend its cultural sensitivities more aggressively during the Trump era. I saw someone predict last night on Twitter that Trump will follow the Putin model by focusing on economic growth and job creation as core goals unless and until a recession hits and undermines that project, at which point he’ll try to hold on to public support with more nationalist cultural appeals. No one cares about locking up the flag-burner when the Dow is approaching 20,000, but if the economy tanks and it slides back to 17,000, people (especially people in government whose seats are up in 2018) might care then. Either way, though, the reason “patriotic correctness” is less menacing than political correctness is that elite opinion — most of academia, the media, and government, institutions with outsized influence on shaping public consensus — all obviously favor the latter and reject the former. Not only that, but the left is willing to go further than the right is (for now, at least) in forcing legal compliance with its cultural preferences, starting with support for hate-speech laws. It’s cute and all of Obama to mock Rush Limbaugh for wanting him to say “Merry Christmas”; meanwhile, Obama’s party is ready to put people out of business for politely declining on religious grounds to cater a reception for a gay wedding.
And there’s an element of usurpation to some aspects of left-wing PC culture that doesn’t obtain in the right-wing version. Conservatives want Americans to show respect for their country by respecting the flag, just as Americans always have. Liberals want Americans to, er, start using new gender pronouns to reflect the fact that there are actually 47 different genders or whatever. “Patriotic correctness” is predictable reactionary politics for the most part whereas political correctness increasingly seems to have certain “Year One” aspirations in demanding that people to let go of fundamental assumptions, like the idea that “he” and “she” should suffice or that good-faith religious objections shouldn’t be sneered at. It’ll be awhile before “patriotic correctness” costs the GOP an election. I think political correctness might already have cost the Democrats one.