HOW TRUMP AFFECTED AMERICA’S P.C. DIALOGUE:
It’s not that Trump’s election increased anti-immigration sentiment, the authors say—it just made people already inclined toward restrictionism feel less of a need to conceal their preferences.
Regardless of whether Trump actually builds a wall or successfully gets his travel ban through the court system, it seems that his rhetoric has created a fundamental shift in the way Americans talk (or don’t talk) about immigration policy—and probably other sensitive issues, as well. That the president survived the Access Hollywood tape, the Megyn Kelly feud, and his remarks about the Khans (to give a few examples) might have also had an “emperor has no clothes” effect on certain social taboos.
In some ways, the “Trump effect” on P.C. has probably been positive. To the extent that critiques of the elite consensus on immigration and globalization and social liberalism had become off-limits, creating a stifling and anti-democratic environment where people were afraid to even express their concerns lest they be ostracized and condemned by their social betters, it is healthy that Trump’s election loosened limitations on acceptable discourse.
At the same time, civilization rests on a certain set of social norms, which are far more powerful than laws in shaping behavior. If everyone made all of their private opinions public—if dinner guests always told the host how they really felt about the food, if drivers always shared with police their opinions on being pulled over, if Supreme Court justices announced that their opinions were based as much on guesswork and intuition as the text of the Constitution—many of our institutions would work less well.
For 50 years we’ve been told that those norms are outdated and need to be ignored. Let it all hang out. If it feels good, do it! Now we’re supposed to worry about the erosion of Society as a restraint?