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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Tactically, Trump taps into our sentimental correctness

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Washington. Credit: AP

The phrase political correctness, as typically used, means an earnest or even squeamish adherence to liberal or left-wing sensibilities.

In that vein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quoted this week on Fox News saying the American university is “transforming into an echo chamber of political correctness and homogeneous thought, a shelter for fragile egos.”

Last year, in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre, then-candidate Donald Trump declared in defense of his proposed Muslim entry ban: “I refuse to be politically correct.”

But Trump, who has been losing lately on the legislative front, and feels the heat of law-enforcement probes, uses a tactic best described as cultural or sentimental correctness to provoke conversations on topics of his choosing.

Essentially, he has sparked media buzz by tapping into the riled sensitivities of his base — a generation's more traditional view of what is correct.

In the recent NFL furor, Trump called on team owners to fire any “son of a bitch” caught down on one knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

His spokeswoman called it “always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, our national anthem, and the men and women who fought and died to defend them.”

The right to protest should instead be exercised correctly, goes the argument. Even some commentators who thought Trump’s remarks were divisive question whether the pregame flag ceremony is the correct time or place for protest.

From the same side, you’ll hear that removing confederate statues or statues of slaveholders is not the correct way to move past racism.

Nor is affirmative action, say Trump’s allies.

Enforcing diversity rules “is a way of justifying discrimination — hiring people based on their race, and that’s a violation of federal law,” said Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

It sounded like a matter of cultural or sentimental correctness, too, when Trump played to the gallery: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag. If they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”

Flag-burning is not a big trend around the nation and no such penalties are about to be imposed. Enforcing sentimental correctness can be difficult. But millions of Americans will be happy to hear patriotic sentiments expressed — especially those citizens who, say, want to burn Pittsburgh Steelers jerseys because the team stayed absent from the field during the national anthem.

Feelings often conquer analysis in a political argument — and correctness, political or otherwise, becomes a matter of how you feel. Factual correctness, of course, becomes a different discussion.But you can count on Trump to keep railing against what he designates as sentimentally incorrect.

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