The name of the game: conflation, false equivalency and political expediency


Barbara Goldberg Goldman

Gearing up for the 2024 election cycle, silly season on Capitol Hill is before us. Some say it has never left. But now, the dangers posed by far-right extremists and Donald Trump are too serious to ignore. No one would dispute the contention that politics is a blood sport.

The injuries can be unfair and long lasting, if not permanent. It’s not a matter of “woke” or “anti-woke,” “normal” or “crazy.” With each passing election cycle, the impact of the sport has become detrimental to the future of America’s democracy, hanging it in the balance by fragile threads.

The safety net should rest in the laps of those on both sides of the aisle. Each side must start acting like adults and give priority to America’s future over political ambition and game-playing. A disconnect is eroding the great 240-year-old social experiment called the United States of America. The folly of outright contentious disagreement for the sake of political dominion places at peril the foundation upon which our great nation was built. The media exacerbates the risky fate by providing oxygen to the cacophony of conflation, false equivalency and political expediency. Divided we fall.

The once alt-right fringe now has become a core piece of the Republican Party. Consider the many concessions Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made to become speaker of the House. Congress and onlookers endured an unprecedented and painful 15 floor votes to secure that position, making the title almost meaningless after giving away the House.

Despite insisting otherwise, McCarthy devoted the following week to taking vengeful action by removing two House Democrats from their select committee assignments and one from a standing committee. He maintained he was doing this because of antisemitic remarks by one and unbecoming behavior by the other two. McCarthy’s rancorous actions were nothing but punitive, pandering, partisan retribution and political expediency. During the last congressional session, two Republicans were removed from their committee assignments, one even being censured by a House majority, because they threatened violence and placed their Democratic colleagues’ safety in serious jeopardy.

But that’s not the only example of Republican irresponsibility. Republicans are threatening to provoke a manufactured debt ceiling crisis. They conflate paying for debts already incurred (which is what raising the debt ceiling means) with increases in spending — for which they are responsible and why the debt ceiling must now be raised. America always pays its bills. We are exceeding the debt ceiling because roughly 25% of the national debt was created during the four years of the Trump administration, mainly due to necessary coronavirus spending and an unnecessary tax giveaway for the wealthiest Americans. President Biden has added about 11% to the national debt. During the Trump years, Republicans increased the debt limit three times, yet suddenly they are willing to risk default on past debts for political expediency and engaging in partisan gymnastics.

Despite mass shootings occurring regularly in America, Republicans conflate reasonable gun safety measures — such as banning assault weapons and background checks — with “taking away our guns.” Republicans know they can’t win on the merits of this argument, so they attempt to redefine, perhaps mis-define, the debate, an example of the serious danger in weaponizing political expediency.

Americans are legitimately outraged by the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in its Dobbs decision. It robbed Americans of the 50-year fundamental constitutional right to reproductive freedom by treating women as chattel and deciding what women can and cannot do with their own bodies. A Florida nonprofit advisory group, on which the Florida governor’s secretary of education sits and appoints three other members, considered a proposal mandating students to detail their menstrual cycles to play school sports.

Following public outcry from individuals, groups, and organizations within and way beyond Florida’s borders, the committee voted down the proposal. But, in a less-discussed change to the requirements for Florida athletes, the new form asks students for their “sex assigned at birth.” The previous version asked only for “sex.” This change is shameless. The false equivalency of banning transgender women from participating in school sports, a proposal the Florida governor supports, with reproductive freedom of choice makes no sense. Just ask the millions of women who voted Democratic in the last midterm election.

History has a way of repeating itself…unless of course, we learn from our mistakes. Critical Race Theory (CRT) was weaponized and mischaracterized in almost every contested political 2022 midterm campaign. Created by legal scholars, CRT is an academic and legal framework denoting systemic discrimination in American society — from education and housing to employment and healthcare. It is embedded in some of our laws, policies and institutions, and currently taught only at the college level. Truthful teachings of our American history help us learn about the errors of past ways so we don’t repeat them. We must resist bans on truth and defend the rights of teachers and students to discuss race in classroom settings. Never again, the very familiar refrain to the Jewish people, also is applicable to American history. Fear of truth and misrepresentation of how and why it is being told should not be conflated with reverse racism.

As responsible citizens, we deserve to know the facts. It’s up to us to keep the record straight. The stakes are too high — we dare not let those who seek to destroy our democracy get away with it. Watching, much less experiencing, the destruction of democracy is not a safe spectator sport. It’s a deadly one. We must blow the whistles and call the game. ■

Barbara Goldberg Goldman lives in Potomac. The opinions expressed here are her own.

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  1. In reference to those who view politics as a no-holds-barred “blood sport,” and have the temerity to declare that “the once alt-right fringe now has become a core piece of the Republican Party,” I am reminded of the apt expression:
    Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
    The political reality in America today makes it abundantly clear that the once far-left fringe now has become the driving force behind the Democratic Party’s effort to “fundamentally transform” the American dream into a socialist nightmare.


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