Last Friday, a candidate for the presidency of the United States said something that was not politically correct. That candidate's opponents loudly demanded an apology, claiming those remarks were offensive. The chairman of the opposing party released a statement saying the remarks showed "contempt for ordinary people." The highest-ranking elected official from that chairman's same party tweeted that this candidate "should be ashamed" of the remarks.
The candidate was Hillary Clinton, who glibly said that half of Donald Trump's supporters fall into a "basket of deplorables - The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic." She eventually walked back those remarks, admitting that it was inappropriate to generalize so many of Trump's supporters in this way. Nonetheless, she reiterated that Trump had built his campaign "largely on prejudice and paranoia."
Amidst such a crazy campaign, this controversy is almost refreshingly familiar. One candidate says something hyperbolic, inelegant, or ill-advised and the opposing side responds with outrage. Ultimately, someone issues an apology and we all move on. This all has echoes of President Barack Obama's "guns and religion" gaffe, or Mitt Romney's claim that "47 percent" of Americans were dependent on the government.
The issue is that Donald Trump makes these kinds of remarks on an almost weekly basis. He began his campaign with a racist rant against Mexican immigrants. He's insulted women, Gold Star families, people of color, and the disabled. One of his signature policy proposals is to ban an entire religion from entering the United States. He's written off Vladimir Putin's murdering of journalists and has developed a cozy relationship with white supremacists. Trump adopts a blanket excuse for why we should not care about these statements: he doesn't "have time to be politically correct." He's argued that "political correctness is killing us," and he therefore refuses to express remorse for any of the outrageous things he has said.
Somehow, the very same Republican Party officials who lashed out in outrage at Hillary Clinton's "deplorables" remark were not offended by their candidate's repeated displays of prejudice against large swaths of the American public. I agree that Hillary Clinton should have expressed regret for her remarks, but it is patently hypocritical for the Republican Party and its leaders not to hold their nominee to that same standard.
Amanda Taub wrote earlier this year that "'politically correct' is a term we use to dismiss ideas that make us uncomfortable." This controversy has proven that to be true. Trump and his supporters are uncomfortable hearing that they hold racist views, and excuse such criticisms as rampant political correctness. Unsurprisingly, they do not feel the same way about hyperbolic and mean-spirited statements thrown in their direction.
The reality is that "political correctness" is a term invented by the privileged to justify insults against less privileged individuals. By speaking out against the "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic" elements of Trump's campaign, Clinton used inelegant and undiplomatic language in defense of several under-privileged groups. Therefore, her remarks cannot be excused by political correctness. Unfortunately, those on the receiving end of Clinton's remarks will continue to enjoy the benefits of their privilege for this reason.
While Clinton may have misrepresented the degree of Trump's racist support, it is there nonetheless for all to see. If there was ever an issue in this election worthy of employing inelegant language to appropriately confront the threat, the bigotry Trump has unleashed is it. I can only hope that after November 8, serious Republican leaders recognize their partisan-driven hypocrisy and begin again the work of reclaiming their party from the "deplorables."