“Driving powerful sentiments underground is not the same as expunging them,” said William A. Galston, a Brookings Institution scholar who advised President Bill Clinton. “What we’re learning from Trump is that a lot of people have been biting their lips, but not changing their minds.”
One thing is clear: Trump is channeling a very mainstream frustration.
In an October poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University, 68 percent agreed with the proposition that “a big problem this country has is being politically correct.”
It was a sentiment felt strongly across the political spectrum, by 62 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans. Among whites, 72 percent said they felt that way, but so did 61 percent of nonwhites.
“People feel tremendous cultural condescension directed at them,” and that their values are being “smirked at, laughed at” by the political and media elite, said GOP strategist Steve Schmidt.
“ ‘Political correctness’ are the two words that best respond to everything that a conservative feels put upon,” added pollster Frank Luntz, who has advised Republicans. The label is, he said, a validation that what many on the right see as legitimate policy and cultural differences are not the same as racism, sexism or heartlessness.
“Allegations of racism and sexism have turned into powerful silencing devices,” Galston agreed. “You can be opposed to affirmative action without being a racist.”
The PC backlash does not necessarily mean that people support the kinds of things that Trump is saying, or the way he says them.
When the Fairleigh Dickinson pollsters added his name to the same question — prefacing it with “Donald Trump said recently . . . ” — the numbers dropped sharply. Only 53 percent said they agree that political correctness is a major problem