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Trump and PC Leaders: Peas in a Pod

Donald Trump and the new campus political correctness movement have a lot in common. Both want to create safe spaces where people fear no challenge from the exercise of others’ liberties. In the case of the campus PC movement, their disdain for freedom is obvious. They want to stop others from saying things that may offend them or undermine their world view. But the modern university grows out the enlightenment, which of course gave much offense to aristocrats, priests, and various other purveyors of received wisdom. Illiberal political correctness is thus at war with the classical liberal ideas on which our universities are founded.

Donald Trump also wants to create safe spaces for people who do not want to be challenged by the liberty of others. This self-proclaimed master of the art of the deal is no friend of making markets more open.  He opposes free trade agreements that would let our citizens and those of other nations make more mutually beneficial deals. He also promises literally to build a fence around America. To be sure, there is a national security threat to the United States from radical Islamic terrorism. But Trump’s proposals to ban Muslim immigration is at once excessive and ineffective. Why couldn’t jihadis simply pretend to be Middle Eastern Christians? Trump’s proposal is better understood as an attempt to insulate America from religious ideas that many disdain. His illiberal program is at war with America’s freedom.

The safe spaces offered by Trump and the PC movement lure people inside for similar reasons. University students are at vulnerable time in their lives. Most are away from home for the first time and recognize that in a few years they may actually have to support themselves. At elite colleges, many minority students have been admitted with lower standardized tests scores and the mismatch with their peers may also be a source of angst. (As it would have been for me, had I been admitted and gone to Caltech!) At times like these, students do not want to add their troubles by being unsettled by ideas or slights, real or imagined.

Political polls tell us that Trump’s core constituency is also angst-ridden. It consists of lower-middle to middle class voters, mostly male, who have faced the challenge of technology and globalization in their work lives and feminism and other new cultural forces in their home lives. Many have adapted brilliantly, but others have not. And this latter group doesn’t want more competition from abroad or more disconcerting freedom at home. Hence the appeal of a strongman who says he can make America great again by which his supporters understand a restoration of their former way of life, even if their memories are playing a few tricks.

As Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor famously observed, some people do not like freedom and many more find it unsettling. Thus, spaces made safe from liberty will have an enduring, if delusive, allure.

Reader Discussion

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on December 12, 2015 at 03:29:57 am

I guess you and Trump prove Ann Coulter's point that a ban on Muslim travel doesn't go far enough. The only safe solution is to totally ban immigration altogether. It's also the same conclusion that Vox Day and Scott Adams reached independently.

Banning foreign nationals from immigrating to the U.S. may limit their freedom, but the duty of our government is to protect OUR freedoms, not theirs. So The Donald actually seems to understand the Constitution and our founding principles better than you. Maybe you should invite him to write columns for you?

If a free trade deal takes more than a page to write then it is not free trade. It is managed trade and The Donald has consistently said that our trade negotiators have repeatedly signed deals that are bad for the American people because our trade negotiators are incompetent and corrupt. He didn't say he'd end all this managed trade but would make better trade deals that were fair to the American people.

I didn't like how Ann Coulter accused our "elites" of using immigration to protect their cheap nannies and gardeners as it smacks of class warfare. But I now see by your criticism of middle and working class Americans that she was indeed correct. This is class warfare being pushed by political and cultural elites.

Thank you for your illuminating article. You've really helped solidify my opinions on these issues.

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boxty
on December 12, 2015 at 13:05:29 pm

John:

I think you err when you categorize all Trump voters as angst ridden victims of globalization. This is both unfair and misleading. For the record, I am NOT a TRUMPSTER.

While there may very well be an "angst component" associated with the motivations of the Trumpsters, it is a) not a sufficient critique of them unless one explains (explicates) the grounds for that angst. Is it simply economic, as you imply; is it simply "feminism" as you also imply or is it something more, i.e., a complete and utter disillusionment with the policy prescriptions and practices of both the ideological Left (now in the ascendancy) and their partners in ineptitude and political correctness, the Establishment GOP? b) Is not the incessant barrage of charges against Trump also an example of angst - the angst of the Left and Establishment GOP arising from a fear of *exposure* of their strategic, cultural and political isolation and ineptitude.

Moreover, to ascribe a real concern for the safety of the nation, both physically and culturally to simple angst is unduly dismissive of the many valid arguments made by the proponents of a more limited immigration policy. Recall, if you will that various Presidents from George Washington to Jimmy Carter in fact imposed severe limits upon immigration from selected countries. So let us not buy into the Left's and the Chamber of Commerce's arguments in support of cheap labor.
Additionally, I would add that the countless daily anecdotes of PC run amok, such as suspending 6 year olds for chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun, or suspending a middle school child because he and his friends played "cops and robbers" AT THE CHILD'S HOME!!! Perhaps, these Trumpsters are simply saying, "We have had enough of this rampant stupidity!!

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gabe
on December 13, 2015 at 03:08:19 am

John, reducing the rationally secure management of immigration to "safe zones" turns the maintenance of borders of the state to PC-hokum.

I do not think you can really mean to claim these are equivalent.

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Orson
on December 13, 2015 at 12:23:17 pm

This simplistic post is a disgrace to another otherwise worthy website.

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djf
on December 13, 2015 at 12:42:12 pm

Perhaps, the pea got stuck in the pod!!!! In such a case it becomes somewhat distasteful.

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gabe
on December 13, 2015 at 13:19:39 pm

Orson--I am not comparing rational immigration policies to protect our security (which I would support) to the PC movement. I am instead comparing Trump’s immigration policy, which is not rational, and his trade policy which has nothing to do with security, to the attempt to create safe spaces on campus. Both are attempts to appeal to the psychological, not physical insecurity, of their followers and both do so at an unjustified cost to liberty.

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John O. McGinnis
on December 13, 2015 at 20:10:28 pm

Am I to understand that we are obligated to secure the "liberty interests" of foreign nationals now? Just whose liberty is infringed if we were to halt immigration?

Let us ask a simpler question: Why do we want or need more foreign nationals? especially when we are clearly unable to discern whether they are at all interested in assimilating into our culture.

As for national borders, by definition they mark the outer boundaries of "SAFE SPACE" - if not, why have borders in the first place. Failure to enforce existing (and certainly a more restrictive regime of immigration) is actually a refusal, either for ideological or politico - demographic reasons, to provide the only *safe spaces" that matter - i.e., a secure border.
I think one can fairly assert that this type of safe space is rather different than the safe spaces suggested for schoolchildren (and the American people) by the Obamites - under your school desk.

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gabe
on December 13, 2015 at 20:53:23 pm

Gabe—Nothing in my post suggests that immigrants have “liberty interests" in a constitutional sense. But even our own citizens do have such interests in a policy sense in having certain immigrants come to this country—as employees, as students, and as family members. These have long been recognized in our immigration law. I completely agree with you that there are many countervailing interests as well and nothing I say suggests that our immigration policy should not take account of those interests or that national borders are not important. But Trump’s policies make no attempt to rationally balance interests, and instead, like other policies of his I mention, pander to psychological insecurities at the expense of liberty. That is the heart of my comparison with the PC movement. –John

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John O. McGinnis
on December 14, 2015 at 10:41:16 am

John:

Thanks for the reply and Fair Enough. As for liberty interests of employers and students, I still ask "Why." One must provide solid reasons for continued immigration in a time of economic malaise.
I am far more sympathetic to the "family member" issue.
And yes, THE TRUMPSTER'S approach is more of a sledgehammer than is required.
And yep, I got the "psychological" equivalency of your argument - no issue with that.

BTW: Getting any sleep with the little one. My young grandson is quite a chore but absotively wonderful and worth it. Have fun and most of all -ENJOY!!!

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gabe

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.