Want to divide people more quickly than Moses did the Red Sea? Walk into a party and bring up political correctness. People tend to say either that efforts not to offend people have been taken too far, or that they've not gone not far enough. At the fifth GOP debate on Tuesday night, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz contended that "political correctness is killing people." But if the candidate wanted to add anything of substance to the ongoing conversation, then that was absolutely the wrong way to go about it.
Cruz and several other candidates insinuated that a rise in "PC culture" has correlated with a spike in Islamic extremism, essentially saying that by taking pains to not offend Muslims, Americans fail to prevent terror attacks, such as the one in San Bernardino. "It's not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks," he said. "It is political correctness." Cruz later added, "Political correctness is killing people," reiterating in stronger words what other candidates had tiptoed around all evening. But Cruz isn't exactly rocking the boat by saying this —it's a popular Republican talking point.
On Tuesday, conservative site Hot Air published a piece arguing that the Department of Homeland Security refusing to use social media as a factor in visa applications (to avoid profiling) was a dangerous failure in protecting the country. And over at Fox News, a whistleblower contended that the DHS ignored warnings about the San Bernardino shootings that could have been better heeded if the Obama administration hadn't focused on looking into Islamic groups.
There are rumblings that PC culture has gone too far even among more liberal thinkers. They claim that what started as a useful way to avoid tone-deaf and sometimes aggressive offenses has largely become a device to shut off any kind of opinions we don't want to hear. It's an argument used by both sides of the political spectrum: "Do we really want to live in a world where we automatically shut down any echoes of thought outside of our personal silos? Of course not. Do we want to revert to white-washed lens of what is and is not appropriate? Of course not."
But what isn't useful is insinuating that honest attempts at not targeting people based on their culture, religion, or skin tone is leading to the deaths of Americans. Cruz's idea that assuming every Muslim is a terrorist would lead to fewer terrorist attacks is just as ridiculous as assuming that we must put all Christians under intense background checks to prevent another crusade.
That is the kind of absurd position that leads people to retreat to either extreme of a debate, and Cruz is likely all too aware that the current sensitivity surrounding the subject gives the public a false sense of assurance in his argument. But convincing people that "PC culture" is to blame for atrocities carves a path to fall back on archaic behavior that allows anyone to continue along unchallenged and with their privilege unchecked. That's the kind of thing the GOP would probably appreciate, but it's hopefully one that they won't buy from Cruz, or anyone else.