Candidates must stop blaming “political correctness,” start addressing issues

Janhavi Nemawarkar

Ted Cruz expressed absolute dismay that his Republican colleagues would even think to support drafting women in the military by attacking the idea with the one concept he knew would always be there.

“It’s yet one more sign of this politically correct world where we forget common sense.”

As it has become increasingly politically expedient to criticize political correctness, from both the left and the right, politicians overemphasize the impact of “PC culture” in ways that oversimplify complicated problems.

The vagueness of the term “political correctness” has kept the phrase perpetually salient to political discourse since it gained popularity in academia in the early 1990s. Its definition and purpose varies depending on who you ask, ranging from “common decency” and “not referring to groups with outdated stereotypes” to “stifling legitimate public discourse” and “creating a culture more concerned with superficial language rather than real dialogue about issues.”

Lately, political correctness has morphed in the public imagination into a fascist political juggernaut that, according to Ted Cruz, is literally “killing people.” A sense of indignation has fueled the sentiment among supporters of Trump and Cruz that political correctness replaces useful action with frivolous emotions. As if “wasting time” defining the problem in specific terms rather than needlessly cruel generalizations, and not failed policies, is the issue and not failed policies. When Cruz points to Obama’s refusal to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism” as a reason for his ineffective policy, he ignores the broad spectrum of extremist groups. Furthermore, it reinforces harmful stereotypes that leads to the simplified understandings of a complex religion. 

Even on the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton alluded to the political taboo when she defended Madeleine Albright’s now-infamous endorsement of her.

“Well good grief, we’re getting offended by everything these days,” she exclaimed, neatly side-stepping the underlying issue of possible sexism towards young female voters. By categorizing their critics as simply upset individuals subject to the evils of PC culture, politicians wrongly attribute the source of the problem to hurt feelings rather than fundamental systemic obstacles.

David Prindle, a UT government professor, said that both parties are responsible for attempting to set parameters for admissible dialogue in order to shape people’s politics.

“If you control how people speak, you can control how they think about things, and if you can control how they think about things, you can control who gets what in terms of politics,” Prindle said. “What we have now are the two teams, each trying to control the discourse so that their political preferences will prevail.”

The reduction of our political discourse to attacks on empty concepts is nothing new. If we want actual progress, candidates should focus less on politicking and more on substantive policies.

Nemawarkar is a Plan II freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @janhavin97.