Sunday column: On TN political correctness

According to some conservative commentary, political correctness has run rampant in a couple of enclaves within the Tennessee governmental bureaucracy recently, namely an arm of the state Supreme Court and a branch of the University of Tennessee.

Actually, UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Administrative Office of the Courts blundered into foolishly offending the real political correctness that prevails today in Tennessee politics. Let’s call it Tennessee Conservative Political Correctness, or CPC.

In case you’ve missed the recent raging:

n UT’s Diversity office posted on its website a call for UT personnel to use gender-neutral pronouns — “ze,” for example, instead of “he” or “she” — to promote inclusiveness and avoid offending those who have chosen a sexual identity inconsistent with birth certificates and such. No less a conservative authority than Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey declared this “the clearest example of political correctness run amok that I have seen in quite some time.”

n Someone within the Administrative Office of the Courts decided that forms filed in all divorce cases involving custody of children should list the parties as “parent 1” and “parent 2” rather than “mother” and “father.” Fox News promptly quoted Kendra Armstrong, a Memphis lawyer, as declaring the move “political correctness gone absolutely amok,” with members of the state Legislature’s Republican supermajority echoing the sentiment. The Administrative Office of the Courts, once its political faux pas was pointed out, backpedaled immediately.

The UT administration, also very aware of Conservative Political Correctness from past encounters on matters such as Sex Week, is trying its darnedest to distance itself from the “ze” promotional effort, as the Family Action Council, the state’s leading Christian conservative organization, called on members to contact their legislators and UT President Joe DiPietro demanding the “gender-neutral policy” be “rescinded.”

Why, it’s not a policy at all, insisted a UT spokeswoman, and was never-ever approved by the UT administration. It was just a “newsletter” thing that got published on the Internet as part of the annoying concept of academic freedom. But supermajority senators have scheduled an October hearing on what Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson sees as evidence of a “lack of control” over campus doings that the Legislature may need to politically correct.

Ergo, further backpedaling may be necessary by UT administrators to head off supermajority retaliation. One idea floated is a bill declaring that gender-specific pronouns are the official policy of Tennessee and no use of gender-neutral terms will be tolerated. Under today’s Tennessee CPC, the political majority is ever vigilant for transgressions and eager for an opportunity to stamp them out.

Tennessee CPC has its curiosities. For example, a couple of years ago undercover videos targeting livestock abuse prompted the supermajority to retaliate with a so-called “ag gag” bill designed to stop such things (vetoed by Gov. Bill Haslam, whose CPC credentials are occasionally suspect). This summer, undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood abuse of fetal tissue have been widely hailed, leading to legislative “fact-finding” hearings, calls for a TBI investigation and for the governor to immediately order enactment of “emergency rules.” The hesitant Haslam has so far demurred. The supermajority thus may act on its own in the 2016 legislative session.

Undercover videos of animal abuse are bad under CPC standards because support of the agricultural industry is politically correct. Undercover videos of Planned Parenthood are good, because it is politically incorrect.

Professing dislike of President Barack Obama and Obamacare is a major part of mainstream Conservative Political Correctness and that, as much as anything, doomed Haslam’s Insure Tennessee plan. Liberalization of laws for carrying guns is good under CPC; liberalization of most anything else is a bad thing.

Tennessee CPC holds that the political correctness associated with known liberals, who mostly live elsewhere, is a very, very bad thing that cannot be allowed to run amok in our state. The very idea is enough to, well, have Conservative Political Correctness adherents running amok.