Perhaps one of the greatest gifts given to then-candidate Donald Trump was provided in the form of political correctness. Hillary Clinton used it in every possible way concerning conservatism. As Trump rocked his rallies with a number of outrageous gags, Clinton pretended that this was a negative and wagged her finger at the “inappropriateness” of it all. Then the voters in the American heartland handed the election to Trump.
For starters, Democrats saw American views on political behavior as set in stone. Their belief in some form of consensus made them deaf to Trump’s message and his language. When Trump attacked the press some cheered it because they wanted to say it themselves. On a bevy of other issues, they were electrified because the Donald was stating what they believed for years. Instead, reporters would moan how Trump was trying to muzzle the press. Most Trump supporters felt alienated by how some tried to suppress their freedom of speech, and they had a point, ask any Conservative who has tried to speak on campuses. Not just right-wingers but traditionalists such as George Will.
Indeed, tribal politics was created by both ideologies, not just right-wingers. Even within the Democratic party zealots tried to stifle Joe Biden’s candidacy in the cradle on the grounds that he hugged and encouraged people too much. They have used these kind of inferences without thinking where it will lead. Trump gains strength every time Democrats fight in this fashion. Indeed, to many who cast a ballot for him, he was speaking truth to power when he confronted their foes on the stump.
Smugness is a dangerous approach and the “gotcha” tendencies of some progressives are unsettling. Many of their concerns are real, such as the use of racist language which has led to violence. But the overuse of political correctness does constitute a form of intimidation and is meant to. Trump feeds on this. Also, there is a juvenile side to the left that sounds more like ideological baby talk than serious discourse. Beto O’Rourke leads the way and Pete Buttigieg is not far behind in advancing such rhetoric. And it is not youth, they both have unformed views on how to govern. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, is actually trying to develop some issues that voters are about. Biden, whose record is clear, has managed to barrel ahead largely because of the vaccuousness of his opponents.
Trump is a rarity in American politics, in that he is the crowd pleaser that managed to win. Huey Long, whose antics were legendary, could not reach the White House. But Long when cornered did not flinch, any more than Trump. He often promised “to behave even worse” when his opponent scolded him for bad manners. George Wallace chided his hecklers and met reporters by saying “what do you want to distort today.” Ultimately Long was prevented by an assassin from running for president while Wallace was shop pursuing that office.
If Trump seems unusual to many voters it’s that you either love him or hate him. And he does not trim his remarks to please his enemies. And it is precisely those enemies that make Trump’s “base” love him.