Trump’s crusade against PC played a key role in his political rhetoric and resonated well among his supporters, yet his notion of PC differed greatly in meaning from earlier uses of the term and was used to denounce a much wider range of socio-political behaviors. Based on a systematic analysis of Trump’s use of this notion, I identified five main normative propositions organizing Trump’s anti-PC rhetoric. Viewed together, these propositions add up to a rehabilitation of White working-class culture but also outline an emerging late-modern version of the authenticity ethic, whose power extends far beyond the working class. This ethic (as manifested in Trump’s anti-PC rhetoric) transforms the role of morality and the sacred in political drama and in symbolic struggles over social worth. Rather than presenting his commitment to moral values, ideals, and allegedly-universal rules, Trump used anti-PC rhetoric to expose and criticize the symbolic self-interests of others who speak on behalf of these values, rules, and ideals to claim superiority (and thus ironically mimicked the sociological critique of symbolic violence to legitimize bigotry). Yet, the sacred is not completely banished from political drama: authenticity as a principle of worth guiding moral evaluation and argumentation is revealed as a sacred in denial. The case of Trump’s anti-PC rhetoric thus allows theorizing the implications of the authenticity ethic for the dynamics of social struggles over recognized worth and for the role of ideals in the presentation of self in politics and beyond.
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- Donald Trump
- Political correctness
- Sociology of morality
- The sacred
- Virtue signaling