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Winning an Election Does Not Entitle One to Upend Basic Values

Thursday, November 17, 2016 11:42
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This is by Larry Summers. Comments?:

Winning an election does not entitle one to upend basic values: I will never again use the term “political correctness.” Whatever rhetorical value the term may have once had is far more than offset by what has been unleashed in the name of resistance to it since the presidential election.

I have made no secret over the years of my conviction that the sensitivities of individuals or members of various group should not be permitted to chill free speech on college campuses. I have the scars to show for speaking out against overdoing the idea of microaggression, the regulation of Halloween costumes and the prosecution of students for taking part in sombrero parties – all of which have struck me as “political correctness” run amok.

But the events of the last week are giving me pause about that term and its usage and the complex issues underlying it. It’s not that I now think speech codes are wise or that we should stamp out microaggressions wherever they are perceived. Rather, my reaction is to the way the President-elect has been heard during the campaign and the terrifying events his election has set off. …

Black students, gay students, Hispanic students, Muslim students, disabled students, female students – all of them now fear that the basic security and acceptance on which they relied is at risk. Help lines are flooded with calls. Those who seek to count hateful incidents report an upsurge. I cannot convince myself that that fear is irrational. …

In the face of all this, the President-elect and his staff … have allowed, without adequate response and rejection, the celebration of victory to metastasize into something dark and evil. It is surely wrong to hold the President-elect personally responsible for all the words and deeds of all who support him. Equally, the President-elect has a moral obligation to stand up for tolerance and against intolerance whatever its source.

The fight for academic freedom and for ideological diversity on college campuses should and will go on. But given what opposition to “political correctness” has licensed, it time to retire the term.

More importantly, democracy does not mean electrocracy. Winning an election does not entitle one to upend our basic values. The refusal to tolerate blatant racism, bigotry and misogyny are beyond compromise. The first obligation of anyone currently in a leadership position is not to find common ground with our new President-elect now that the ballots have been counted and the election is over. It is instead to once again make it possible for all who live in our country to feel safe.

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