ESSAY
The Right Wing's Political Correctness
Donald McCarthy

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneel before a game. 

Eric Reid and Colin Kaepernick kneel before a game. 

Despite Republican candidate Donald Trump’s mantra that he hates political correctness, the Republican Party has shown that there is no party more obsessed with political correctness than itself. It’s ironic, of course, as no one moans and groans about the evil specter of PC culture more than Republicans.

According to conservatives, political correctness is an idea run amok in liberal circles and, especially, on college campuses. There are a few examples to be pointed at, no doubt, although they are often blown out of proportion. And, yes, there have been people who have been unfairly targeted to an extreme, like Justine Sacco who not only lost her job for making a politically incorrect joke on Twitter, but was actually stalked and harassed. It is to the left’s shame that it did not point out how misogynistic the behavior towards Sacco became. The left also refuses to tangle with the class politics that come along with firing someone; after all, firing someone in a capitalist country is not just some slap on the wrist; it also involves the person in question losing their health care and having to take cash out of their life savings. While it can be fun to laugh at someone’s ignorance, the left has taken it into the realm of harassment, at times, which invalidates many of the points it is trying to make. Yet there is not proof of leftist PC punishments happening on anything even approaching a widespread basis. The outlier incidents need to be condemned, something the left has been weak at, but they also need to be contextualized as relatively rare.

Never before this election has calling people fat ugly pigs been a matter of political correctness.

To listen to conservatives, though, one could be excused for thinking that people march up and down the halls of college campuses, examining the words every student says before deciding whether a student needs to be expelled or not. One might think outside every classroom is a list of possible trigger warnings. Or that entire acres of campuses are devoted to safe spaces. Conservatives have only gone further with their accusations of political correctness lately, resulting in a bit of a muddling of the already shaky definition of political correctness. Trump, for instance, claims that he’s called women fat and ugly because he’s not politically correct. To my knowledge, never before this election has calling people fat ugly pigs been a matter of political correctness. Yet the right wing base bought Trump’s excuse because they’ve been so trained to sneer anytime they heard the words “political correctness” that the base decided, yeah, not being allowed to call people Miss Piggy is an example of political correctness gone out of control.

Political correctness has almost always been associated with the left, and it’s to the left’s detriment that it has yet to point out the hypocrisy of the right wing, which has its own form of political correctness. A recent example comes from one of America’s more violent pastimes: football. Colin Kaepernick has gotten the right into a tizzy because he took a knee during the national anthem (considering the rate of head injuries in the NFL, it’s amazing more football players aren’t falling to the ground before the game starts) in order to protest police brutality. From the reaction, you would think that Kaepernick defecated on the flag in the middle of the field. One of the right wing’s most evil creations, the walking embodiment of a True Detective villain, Ted Cruz, decried Kaepernick, saying his actions disrespected the flag, the troops, and the nation. In a moment of the surreal, model Kate Upton said much the same on Twitter, prompting Ted Cruz to retweet her. When Ted Cruz is retweeting you, it’s probably time to rethink your position. And to take a shower to cleanse yourself from his gaze.

Republican Congressman Steve King (no relation, thankfully, to the great horror writer Stephen King) went even further than Cruz, saying that Kaepernick’s protest actually showed he is sympathetic to ISIS.

Reactions to Kaepernick among white football fans, who are a rather conservative group, were similar; basically, they hate him for his stand (or kneel, in this case). The conservative viewpoint here is clear: by taking a knee during the anthem, Kaepernick is disrespecting the troops, the veterans, the dead, the police, the flag (conservative PC culture views the flag as just as important, perhaps even more important, than a person), and the nation as a whole.

The idea that Kaepernick silently protesting police brutality is an insult to the living, the dead, and a flag is so ridiculous that the mind begins to melt. For a group that loves to call progressive people wimps, it is quite precious that conservatives absolutely fall apart at the idea that one guy who runs around a field doesn’t feel the necessary level of patriotism. It is, frankly, pathetic. Conservatives seem to want football to be one big patriotic safe space. This reaction also shows a bit of a paradox in conservative thinking. The police and the troops are supposed to be these strong forces of patriotism, yet, at the same time, conservatives seem to think the police and the troops are the most fragile people in existence if a guy silently taking a knee will be debilitating to them.

Kaepernick, and other football players, ended up continuing this protest on 9/11, which, you can imagine, resulted in an outcry. Not only were the living, the dead, the zombies, and the flag disrespected, but now 9/11 (conservatives often refer to it as if it is a thing, not a date) itself had been disrespected. But this is more PC hypocrisy from the right. Those who most talk about the memory of 9/11 tend to be the ones who end up “disrespecting” it. Just take a look at Governor Chris Christie who tried to sell 9/11 memorabilia in an effort to fuel his sagging, presidential campaign, a campaign so ill-advised that he must have been seeing poll numbers from the Twilight Zone if he thought he had a shot. In the end, the poor guy didn’t even get to be the vice president of the New York blowhard.

Outside of blind patriotism, the other PC indulgence of the right involves religion, namely Christianity. The decline of religious belief among the youth has resulted in a problem for the GOP. In the mid-2000’s, Bush was able to work up religious fundamentalists into supporting him by bringing up abortion and gay marriage. Essentially, Bush was promising them a Christian nation (one might even call it a safe space). Compare this to the 2012 election, and you will see how this form of conservative political correctness wasn’t playing as well with American audiences.

God (the Christian God only, though) bless him, however, Donald Trump is bringing it back! Trump has all but said America needs to be a safe space for Christians (despite the fact that he once praised Saudi Arabia’s sharia law), and has routinely denounced the war against Christians in the US- this despite the fact that the US is mostly full of Christians. Remember those safe spaces on college campuses that conservatives complained about? Seems a little strange to decry that while also being unable to see a representation of Kwanzaa near a Christmas tree without breaking out in hives and declaring there’s a “War on Christmas.”

Trump himself is an excellent one-man example of right wing PC politics. Trump claims to hate PC but becomes the biggest man baby one can find when he is even slightly criticized. Any complaints about Trump’s commentary is political correctness, but negativity against Trump is a crime against humanity.

There is a key difference between the right’s political correctness and the left’s. The right has been able to legislate their PC, and it has been able to ruin people’s careers by declaring them un-American, anti-Christian, unpatriotic, and so on. The left’s political correctness, on the occasions it goes overboard, tends to be isolated from any sort of legislative goal. But the right’s? The right’s version of political correctness is currently running for president.