Local column: Weaponized words not diffused, just buried

All those loaded buzzwords Republicans used in the Obama years have vanished into thin air though the problems they purported to describe remain — or have gotten worse, writes Dawn Anderson.

One has to look no further than the president’s Twitter account to see how words can alarm or incite his base. But words once weaponized for the conservative cause are now locked up in the gun cabinet of political messaging, probably to avoid an accidental shooting of the GOP.

Activist judges: This handy phrase was repeatedly fired at the federal judiciary during the last administration. Idaho Falls resident and District Representative Linden Bateman, for example, accused the Supreme Court of using activist judges to rule 5/4 in favor of legalizing same sex marriage. And yet when Merrick Garland, a centrist judge even by Republican accounts, was blocked by Congressional Republicans from even getting a hearing, it was clearly partisan pandering meant to deny President Obama a choice for the Supreme Court.

Instead, America got Neil Gorsuch, a known hardline Constitutional originalist who will likely throw court decisions to the right for the foreseeable future. So, the words “activist judge” have been shelved for now.

Nor do we hear the term used for the highly conservative judicial appointments Trump has made to the lower federal courts—twelve so far, all selected for their activist leanings.

Executive Overreach: Ah, yes. We remember this expression applied to Obama over and over again.

On the campaign trail, Trump blasted the president, crowing, “He goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.” Where is this label now that President Trump sits in the Oval Office, furiously signing one executive order after another, overturning important environmental protections and regulatory safeguards?

Not surprisingly, President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have gone silent on the power-grab they accused the previous POTUS of making. According to the Federal Register, President Trump has signed 55 executive orders to date, more than twice that of President Obama in his first term.

It is fair to point out that the Obama Administration and the preceding Bush White House could have limited executive power but chose not to because “executive overreach” is only a term used to apply to the other guy.

Exploding Federal Deficit: Of all the loaded expressions used in political parlance, this one seems most weighted with hypocrisy, especially now that Congress has passed a deficit-exploding tax bill.

It was a mere year ago that Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, responding to a State of the Union address by then President Obama, observed: “Noticeably absent was any mention of the crisis we face with regard to our national debt, with the President instead pronouncing new federal programs that would only add billions to it.”

Or maybe you remember when Idaho Senator Mike Crapo said, “We cannot continue to ignore our debt and simply try to spend our way into prosperity with borrowed money.”

Most independent economists say that the recently passed tax bill is on course to push the national deficit up an additional $1.5 trillion. Where are the deficit hawks now? One might also ask why our state Republican representatives signed off on a bill that will raise taxes on the middle class in ten years while it enshrines corporate tax cuts forever. Whatever the answer, the phrase “exploding federal debt” seems to be passé.

Democrats also weaponize words to serve their agendas. But Republicans are especially adept at using messaging to incite frenzy among their base—and at eliminating certain words from their narrative when they become inconvenient.

Voters should ignore the emotionally-loaded language from both parties and recognize the political motivations behind it.


Anderson has taught analytical reading and writing for 27 years.


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