The Debate Descends

Although we have yet to meet a committed supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, even hear in the heart of that big red splotch on the nation’s electoral map, we frequently run into a lot of his apologists. Trump’s candidacy requires a considerable amount of apologetics, and some strenuous effort at it, but the usual rationalization is that at least he’s saying what’s really on his mind and widening the parameters of public discourse by boldly defying the rules of political correctness. As much as we admire honesty and abhor the restraints on intellectual discourse, we find these arguments bunk.
To our suspicious ears Trump sounds as if he is saying what he really thinks is on the public’s mind, which might well be something entirely different than he said a few years ago when the public was of a different mind, and his brashly ad hominem rhetoric is not so much an affront to political correctness as it is  to logic and etiquette. The next president will likely inherit $20 trillion of national debt, another hundred or trillion in shortfalls on what has been promised the public ever since the last Roosevelt administration, rising murder rates and declining public education test scores and stagnant wages, but”tweets” of vainglorious boasts and sophomoric put-downs of the other candidates’ looks that will not lead the country to any promising solutions. Political correctness is a problem when it precludes acknowledgement of the uncomfortable facts that higher crime rates in poor black neighborhoods might have something to do with a higher level of interactions with the police there, or that the Muslim president the left suddenly is clamoring for might not be so willing as the current occupant of the White House to awash in the colors of the rainbow flag, or that all those global warming alarmists are flying around in private jets, but when a candidate considers it undignified to ridicule the appearance of another candidate that is mere politeness. Trump does seem to have proved that a politician can stake out an anti-illegal immigration stance so extreme that it discomfits even such hard-liners such as ourselves without committing political suicide, and we’ll begrudgingly give him that, but otherwise he just seems to be dragging the debate down to the level of those head-shaving pro-wrestling extravaganzas and foul-mouthed celebrity roasts he used to appear on back in his more dignified days.
We’ll also begrudgingly concede that Trump isn’t so much a cause as a consequence the decline in the level of public discourse, which has been going on for many decades and on both the right and left sides of political spectrum. Trump’s apologists include some very prominent right-wing radio talkers, as well as some people whose opinions we generally respect, so we’ll stipulate that conservatism has too been constrained by political correctness in congress and other parts of officialdom, and that it is good someone as sensible as rival candidate Dr. Ben Carson now feels free to say that he’d rather not have a Muslim president, a preference that at least 95 percent of the country probably shares, despite the appall of people who would love to have both same-sex marriage and Sharia, and even that Trump might have something do with it.
Still, we’d like to think this could have been achieved without Trump’s boisterous arrival. The left has been availing itself of an utter lack of standards at least since the time when Lenny Bruce was bravely fighting for the right cuss in public, and the right has been taking to the radio airwaves with a similar disdain for polite debate at least since the so-called Fairness Doctrine was rightly brought down by the great Ronald Reagan, and any politician who was willing to defy politically correct opinion in favor of popular opinion was always going to benefit, but we can’t see the benefit. Suddenly the arguments about the right national debt and murder rates and stagnant wages and declining test scores and national dignity have been reduced to to the level of internet commentators calling one one another “loosers,” the more sophomoric insult seems to win the day, and the pandering to this lowest common denominator is all the slavish. Worse yet, when it comes down a general election the even lower left always seems to win this game.
We note that Trump’s crusade on behalf of unfettered speech now involves threats of lawsuits and calls for the Federal Communications Commission to censor his critics, just as the left has employed such tactics, and we’ll be eager to hear from his apologists about that. They’ll probably say it’s an Alpha male employing the same bareknuckle tactics that are required against the left, but we can’t help noticing that nobody has ever won that game.

— Bud Norman