As an avid student of history, the French Revolution was one of the most fascinating historical events. In a short 10 year period, the French people revolted and overthrew centuries of monarchy, only to fall victim to the liberal Jacobin Reign of Terror, eventually leading to the conservative Thermodorian Reaction and back to an authoritarian leader in Napoleon. This was the perfect example of Hegel’s Dialectic in play, showing how progress is rarely linear but instead advances via dramatic swings and subsequent backlashes between two opposing forces.
Flash forward to 2017, the French Revolution serves as a good parable for what has happened in the US. In a short 10 year period, we overcame centuries of racism to elect the first African American president in Barack Obama, only to follow that up by electing a president with authoritarian tendencies in Donald Trump.
So for both the French Revolution and the US, what the hell happened in between?
In the case of the French Revolution, the Jacobin Reign of Terror was the bridge between the revolution and Napoleon. The Reign of Terror was symbolized by the use of the guillotine, which was used to publicly execute “enemies of the republic” in order to preserve the liberal ideals of the revolution. In an ironic twist, the Jacobin leader Maximillian Robespierre eventually fell victim to the guillotine himself. The backlash from this chaos was swift and resulted in an authoritarian figure in Napoleon taking power.
In the case of the US, while there was clearly no Reign of Terror under President Obama, I would argue that there was a Reign of Political Correctness. The emergence of social media outrage and social media shaming acted as the 21st century version of the guillotine. Anyone who voiced a contrarian opinion was labeled as a “bigot or racist” and destroyed in the court of public opinion. In an ironic twist, steadfast liberals who expressed reasonable concerns about terrorism were labeled “Islamaphobes” by other liberals via social media outrage. The backlash from this lack of dialogue was swift and resulted in an authoritarian figure in Donald Trump getting elected President.
Net, the Reign of Political Correctness needs to come to an end. The social media outrage guillotine doesn’t work when you are not in power, as evidenced by the confirmations of Betsy Devos and Scott Pruitt. In the words of Bill Maher, “As liberals were getting outraged over fat shaming, the tea partiers were busy taking over the local school boards”. Ultimately, Democrats should focus less on political correctness and focus more on having real dialogue, expanding the tent, and winning elections.