Congressional Republicans are playing a dangerous game

Illustration by DonkeyHotey | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

I suppose we should be used to it by now.

The dog whistles and nativist language. The daily insults and Twitter rants.

Trump is who he is, and nothing, perhaps not even him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, will convince his base that he is unfit to lead this country.

He is a contagion on our democracy, but he is not acting in isolation.

Congressional Republicans have taken on the role of virus. They do not simply acquiesce, they actively spread the disease.

Taking pages out of an Orwellian playbook, they’ve managed to confuse, distract and convince Americans that facts are not facts and nuance is the enemy.

When Trump told four congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from, his accomplices used semantics and bifurcation to rescue him from a sinking ship (or worse, declining poll numbers).

Their playbook is quite simple.

At the first sign of trouble, go mute.

No comment.

Republicans wait to see if the outrage outlasts the media cycle, which is a smart move considering the amount of chaos this White House generates. There’s a better than average chance today’s fury will be replaced by tomorrow’s insult, and they’ll never need to respond.

If, however, the anger takes on a life of its own, as it did for the racist comments about the congresswomen, then they move on to the next play: redefining the message.

What’s really racist?

They plant the seeds of doubt, questioning long-held norms while using other, less offensive words such as “racially insensitive” to dismiss the charge.

Up next: justification.

House GOP leaders held a press conference a couple days post scandal to address the president’s remarks. Except, they had no intention of actually talking about what Trump said. Instead, justification was on full display.

Republican Liz Cheney began her statement by referring to the women Trump attacked as her “socialist colleagues.”

Others referred to them as communists, anti-Semites and anti-American.

By attacking their character, Republicans worked to turn the tables, twisting victims into aggressors.

Finally, the crème de la crème: conflating unrelated policies.

During the Republican press conference, Americans were informed that we were viewing the situation entirely wrong. This scandal wasn’t about a series of tweets. No, this was about ideology.

The four women have radical policy ideas. They want us to believe migrants have been drinking toilet water and taxes on the rich won’t destroy our economy. And they want to impeach the president.

These unpatriotic, leftist liars cannot be trusted. In fact, they are a danger to our country. Therefore, we should be thanking the president for standing up to the enemy among us.

See how that works?

What started as an uproar over a series of racist tweets has turned into a debate over unrelated policy differences. 

This is how Republicans succeed in defusing the situation. They place another brick on the wall between Americans, pitting us against them, neighbor vs. neighbor.  

Perhaps they’re satisfied with this outcome, winning the messaging wars of today. But the longer they play this game of division, the more likely they are to lose more than just a narrative.

Julie Erfle
Julie Erfle hails from North Dakota, but has called Arizona home for more than twenty years. She began her career in Phoenix as a creative services producer at KPHO-TV5 and 3TV. Blending her background in communications with her passion for community activism, Julie launched the political blog Politics Uncuffed in 2011, and began working as a communications director and consultant on candidate and initiative campaigns. She is the former executive director of Progress Now Arizona, a progressive communications and advocacy non-profit, and a fellow with the Flinn-Brown Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and Leading for Change.


  1. What is it about trump that people continue to follow him even though it has been proven that practically everything he says is a lie.
    He promised to “drain the swamp” but instead, he has made it deeper by appointing corrupt people to positions of great importance.
    He promised to get better and cheaper health care for all. He hasn’t.
    He appoints a person to the EPA that was a lobbyist for the coal companies. How is that “making America Great Again?”
    He denigrates everyone who doesn’t agree with him. He calls them childish names that are heard, maybe, on the elementary school playground.
    He must be taken out of the white, now black, house by voting him out in 2020.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here