Decades after the left and Democrats went through wrenching debates about language and respect, the Republican Party is struggling to rein in its sharper tongues.
In 2004, William S. Lind of the Free Congress Foundation wrote a short intellectual history of the term "politically correct" that well encapsulates the long-standing conservative defense of speech -- and ideas -- that run contrary to those espoused by the new social movements that have been transforming America since the 1960s.
"[W]hat happens today to Americans who suggest that there are differences among ethnic groups, or that the traditional social roles of men and women reflect their different natures, or that homosexuality is morally wrong?" he asked. "If they are public figures, they must grovel in the dirt in endless, canting apologies...What was their crime? Contradicting America's new state ideology of 'Political Correctness.'"
Or as Geoffrey Hughes put it in his 2009 book Political Correctness: A History of Semantics and Culture, "Political correctness inculcates a sense of obligation or conformity in areas which should be (or are) matters of choice."
But now the decades-long conservative opposition to political correctness is finally breaking down. In the wake of Mitt Romney's solid defeat by Barack Obama, the Republican Party has been forced into a series of wrenching internal debates about how to appeal to a wider array of voters, especially the women and minorities who elevated the president to a second term. It's an effort being led by some of the party's own most prominent minority voices, as well as some of its more urbane strategists, with the goal of reining in the most offensive GOP speakers and squashing their provoking uses of language.