Has Trump Killed Political Correctness Forever?
By Ann Willets, PR Advisor, 26FIVE
Whether or not you agree with the idea of a Donald Trump presidency, I’m starting to wonder if he’s putting something in motion – maybe something with staying power – when it comes to how we want to hear from people with messages.
It’s obviously not new that people recognize the phenomenon of political correctness – the idea that you need to be careful to say certain things in certain ways, and not to say other things at all, lest you bring down upon you the wrath of the media and various groups who will catch you up in controversy.
And controversy, we all know, is the last thing you want. It brings negative attention. It brings scrutiny. It brings criticism. So however much you may shake your head and snicker at political correctness, you don’t dare stray too far from it because you don’t want the trouble you will invite if you do.
But is that really still true? Or have we just reached a point where that rubber band has stretched as far as it can, and Trump is the proof that it’s now snapping back the other way?
Much of what Trump says is politically incorrect. He insults women. He uses insensitive terms like “anchor baby” and, when told by a reporter that he is insensitive, he doubles down on their use. He even goes on – ad nauseam – about how rich he is.
And the more he does it, the more his numbers rise. I think he could actually demean the pope, and he would still soar in the polls.
So what is this? Is rhetorical blunt force trauma the new political correctness? One indication that it may be is the sad attempts of his rivals to do emulate his brasher style – usually with embarrassing results.
But why is this working? I believe it is a reflection that enforced hypersensitivity is way out of line with the public’s real attitudes. Take the “anchor baby” thing, for example. That may be a somewhat insensitive term, but it’s a serious concern for many voters. For better or worse, Trump has a knack for saying what people are really thinking.
In a broader sense, I think Americans are tired of politicians, corporate executives and the media always saying the poll-tested, careful thing – notwithstanding the fact that, ultimately, they don’t accomplish much. Whatever his faults, Trump isn’t terrified about the prospect that someone might not like him. People find that refreshing because they believe it’s an indication of leadership. You may not like what Trump is saying, but you might just admire his ability to say it with conviction and not back pedal when he’s confronted on it.
So are we entering an era when political correctness is out and extreme authenticity is in? Maybe, although it remains to be seen whether Trump can sustain the momentum and build it into a winning strategy. While he may be soaring now, polls are not primary votes or convention delegates.
My guess is this: Authenticity is real, and it’s something people want. But what they really long for in a candidate is the perception of leadership. Trump may not become president, but I do think his challenge to the status quo has hit a nerve.