Wednesday, January 6, 2016

In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions

Kevin Drum asks:

Are Liberals Responsible for the Rise of Donald Trump?

And in classic K-Drum style, answers his own question with "well, let me build a terrible case why that could be right but isn't."

This is hardly a new critique. Conservatives have been complaining about "being silenced" forever. The only difference between Trump and the rest of the GOP field is that Trump's complaints are a little earthier than Rubio's or Bush's. 
Still, even if I think Nichols is overstating things, it's not as if he doesn't have a point. Even those of us on the left feel the wrath of the leftier-than-thou brigade from time to time. I don't generally have a hard time avoiding objectionable language myself because (a) I'm liberal, (b) I'm good with words, and (c) I write rather than talk, which gives me time to get my act together. But even at that, sometimes I cross an invisible line and get trounced for it. 
But for someone without my advantages, I can easily see how it might feel almost impossible to express an unpopular opinion without tying yourself in knots. And let's be honest: we liberals do tend to yell racism a little more often than we should. And we do tend to suggest that anyone who like guns or Jesus is a rube. And the whole "privilege" thing sure does get tiresome sometimes. And we do get a little pedantic in our insistence that no conversation about anything is complete unless it specifically acknowledges the special problems of marginalized groups. It can be pretty suffocating at times. 
For the most part, I don't mind this stuff—and conservatives do themselves no favors by harping on supposed PC idiocy like the "war on Christmas." But that's largely because I can navigate it reasonably well and I mostly agree with the aims of the PC police anyway. People who can't obviously feel a lot more constrained. So while I don't really buy Nichols' argument—conservatives built the monster named Trump, not liberals—I do think he has a germ of a point. Donald Trump is basically telling ordinary people that ordinary language is OK, and since that's the only language they know, it means they feel like they can finally talk again.

In the classic words of Tonto, "What do you mean 'we', white man?"

Seriously, it's like terrible liberals exist solely to give cover to right-wing jagoffs like, well, Tom Nichols, and while I agreed with Nichols earlier today, he's wrong here, and this would be the point where Drum should say "Nichols is wrong and the baggage he's trying to project on liberals is complete straw man nonsense, since nobody is actually trying to silence white men."

But Drum is pretty bad at this, so he knowingly picks up Nichols's point and kicks the straw football through a new set of goalposts which he just moved.

Amazing stuff here when you argument is "Trump is awful and terrible, but he has a point about you people."

Oh, and should you think Drum is somehow alone in this, Washington Post writers Karen Tumulty and Jenna Johnson cover the same ground this week.

In the 2016 Republican presidential primary, “political correctness” has become the all-purpose enemy. The candidates have suggested it is the explanation for seemingly every threat that confronts the country — terrorism, immigration, an economic recovery that is leaving many behind, to name just a few. 
Others argue that growing antipathy to the notion of political correctness has become an all-purpose excuse for the inexcusable. They say it has emboldened too many to express racism, sexism and intolerance, which endure even as the country grows more diverse. 
“Driving powerful sentiments underground is not the same as expunging them,” said William A. Galston, a Brookings Institution scholar who was an adviser to former president Bill Clinton. “What we’re learning from Trump is that a lot of people have been biting their lips, but not changing their minds.”

The point of this is to again turn Trump into something of a mainstream figure, just in case he wins the nomination.

Let's keep that in mind.

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