There is a growing trend among politicians toward hate speech, racism, religious intolerance and crudity. It is flourishing under the fig leaf of refusing to be politically correct. Demagogic politicians intent on enhancing their electability are exploiting this trend; unpleasant and unsurprising consequences are sure to follow. The path of the demagogue is littered with the innocent victims of mob violence – mobs organized and driven by the rhetoric of hate. It is incumbent upon thoughtful leaders to recognize and expose the deception.
Political correctness, in its present day application is no more than an evolving custom regulating public civility. It relates to good social manners in the same way that Emily Post’s Etiquette relates to good table manners. It is a moderating influence against the coarseness to which the average citizen is prone. As we witness the rabble-rousing techniques used by Donald Trump, his open refusal to be politically correct, we recognize the dangers of gratuitous invective and incendiary language. His crowds physically attack protesters as Trump approvingly says, “Maybe they should be roughed up.”
If we patronized an expensive restaurant we would certainly expect to see a table set with linen tablecloth and napkins; our expectations would be much lower at a fast food joint or a local bar. Similarly we would expect a polished, skillful measure of discussion in the political arena or at a university or anywhere serious ideas are considered; the neighborhood bar would probably not have such high standards. The fact that we have plummeted to neighborhood bar standards in a presidential campaign is cause for concern.
Manipulative politicians like Trump, barely conversant with foreign affairs, economics or social issues, blame political correctness for their inability to put an intelligent sentence together. Their ignorance is transparently obvious. The destruction of the thin fabric of civil discourse is not so obvious.
Xenophobia, blacklisting, internment, anti-Semitism, and other witch-hunts have a rich history in America. They are all different brands of the same product: scapegoating. Scapegoating is the manure used by politicians to sow the seeds of hatred. Trump and others like him claim only to be telling it like it is; they see the humanizing restraints imposed by political correctness as impediments to their crude, careless vitriol.
As presidential campaign rhetoric continues to pollute the airwaves, the ripple effects reach the public in the form of increased anger, irresponsibility and recklessness. This is a recipe for serious social difficulties and has to be addressed. Society must not be subject to the raving politician, stoking a smoldering heap of humanity, hoping for a spark to ignite their campaign.