WASHINGTON — If you ask Donald Trump fans what they like about him, there’s an excellent chance they’ll say, “Because he’s not politically correct.”
But this is only true if you misunderstand the meaning of political correctness, as Trump himself apparently does.
Popularized in the ’90s to mean overcorrection in language and policies to avoid offending any group of people, it has been redefined by Trump to mean saying whatever slips from gray matter to tongue without the inhibitory processing that civilization demands.
We could fill volumes — and many have — with ridiculous examples of political correctness, especially on college campuses where students are often coddled rather than taught. Oft-cited as a legitimate example is exclusion of literary works because of language or imagery that might result in some sensitive soul needing hugs and hankies. Or, if you’re a college student, safe haven in a “safe zone.”
Intellectual rigor, this is not.
This is true political correctness, silly and damaging to both sanity and educational integrity. Ovations to those who confront it.
But insult, an artless form perfected by Trump, isn’t politically INcorrect. It is rude. Name-calling isn’t clever; it is childish and lazy.
Yet Trump has managed to convince his legions that making vile comments about someone is a revolutionary act, a badge of honor and a long-overdue tipping of society’s scales back toward reason and truth. Sometimes he’s right, but so is the proverbial stopped watch.
More often he’s wrong.
You could say, for example, that we need to secure our borders because, though most immigrants are good people in search of a better life, others are criminals or criminally minded. This is both true and lacking in drama.
Instead, Trump — recognizing the anger in others that he either feels or feigns — took the low road and said people entering our country illegally are rapists and murderers, adding perfunctorily, “and some, I assume, are good people.”
This isn’t politically incorrect; it’s simply incorrect. It is also intentionally hyperbolic in the service of a campaign to incite and engage rage — the brimstone of a demagogue seeking to liberate populist anger to fuel his own lust for power.
This approach is plainly more rewarding for a certain kind of person. Trump’s inflammatory language goes straight to the gut (Jeb Bush owns the heart) of resentment that so many feel and that for too long has been neglected or dismissed by Washington. But it is wrong because, obviously, one is to infer from Trump’s remarks that animus toward Mexicans and other Latinos is justified for reasons that are largely untrue.
Trump reserves special venom for women, examples of which are too numerous to list. Most familiar is his recent assault on Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump made good on his threat to ditch last Thursday’s debate if Kelly, whom he charged with treating him unfairly in an earlier debate, were a moderator.
She was; he bailed.
With his usual gentlemanly flair, Trump referred to Kelly as a “bimbo.” No, wait, he didn’t say that. He said he would not call her a bimbo but only “because that would not be politically correct.”
Wrong again, Donnie. Let’s parse this, shall we? Would it be politically incorrect to call a top-ranked female anchor (with a law degree) currently on the cover of Vanity Fair a bimbo? Or would it be rude, ludicrous, wrong and pathetic? Nothing about this is hard.
Ironically, the “unfairness” that got Trump so bunched up was Kelly’s apt question about whether, given his many derogatory remarks about women, he has the temperament to be president. It would appear that Kelly’s aim was true and Trump responded in consistent form. Among other boy-bathroom remarks, he implied that she might have been on her period. Charming.
Further, it would seem, Kelly rather precisely made her case.
As this sordid world turns, Trump once again succeeded in liberating the dirty little ids of his Twitter feed’s tiniest minds. Armed with their biggest, manliest tweets, Trumpulists wasted no time hammering Kelly with a urinal wall’s worth of female-specific, often-sexual insults. A Vocativ analysis of a day’s tweets included the following word counts: “bitch” (423), “bimbo” (404), “blonde” (128), “cheap” (66) and others too crude for print.
These wits probably thought they were being politically incorrect by saying exactly what was on their wee minds, but they merely revealed their, shall we say, limitations. Most women know what’s up when men behave this way toward a woman:
Not with a 10-foot pole, honey.
And that goes for the Donnie boy, too.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.