Thoughts and Musings: A Lesson From Last Tuesday
by Ben Gee '18
Regardless of what you think of her or her campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s defeat last week seems to be a rejection of destiny, somehow. She was the inevitable candidate. Her ambition for the White House knew no bounds; had Mephistopheles offered her the Presidency, she would have outbid Faust. She ran a juggernaut campaign that spent two hundred percent more than her rival, releasing a ceaseless barrage of unanswered attack ads across the country. The nation’s journalistic, educational, and cultural centers – the news media, academy, and Hollywood – gave her their uniform and unquestioning support. Every celebrity, political professional, and college campus stood fully behind her and against her opponent. In spite of all these profound advantages, Clinton’s massive operation faced a stunning defeat on Election Day. America’s political leviathan drowned in its own ocean.
To the progressive left, this electoral result feels very, very wrong. However, the left is ultimately responsible for the creation and general election triumph of our President-Elect. By suffocating political discourse with excessive political correctness, progressives helped a politically incorrect demagogue to flourish as an act of retaliation from everyday Americans. “The left won the culture war,” progressives often tell me, citing this claim to justify liberal policies without the necessity of debate. Because America’s establishment and elite institutions – the media, academia, and arts – heavily support progressive causes, many progressives hypocritically consider such high-class support proof that the American people must also be in agreement with progressive ideas.
Last month, the CNN liberal commentator Sally Kohn expressed with unerring confidence that the overwhelming support of celebrities - “cool kids” like Beyonce, Jay Z, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga – would convince “regular kids” – in other words, everyday Americans – to support Clinton as well. In this strange vision of the US as a middle-school playground, multi-millionaire “cool kids” set the political trends that us plebeian non-cool kids blindly emulate. What a sad, perversely ironic thing for a Bernie Sanders progressive to wish for – and moreover, this flawed vision fails to recognize the real voting priorities of working-class Americans. On November 8th, Americans rejected Kohn’s idea that the public ought to vote for the candidate with more celebrity endorsements, wall-street support, and media approval. In a democracy the voters have the power to deny the wishes of every elite, plutocrat, and oligarch, if they so wish; last week, the American people came out and did exactly that, denying big money and political establishment its chosen candidate. Kohn’s condescension is emblematic of the attitude adopted by Clinton and the Democratic Party throughout the election towards those who disagreed with their policies and ideas, an arrogance that contributed to their loss on Election Day.
The political correctness culture of the left has become a double-edged sword, with its adherents lashing out with “ism” labels towards those perceived as insensitive at one end, and retreating into intellectually pure “safe spaces” on the other. In today’s political environment, if someone disagrees with a progressive position then they are no longer merely incorrect - they are evil, stupid, ignorant, or bigoted, rendering them unworthy of reciprocal political exchange. This change in discourse represents an insidious, authoritarian prioritization of shaming over debate. The left’s logic is simple: if you oppose abortion, you must be a misogynist; if you support enforcing border laws, you must be bigoted against Hispanics; if you suggest the justice system functioned as intended in Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, you are a racist. Well, guess what? Not everyone agrees with the idea that disagreement entails moral bankruptcy in the dissenter – in a civilized society, those who disagree discuss their differences with candor and respect, rather than seeking to delegitimize the other. Many decent Americans who live in fear of making a mistake from political correctness, or have already been unjustifiably shamed before, voted against Clinton on Tuesday.
The morning after Clinton’s defeat, the prominent British liberal satirist Tom Walker (also known as “Jonathan Pie”) released a tirade on the US election that has now gone viral. Like many American progressives, he is furious that a “war-building, climate-change denying, healthcare-abolishing, tax-dodging… demagogue” was selected the United States President-Elect, but he places the blame for this stunning victory squarely on his own shoulders and those of his fellow progressives for abandoning the politics of discussion in favor of the politics of shaming and humiliation.
In Newtonian fashion, progressive acrimony has produced an equal and opposite reaction of anger on the right side of the political spectrum. The left must now take responsibility and amend in order to prevent Donald Trump’s unique brand of political incorrectness from becoming a staple of American politics. Trump’s success is in many ways the natural corollary of political correctness gone tyrannical – and power lies with the Left as to whether or not we will see his like again. Don’t suffocate political discourse – let it thrive. The choice is ours.