Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 7, 2023
There is a daily wear-and-tear fatigue about following our public debates, made far worse by language that outlines the opposite of the expressed goals.
If you’re a Republican House member standing against the “weaponization” of Justice Department prosecutions, for example, because you think that Donald Trump ought to be given a free ride for the 78 criminal counts he now faces, presumably you are for “non-weaponization” policies based on evidence and law. And feel perfectly comfortable arguing that he should only face trial in areas where jurors would come from Republican voting majorities.
But that doesn’t square with promises from the same Trump (and House Republicans) that, if elected, on Day One, he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations made by House Republicans of unproved criminal influence peddling schemes by Joe Biden and members of his family — or direct interference with the Justice system for partisan ends. A sizeable number of House Republicans who argue that Democrats were precipitous in impeaching Trump now want to impeach Joe Biden even before they have identified a significant crime he has committed.
Trump, the indicted criminal aggressor rather than “victim,” published threats to on his own Truth Social platform saying, “If you go after me, I’m coming after you” that so alarmed the federal prosecutors enough to ask the federal court that will hear his trial on charges for plotting the subornation of vote outcomes and the events of Jan. 6 for a protective order over identifying evidence and witnesses before the grand jury issuing the indictment.
The same Trump who promises to settle Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 24 hours also wants to end military aid to Ukraine in return for supposed, debunked political dirt on Biden.
So, it’s revenge and political dominance that Trump wants, not non-weaponization.
I will give Trump credit for one thing: At his rallies, Trump presents himself as the personal sword of retribution against political foes without trying to hide his authoritarian lean. That is as clear as it is dangerous.
Meanwhile in Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he wants to protect children from “woke” education policies that “indoctrinate” about lessons concerning race, gender and diversity, and devises ways to justify cancellation of classes and educators, launching wholesale book bans and curricular obstacles.
Then he extends those policies through high school, advanced placement college-level classes and into the universities, state agencies and into private corporations.
The opposite of “indoctrination” is not a program to systematically inject alternative politically conservative messages.
It certainly does not include the absurd insistence that slavery had its upsides or that an AP class on psychology should steer clear of any mention of sexuality and gender identity issues as, say, an important issue for human development. And none of this has any logical connection to how a private business conducts its own diversity programs for employees.
DeSantis tried suggesting that he was not responsible, but he appointed the people on the state board of education specifically with political affinity in mind. DeSantis’ ‘Not me’ means Yes I Am in terms of taking responsibility in these matters.
The conclusion is not that DeSantis opposes “indoctrination,” but that he is conducting a one-man protest over the messages he prefers get out over changing attitudes in this country about race and gender. He is making clear that the opposite of “woke,” which he never defines, is state-sanctioned discrimination, if not outright hate, once again in pursuit of partisan ends rather than reasoned.
If he truly holds the beliefs reflected by his actions, we should expect that DeSantis, top challenger to Trump for the Republican nomination, could at least speak with clarity about views that nestle right up to the edge of bigoted in the name of keeping white voters from feeling “discomfort.”
And in Ohio
Likewise, the language around a special election concerning abortion law in Ohio in the August heat has gotten so fouled as to create confusion over how to vote on whether to change the state constitution to guarantee continued rights to reproductive care.
The situation itself is confusing, with two separate votes needed to maintain legality for the state’s current law allowing abortion up to 22 weeks after a court delayed implementation of a state bill to cut that to six weeks and another directly on the abortion rights amendment.
A vote tomorrow will determine if the threshold for amending the state constitution from the current simple majority to 60% — an important move because polling shows support for continued legal abortion at about 59%. A second vote in November will be to amend the constitution to ensure abortion access. Basically, supporters of abortion need to vote No in one election and Yes in November.
But the sides also have labeled their efforts in ways meant to confuse voters. Thus, the One Person Our Vote folks are against a change in majority vote for an amendment, which we somehow are meant to understand is a vote for abortion rights. The Protect Our Constitution forces are the ones avoiding use of the word abortion and arguing that any change in the state constitution should meet a higher standard.
The whole issue is drawing enormous voter registration and out-of-state money — and is seen as forerunner to similar efforts in other states.
The anti-abortion access ads, meanwhile, add to confusion by suggesting, bizarrely, that the initiative is about defending parents’ rights against those who, as one spot said, “put trans ideology in classrooms and encourage sex changes for kids.” Essentially, that side implies that allowing “individuals” to have the right to make their own “reproductive decisions” will mean children will be able to transition without parental consent.
Similar confusions are reflected in policies intended to “keep America energy independent” rather than saying the policies are to support oil and gas companies, or calling a bill the Inflation Reduction Act despite constant criticism for increasing spending at a time when there are pressures to reduce spending.
You have to consider who is talking before you can accept a promoted “fact” about immigration, education, environment, space, business or military progress just because the language has become so fouled. Among other things, it is the current penchant to compare every development drawing a criticism to the onset of Nazism, Marxism, fascism or other autocratic movement.
Democracy increasingly is only for those who agree with the speaker.
Both parties are hard at using language that they believe makes them the good guys.
Americans who increasingly care only about their political conclusions in sloganeering terms and with as little investment as possible in spending time to understand the issues actually are encouraging all the obfuscation — as are media companies that increasingly pick and choose news and headlines that appear to favor partisan-supportive conclusions.
So, here it is, a plea to our politicians to speak directly and clearly without turning the meaning of words upside-down,