We hear all the time that Donald Trump is against political correctness. I mean he IS rude, gauche, uncultured, and boorish but is he really against political correctness? I would argue that Trump is the apex of political correctness.
Let me set my premise here. Political correctness is the logical outgrowth of identity politics (race, ethnicity, sex, sexual proclivity, etc.) which, in the United States has, for the last half century, also been the politics of victimization and grievance. Once victim status and grievance are legitimized then in becomes more advantageous to belong to such a class than to the larger class of “Americans” because victimhood and grievance brings with it special rights and privileges. One of those rights and privileges is being able to set the boundaries for how your particular identity group is talked about. Another right is determining how your identity group talks about “the other.” When you go onto feminist sites and see diatribes about patriarchy and sex=rape, and homosexual sites that refer to heterosexuals as “breeders”, you are seeing the flip side of requiring “the other” to respect your “identity.”
Last August, Ben Domenech at The Federalist, had a thought provoking piece titled: Are Republicans For Freedom Or White Identity Politics?
For decades, Republicans have held to the idea that they are unified by a fusionist ideological coalition with a shared belief in limited government, while the Democratic Party was animated by identity politics for the various member groups of its coalition. This belief has been bolstered in the era of President Obama, which has seen the Democratic Party stress identity politics narratives about the war on this or that group of Americans, even as they adopted a more corporatist attitude toward Wall Street and big business (leading inevitably to their own populist problem in Sen. Bernie Sanders). What Trump represents is the potential for a significant shift in the Republican Party toward white identity politics for the American right, and toward a coalition more in keeping with the European right than with the American.
“Identity politics for white people” is not the same thing as “racism”, nor are the people who advocate for it necessarily racist, though of course the categories overlap. In fact, white identity politics was at one point the underlying trend for the majoritarian American cultural mainstream. But since the late 1960s, it has been transitioning in fits and starts into something more insular and distinct. Now, half a century later, the Trump moment very much illuminates its function as one interest group among many, as opposed to the background context for everything the nation does. The white American with the high-school education who works at the duck-feed factory in northern Indiana has as much right to advance his interest as anyone else. But that interest is now being redefined in very narrow terms, in opposition to the interests of other ethnic groups, and in a marked departure from the expansive view of the freedoms of a common humanity advanced by the Founders and Abraham Lincoln.
Now let’s go to Steven Hayward, posting at PowerLine on a bit of interesting commentary from a pro-Trump (which they define as “secure borders, economic nationalism, interests-based foreign policy, and above all judging every government action through a single lens: does this help or harm Americans?”) site. (I browsed around it and found it to be as much vaguely Buchananite, paleo-conservative as pro-Trump. If you are interested and have a WSJ account — or your public library does — you can read the rather nice Peggy Noonan gives to the site.) It analyzes the ugly mudslinging by Trump at a federal judge through the lens of identity politics.
When Sonia Sotomayor said that being a “wise Latina” influences her decisions for the better, that—we were told—was not merely nothing to worry about but a sign of her judicial temperament and fitness for the High Court. When Trump says being a Latino will influence this judge’s hearing of his case, he’s Hitler.
There may seem at first glance to be an inconsistency here. But there is a common thread. The left mostly takes for granted, first, that people from certain ethnicities in positions of power will be liberal Democrats and, second, that they will use that power in the interests of their party and co-ethnics. This is a core reason for shouts of “treason!” “Uncle Tom” (or Tomas) and the like. People like Clarence Thomas are offending the left’s whole conception of the moral order. How dare he!
The implicit assumption underlying Sotomayor’s comment and Thomas’ refusal to play to type is thatthere is a type—an expectation. By virtue of her being a liberal, a Democrat, a woman, and a Latina (wise or otherwise), Sotomayor’s voting pattern on the Court ought to be predictable. As, indeed, it is. So should Thomas’, but he declines to play his assigned role.
The slightly deeper assumption is that this identity-based predictability is necessary, because the institutions and laws as designed will not reliably produce the “correct” outcome. That’s the logic of diversity in a nutshell. If everybody in power strictly followed law and procedure, the good guys—the poor, minorities, women, etc.—would lose a great deal of the time and that would be bad. We need people who will look past the niceties of the rule of law and toward the outcome—the end. The best way to ensure that is “diversity,” i.e., people more loyal to their own party and tribe than to abstractions like the rule of law.
Trump simply took this very same logic and restated it from his own point-of-view—that is, from the point-of-view of a rich, Republican, ostentatiously hyper-American defendant in a lawsuit being litigated in a highly-charged political environment. He knows full well that at least 50% of the country will howl like crazy if he wins this suit. He knows that the judge knows that, too. He further knows that judge knows what his own “side” expects him to do. It would take an act of extraordinary courage to act against interest and expectation in this instance. And our present system is not calibrated to produce such acts of courage but rather to produce the expected outcome.
Trump is taking for granted the left’s presumption that ethnic Democratic judges will rule in the interests of their party and of their ethnic bloc. That’s what they’re supposed to do. The MSM and the overall narrative say this is just fine. It’s only bad when someone like Trump points it out in a negative way. If a properly sanctified liberal had said “This man is a good judge because his background gives him the perspective to see past narrow, technical legalities and grasp the larger justice,” not only would no one have complained, that comment would have been widely praised. In fact, comments just like it are celebrated all the time. That is precisely what Justice Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” phrase was meant to convey.
I find very little here to disagree with. Were jurisprudence neutral then there would be no concern for a “black seat” or a “Jewish seat” on the Supreme Court, or if there were such a thing, Clarence Thomas would have fit very nicely. But Thomas was declared to be a disgrace to Thurgood Marshall’s legacy (I don’t even know how that would be possible) because he did not share Marshall’s penchant for deciding cases through a racial lens.
If this analysis is right, then all Trump has done is adopt the expectations of his rich, liberal, New York, Democratic social circle and expect Judge Curiel to be hostile to him because he, Trump, is a wealthy white guy and many of the plaintiffs in the class action are poor and minorities. Trump’s constant belly-aching about things not being fair (what a laugh from a guy who was born into wealth and has lived a life of luxury) is bizarre but it is no more so that the complaining of any other identity group that they are being treated unfairly. Homosexuals thought it was unfair that they couldn’t require people to service their weddings. The mentally ill felt they could use whatever bathroom they wished. Just as these groups have developed speech codes to protect their feelings, so, too, is Trump pushing such a code to protect himself from criticism.
Hayward, who seems to be looking for an excuse to hop on the Trump Train, claims:
And yet, leave it to our anonymous friend “Decius” at the Journal of American Greatness (who received a very nice extended shout out yesterday from Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal) to offer the case that Trump is, wittingly or not, directly attacking one of the most egregious aspects of liberal orthodoxy today—the premise of “diversity” embedded in our rigid identity politics that really means uniformity to the liberal line.
I think this is totally wrong. He is not attacking the premise behind diversity or identity politics, in fact, Trump has said that he is a supporter of Affirmative Action, he is adopting those premises and weaponizing them in the service of his campaign.
Back to Ben Domench’s insight about the GOP as the party of white identity politics. I think Domenech has it very close to right. It also explains why Trump was very reluctant to disavow David Duke and the KKK and other white nationalist groups. He knew that by repudiating them, he was repudiating a lot of the anger that rank and file GOP and Democrats feel over a system that makes it easier for the child of a black Fortune 500 executive to get into an elite school based on a set aside program than the child of a white pulp mill worker. I think his attacks on judge Curiel are offensive and, as Leon has posted, racist has hell. But the attacks are calculated to stoke grievance not any sort of racial animosity. What Trump is doing is very little from the extortion rackets run by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Trump is not anti-political correctness. He is political correctness fully evolved. He not only represents a crude form of white identity politics, he represents identity politics for privileged rich guys.