Did a Backlash Against Political Correctness Elect Donald Trump?

December 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I remember back in college in the late 1980s when political correctness came to the University of Oregon. I embraced it. I’d grown up with two parents who were activists. In the early 1970s, my mother fought for improved access to childcare, and my father was the second professor at Portland State University to support the student strike against the Vietnam War.

The correct use of language is an important social construct in how we view gender and race. Diversity and inclusion are values that I grew up with, yet it was an ardent political correctness coming from other students that had me sometimes feeling shame and judgment because I am a white male.  

Years later, the University of Oregon created the Bias Education and Response Team (BERT) “to complement and work with campus entities to connect those who have witnessed or themselves become a target of an act of bias with appropriate support and resources.” Many other universities and colleges in the US have since adopted similar programs. 

As a progressive, all that sounds good to me, but I am left wondering, have we taken all this too quickly and too forcibly for a large percentage of Americans?

During the campaign, Trump was saying what a lot of Americans have been thinking, but were afraid to say because they didn’t think that it’s politically correct. Some attitudes and laws around social issues have changed quickly in America and not everyone has caught up. These voters didn’t like feeling that others dictate what they’re supposed to think and do.

Many rural and conservative voters and those living in “flyover country,” blame political correctness on coastal and educated elites, Hollywood, and the mainstream press. For many of these voters, it doesn’t matter how many newspapers, politicians or rock and movie stars endorsed Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, from their point of view, tells it like it is without apology, sugar coating or politically correct language. 


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