One of the most popular arguments you hear in favor of voting for Donald Trump this November is that he “tells it like it is.” Unlike many career politicians, the GOP candidate “speaks his mind.” According to his supporters, Trump will wage a steadfast campaign against “political correctness,” the effects of which have impeded government policies during recent years.
I have never been accused of being a fan of political correctness, and it seems most others agree: a poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that 68 percent of Americans see political correctness as a “big problem.”
Here’s the thing, though—it is not in the president’s job description to weigh in on the pop culture controversy of the day. The role of the president is to lead the nation, command the armed forces, represent the United States at international summits and carry out other executive branch duties, none of which involve petty feuds with celebrities.
Then again, discussing personal opinions—even on topics that don’t fall within his explicit constitutional responsibility—is very much a part of the president’s daily reality. That’s exactly what President Obama, a supposed captive to political correctness, did earlier this year in a commencement address at Rutgers University.
“If somebody’s got a bad or offensive idea, prove it wrong. Engage it, debate it, stand up for what you believe in,” Obama said. “Don’t be scared to take somebody on. Don’t feel like you’ve got to shut your ears because you’re too fragile and somebody might offend your sensibilities.”
This is the most effective method of usurping political correctness: levelheaded communication and respect. Aristotle said that a wise man can entertain a thought without accepting it—conversation with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs doesn’t make you a traitor.
In the midst of politicians who simply repeat talking points at the expense of saying something interesting or profound, it is not unreasonable to demand leaders who treat us with intelligence. Trump, however, has confused being politically incorrect with ditching all semblances of decorum and respect. His lack of manners may not matter on reality television, but it certainly matters in the White House.