The two most dramatic political events of last week involving the Republican Party – Donald Trump’s election victories in the Super Tuesday Republican primaries, and GOP Senators restating their refusal to even consider President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court – dramatically illuminate what a certain fashionable, ugly phrase really means and who it most often applies to.
The phrase I’m referring to is “political correctness run amok.” For more than two decades, those words have been hurled at acts or policies or even just suggestions deemed “too concerned” with making a place in society for this or that outsider group.
What it means
My definition of the phrase is this: “We’re being too kind to the (fill in the blank). Let’s keep on making them feel as if they don’t belong.”
The Republican Party is the true practitioner of political correctness. The wreck the GOP has become since Trump entered its presidential primary contest is the result of the GOP’s own corrosive dynamic of political correctness run amok.
The rigid, reactionary and amoral code of conduct it established within its ranks and, as soon as President Obama took office, stoked within its base of supporters is a powerful example of the damage an unthinking, unquestioning obedience to a particular ideology can do.
Couldn’t stop Obama
That rigidity forced it into a political dynamic of all-out opposition to any Obama proposal. Yet, it still spectacularly failed to defeat such major Obama initiatives as Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal. Nor did it make good on now-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s notorious 2010 boast that the GOP would make Obama a one-term president. And it backed the disastrous Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority handed up in 2010.
Those three developments led directly to presidential primary rampage of Trump, who now threatens the GOP with “riots” at its convention if he’s blocked from the nomination.
One can justly be aghast and furious at Trump’s boundless amorality, and still realize it’s not much different from what’s been the GOP’s standard operating procedure during the Obama presidency.
That posture has now produced the GOP’s ridiculous claim that Obama should neglect his presidential responsibility because it fears that with Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, it’s lost control of the Supreme Court.
Of course, Obama ignored that desperate demand. He pointedly announcing his Supreme Court nominee the day after Trump’s “Super Tuesday” victories made his position atop the wreckage of the GOP that much stronger. The juxtaposition of those two events underscore that American society is well on its way this year to a moment of extraordinary political drama.
There are three comments that frame how it got here and what’s at stake.
The first comes from “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” the 2012 book by Thomas E. Mann and Norman Ornstein. They wrote: “The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier – ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the [nation’s] inherited social and economic regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”
The second was written last week by Rich Lowry, editor of the staunchly conservative National Review magazine: “Trump’s iteration of the Republican Party won’t have a bleeding heart;” he stated, “it will be out for blood. Far from eschewing negative campaigning, personal abuse – and threats – will be its calling card.
“It will care less about policy than attitude and shibboleths. Electorally, it will repel minorities and hope to run up the score with whites. It won’t have an open hand on immigration but will talk of mass deportation. It won’t care about human rights, and in fact will be happy to violate them – or threaten to – as the national interest and a desire for vengeance dictate.”
Finally, these are words President Obama spoke in declaring Judge Merrick Garland is his nominee for the Supreme Court:
“At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable – this is precisely the time when we should play it straight, and treat the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice with the seriousness and care it deserves. … [If not], then it will not only be an abdication of the Senate’s constitutional duty, it will indicate a process for nominating and confirming judges that is beyond repair.
“…The reputation of the Supreme Court will inevitably suffer. Faith in our justice system will inevitably suffer. Our democracy will ultimately suffer as well. I have fulfilled my constitutional duty. Now it’s time for the Senate to do theirs. Presidents do not stop working in the final year of their term. Neither should a senator.”
Lee A. Daniels is writing a book on the Obama years and the 2016 presidential election.