Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Limits of Political Correctness

"Political correctness" is one of those terms we bandy around a lot, but the term probably means different things to different people. Right-wingers sometimes accuse us lefties of it when we try to be respectful of minority groups by calling them what they call themselves. To wit, we would probably use "Native Americans" instead of "Indians."

While watching Real Time with Bill Maher a week or two ago, Bill was using his usual "tea-bagger" term to describe those people who describe themselves as part of the "Tea Party" movement. A right-wing guest chastised Bill for using the "tea-bagger" term, saying he preferred to call them what they wanted to call themselves. I was angry that Bill did not use the moment to accuse his guest of "political correctness," since that was the behavior he was advocating. Nevertheless, Bill continues to use the "tea-bagger" term. My feeling is that since the "tea-baggers" are not a minority group, I'll call them what I please.

Political correctness in language is one thing, but it is working against us in politics. Few Republicans would describe themselves as moderate or liberal today. The far right has forced these folks to become either independents or moderate Democrats. Republicans tout the "conservative" label and criticize more moderate party members such as Charlie Crist in Florida, and ultimately force them from the party. My own Democratic Party is starting to do the same thing by forcing out more moderate Democrats who don't agree to push liberal issues.

I am probably to the left of most Democratic politicians, however, I am not an ideologue. I don't like ideologues, whether they are libertarian, conservative, liberal, or progressives like me. Above all, I am a pragmatist. I believe if something works and works well, their is little reason to change it, even if what works well is a Republican idea. I am alarmed at the liberals in the party who are going after Blanche Lincoln and others. What happens when we purge moderates from our party, as the Republicans have done? I think we'll force a third moderate party to be formed, which will ultimately attract most Americans. I prefer the Democrats remain the "big tent" party that some Republicans had once wanted for their party. Only then will our party be successful. Political correctness will result in failure.

Political correctness, when applied to "justice" issues, has its place. Their is nothing wrong with using the African American term to describe black Americans. I prefer that people call me gay instead of homosexual. That is about justice for minority groups. But imposing a litmus test on political issues by either party goes too far and will mean a further polarizing of our great nation. It's a shame.