Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
Remember the time a presidential candidate suggested that Gandhi used to run “a gas station down in St. Louis.” No it wasn’t Trump. That was Hillary Clinton. Had Trump said it, we would still be hearing about it. But since Hillary Clinton was responsible for it, it went down the memory hole.
Along with her more recent “Colored People Time” gag.
And who can forget the time that Trump said, "You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” But that wasn’t Trump. It was actually Vice President Joe Biden.
But still it was indisputably offensive when Trump told the Asian Chamber of Commerce, "I don't think you're smarter than anybody else, but you've convinced a lot of us you are.”
Then he followed that up by joking, "One problem that I've had today is keeping my Wongs straight."
You would have to be ridiculously politically incorrect or an outright buffoon to say something like that to the Asian Chamber of Commerce. And this is exactly why Trump is… but wait, those lines actually came from Democratic Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.
Reid recently popped up to call Trump’s comments racist. And he ought to know. Harry Reid believed that Obama was electable because he was “light-skinned” with ”no Negro dialect”.
Memories are short when it comes to Democratic racial and ethnic stereotypes. Not to mention slurs.
Trump is certainly not the only prominent politician who says wildly politically incorrect things. Democrats do it all the time. And they do it in more pointed ways.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez is running for the Senate. Sanchez is a racist who accused the “Vietnamese” of “trying to take this seat” when running against a Vietnamese-American candidate. Last year she managed to ridicule both Hindus and Native Americans with one slur.
There was the time that Bill Clinton suggested that, Obama “would have been getting us coffee”. Or when Biden described his future boss as the, “first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and nice-looking guy.” Despite two terms in which Republicans were accused of racially stereotyping Obama with secret dog whistles, nothing any major Republican figure said was anywhere as bad as what Obama’s Democratic predecessor and his own Senate ally had said about him.
Democrats actually say politically incorrect things all the time. Trump has become famous because he’s one of the few Republicans who talks like a Democrat and says the sort of things that Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid have no problem saying in private and even in public speeches.
A Republican who told the Asian Chamber of Commerce that he had trouble “keeping my Wongs straight” would have been forced out in disgrace by a combination of media pressure and Republican shame. And having standards of respectable civic discourse is not a bad thing. But standards that are applied unilaterally to one side are not standards, they’re weapons.
Political correctness is a weapon brought out to punish political opponents for statements that run the gamut from offensive to those whose offensiveness is entirely manufactured by the media’s political echo chamber, such as Romney’s comments about having binders of qualified female candidates. Challenging political correctness does more than challenge these standards. It challenges the dishonest ways in which they are applied for political purposes.
Any of the above comments would have disqualified a Republican, but barely rate mention for Democrats. The truth about Trump is that he hasn’t said anything that plenty of Democrats haven’t said.
Long before Trump’s call for a Muslim ban, President Carter responded to the Iran hostage crisis by banning Iranians from America. Harry Reid had also proposed eliminating birthright citizenship long before Trump did. Building a wall with Mexico? Hillary Clinton called for it back in the Senate. Before she was condemning “talking about building walls”, she was talking about building walls. And warning that, "A country that cannot control its borders is failing at one of its fundamental obligations”.
The media has made a game out of pretending that everything Trump says is shocking. When Trump poses with a taco bowl and posts, “I love Hispanics”, the media gets giddy with outrage. But when Hillary Clinton foolishly panders to black voters by claiming to carry around hot sauce in her purse or posts, “7 Things Hillary Clinton has in Common with Your Abuela”, there are shrugs.
All politicians have their cringeworthy pandering moments. But the media chooses which of them it plays up and which of them it plays down.
That’s why Trump is shocking only in contrast to a Republican field that had been trained to carefully avoid even the faintest suggestion of insensitive or politically incorrect remarks. And that training did no good whatsoever with a media establishment that insisted on manufacturing gaffes no matter what.
Trump is often just as unrestrained as Democrats are. He feels the same freedom to speak his mind that is enjoyed by Joe Biden or Bill Clinton. He pays as little attention to political correctness as Harry Reid.
And it’s time that we were honest about that.
Sensitivity is not a bad thing. But what we have is not sensitivity as a value, but as a weapon. When one side is free to be as offensive as it wishes to be with no consequences whatsoever, then eventually the other side will escalate to match it. When oversensitivity becomes used to enforce an agenda that limits basic personal freedoms then the reaction to that will run roughshod over any and all sensitivities.
Political correctness, like all forms of censorship, is about power. Not fairness, sensitivity or decency. Trump is taking the license to be politically incorrect back from Democrats. The ability to determine what may or may not be said is the essence of power in a system where discourse dictates elections.
If Democrats are truly outraged by Trump, they might want to try looking in a mirror.