The Idiotic Anti-PC Movement is the Only Reason Trump Has Accomplished Anything

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The Idiotic Anti-PC Movement is the Only Reason Trump Has Accomplished Anything

On the surface, the impact of Trump on our politics is much less about substance and much more about presence. Unprecedented media attention has been paid to his demeanor on the campaign trail, his skin color (what shade of orange is it?), and the pejorative nicknames he assigns to his competitors (see: Lyin’ Ted). Click-driven coverage has focused on the most sensational or absurd elements of Trump’s stump speeches and tweets. Violence at his rallies, the actions of anti-Trump protestors, and the crowd control tactics of police departments fill hours of airtime for cable networks. All of which is worth coverage, mind you, but none of which gets to the substantial shift happening within our politics.

Trump’s policy ideas; and yes, he has them, don’t fit into a rigid ideological framework which is why “movement” conservatives heavy on dogma can’t stand him or, importantly, can’t understand his appeal. But when you examine his appeal among his own supporters, it is based on his anti-immigration stance, or his criticism of Free Trade policies, or his promises to attack ISIS more directly.

It’s these same policy proposals that have correlated to his rise in the polls, not his antics (which have been there from the start). Recall, Trump’s campaign was basically floundering until he called for a ban on Muslims after the San Bernardino shootings. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s comments the ban became overwhelmingly popular among GOP primary voters.

These ideas don’t represent the fringes of the Republican Party. They’re the thrust of the anti-politically correct undercurrent in conservative politics. For the better part of the last decade, conservative thought-leaders have been railing against “political correctness” as the true bogeyman of the liberal intelligentsia. The trope goes something like this: void of any real moral compass liberals, en masse, have embraced the social-religion of political correctness. Gone are the halcyon days of live-and-let-live, ironically bougie liberalism which conservatives could co-exist with, even if had fundamental disagreements.

Now, the story continues, we live under oppressive mandates and strict, though informal, PC codes: white privilege, gay rights, and multiculturalism are beyond reproach. Step out of line at your own risk. Be especially careful on college campuses, where roving hordes of PC enforcers lie in the not-so-tall grass. This liberalism centered on PC culture must be purged from society, lest we become Europe replete with their stagnant economy, confused cultural identity, and lack of religious fervor.

Sadly, this reductionist thinking passes as astute cultural criticism. There are indeed deep flaws in the liberal program like the philosophical dependence on bureaucracy, the troublesome pliability of liberal virtues once in power, and the persistent questions about the roots of a just society. However, the Anti-PC attack misses the mark on most, if not all, of it. Instead, it creates a paper-tiger which can be knocked down repeatedly, without any real meaning.

But even if all they’re doing is carrying water back to the sea, that’s no bother to those coalescing around Trump’s campaign. This is the Anti-PC mob’s thrilling revenge crusade on the Politically Correct mob, fruitless or not, and Trump serves as more than just their avatar. He’s creating more anti-PC “bros” along the way who, in turn, think Mexico should build the damn wall, despite the fact that more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming to it. And this is where the whole thing turns into a self-sustaining cycle, or to use another phrase, “a movement.” In this case, the coalescing is good enough—who needs substance?

At some point, it stops being about the wall as a policy solution—which makes no sense anyway—and becomes about Trump’s ability to “tell it like it is” in the face of such daunting politically correct talk coming out ivory towers across the Eastern seaboard.

All of which serves Trump in manifold ways, not least in creating an environment wherein anti-PC policy ideas, like making women who’ve had abortions face some sort of punishment, serve as a catalyst to another movement conversion. It doesn’t matter that he walked those specific comments back—this is how dog-whistling works.

Not only do the anti-PC bros finally have their hero personified in the tweet-happy Trump, they also have the perfect foil in Hillary Clinton. Her campaign has been, in their view, quintessentially PC. Madeline Albright’s “special place in hell” for women who don’t vote for Clinton serves as Exhibit A. Her measured dispassionate cadence; her calculated wardrobe; her strategic photo-ops with cultural tastemakers; all of it is fuel on the fire. She’s exactly what a politician steeped in PC mores should look and sound like. And on a policy level her embrace of gay rights, transgender rights, her basic acknowledgment of Black Lives Matter, and her support for gender pay equity place her squarely in the PC universe.

All the while, those “movement” conservatives genuflecting in front of their favorite Reagan iconography, who thought they had the best field of candidates in at least the last 20 years, can’t understand why Jeb(!) or Marco didn’t resonate. Let alone how Scott Walker and all of his Koch money couldn’t even make it to an actual contest.

The multilayered irony of all of this shouldn’t be lost. By intentionally cultivating the anti-PC elements within conservative politics through talk radio, an echo chamber of blogs and websites (see: Breitbart, et al) and the vitriol of the anti-Obama rhetoric—at the expense of more honest and robust liberal critiques, which are still there for the making—Republicans enabled an anti-PC Frankenstein who clobbered their own as much, if not more than, the scourges they sought to expunge.

It was Trump after all who gave life to the Birther craze, which in retrospect wasn’t just an idle hobby for a guy looking to stay in the headlines, it was the groundwork for becoming the next GOP presidential nominee.

Who knows if Trump’s anti-PC cult hero status can turn into something weighty on a national scale. He trails the GOP field by about 4 million votes at this point, though many of those voters are likely more strongly #NeverHillary than they are #NeverTrump. The more daunting challenge facing Trump is that he has a net favorability of -37, using the latest RCP average, and that seven in 10 women view him negatively. But make no mistake: Trump is leading a movement, stupid and dangerous as it may be, in American politics.

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