Category Archives: Political Correctness

Trump’s inauguration and the new American patriotism

Despite the bold claims and fancy soundbites woven into Donald Trump’s inaugural speech earlier this evening, I thoroughly enjoyed most of what he said. I thought that his message, delivered with conviction and characteristic bite, was refreshingly patriotic. The beauty of Trump’s discourse is that it is precisely not what we would ordinarily expect from a senior statesman: politically incorrect, blunt and wildly ambitious.

I was struck, as I always am by these occasions, by the tendency of those on the conservative Right (or at least those pretending, as I suspect Trump could be) to rely heavily on patriotic sentiment in political discourse. Yes, the ceremony symbolises a transition of power and a new chapter for a republic, but there is always something spectacular about effused, Right-wing patriotism.Today’s inauguration certainly had a distinctly patriotic feel to it. The pomp traditionally provided by celebrity performances was ditched and religious propensity played its typically central role.

Trump said poignantly during his speech that “when you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” Perhaps this kind of rhetoric is a tactic that the Right finds useful when it comes to setting a narrative.  I have for a long time considered ‘patriotic correctness’ to be a means of regulating acceptable thought, speech and behaviour by those on the Right, almost certainly a defence mechanism designed to counterweight the more liberal-espoused political correctness. But the best part by far of the new president’s inaugural message came towards the end, as he claimed boldly: “We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth and we will bring back our dreams.” In one powerful sentence, Trump encapsulated why he had been entrusted with office. It was a beautiful line, displaying his love of country and using it to directly address the concerns of ordinary American people.

It tends to be the case that the political Right, or conservatives, are more openly patriotic than those on the liberal Left. Research on this issue is both abundant and unsurprising. The Pew Research Center show that by and large, ‘steadfast conservatives’ are more likely to believe that the United States of America stands out above all other countries, with only a small minority of ‘solid liberals’ agreeing: http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/26/section-2-views-of-the-nation-the-constitution-and-government/.

A prominent Gallup poll, conducted between 2001 and 2016, showed that while patriotic feeling has stagnated, those most likely to be patriotic are republican voters: http://www.gallup.com/poll/193379/new-low-extremely-proud-americans.aspx, which serves to support the idea that a broad liberal-conservative divide, not by any means perfectly illustrated by voting tendencies, exists when it comes to attitudes towards American patriotism. By July 2016, 68% of Republican voters said that they were proud to be American, compared with just 45% of polled Democrats.

If the new leader of the free world’s combative inaugural address is anything to go by, the exploitation of republican-led patriotic sentiment in America (I strongly suspect Trump’s voter base included many democratic defectors, too) might well be what we end up calling Trumpism. It probably has something to do with how the president connects with people. Simple language, bold optimism and evocative expressions of personality are exotic traits in modern politics, used sparingly and often by those attempting to present themselves as ‘anti-establishment’.

The imagery, too, was remarkable as Trump stood up in front of a White House teaming with establishment figures. Four former presidents sat nervously behind him as he delivered a punchy pledge to unite Americans, reminding them of the privileges they are to enjoy over those he referred to as “outsiders”. This does not mean that the new American patriotism is rooted in xenophobic prejudice or snobbish majoritarian entitlement. Rather, it is a rallying cry against the very mechanisms that have left a large chunk of the population feeling marginalised. In many ways, Trump’s presidency marks the first true test for populism in the modern era. Since Marine Le Pen must wait until May to be elected and Brexit has not yet happened, the next few months will serve as a useful appetiser for those who have spent the last year or so riding populist waves.

 

 


Parliament’s debate over Donald Trump’s UK ban shows the PC brigade are winning

American Apprentice aside, I’ve never been a particularly passionate supporter of Donald Trump. His inclusion in this year’s race to American presidency was a shock initially, his rising popularity and success even more so. I suspect he’ll make the Republican camp’s final candidate, but whether he reaches office this year is, for the moment, unclear.

Trump has exploited fear in his presidential campaign quite unlike any politician I’ve witnessed. Incessant scaremongering, emotionally-charged policy making and derogatory remarks about Muslims or Mexicans have, despite the outrage promoted, widened American political debate fiercely, and his almost comical (I should think many still do not take the man entirely seriously) march to the White House has been strengthened as a result.

But policy and opinion is not the point. Western politics has been disenfranchising for many in the twenty-first century, which explains the rapid insurgence of far-right views and groups across both sides of the Atlantic. Trump is doing what he needs to do in order to garner mass support: exploiting public concern, and playing up the idea that American citizens are endangered by current policies. Statements concerning counter-extremism measures, including a scathing critique of British police and demography are evidence of this.

But when a surprisingly popular petition was slapped onto the UK parliament’s website demanding his inability to enter Britain, I thought many (currently at 571,000 signatures) had completely overreacted. Dismayed as I was, I was certain that MPs would not take such an outlandish request seriously, and remained faithful that the petition to ban Mr Trump from the UK would not be debated or considered in any substantive political context.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, a date was set for the 18th January 2016, for a discussion to take place in the House of Commons over whether or not Donald Trump, president or not, should be banned from entering Britain. Oddly enough, I’m looking forward to the debate, as I am still unsure of how any MP, of any political persuasion, will be able to justify the banishment of an American citizen or politician on the premise of a few, undesirable opinions.

No such debate has been held over the legitimacy of a jihadist fighter’s right to return to Britain, but Donald Trump’s entry is called into question over some pretty questionable comments during his campaign. The whole thing reeks of the left’s hypocrisy over free speech. They like freedom of thought and speech when it coincides with their agenda, but not when it directly contravenes it.

The very confirmation of the debate sounds to me like Britain’s political correctness brigade have won. With this, another nail is hammered into the coffin of free speech in the United Kingdom, a country which, incidentally, helped pioneer the concept of the freedom to speak one’s own mind, without hindrance or punishment.

It seems to me that the very tolerance of the left of British politics has crumbled to such a dangerous extent that those who air views which others do not like are automatically classified as dangerous and must be ostracised and marginalised wherever possible. Such treatment of Donald Trump in this case (and I should point out that I do not agree with many of Mr Trump’s views) is wholly untenable.

I sincerely hope that my country’s politicians (who themselves have, at times, made some pretty scandalous and controversial comments on a wide variety of issues) see through the latest in a long line of attempts to destroy freedom of speech forever, and to ensure that the flag of political correctness is raised triumphantly over its demise.