·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

Justin Amash and our Different Dictionaries

— July 8, 2019

Fake News? Family Values? Disloyalty? Americans working out of different dictionaries find it harder to communicate across the political divide.

As partisan American politics continues its death spiral down history’s commode, it’s plain to see that even basic communication between political opponents is getting more difficult by the day. We may be using the same words, but meaning such different concepts that we may as well be working out of completely different dictionaries. In order to avoid worse hostilities, we must engage in meaningful dialogue, but we can’t do that without agreeing on the definitions of some politically charged words. The first step is to recognize that what you say might not be what the other person hears.

Take “socialism,” for example. To some, it means a few people-friendly tweaks to the basic capitalist model. To others, it’s a scare word that invokes fears of Stalinist gulags. Clearly, these definitions are coming out of different dictionaries, and it terminates any realistic bipartisan consideration of related policies before they begin.

How about “family values?” We use different dictionaries for this term, too. For some, it means promoting the virtues of committed heterosexual marriage, the sanctity of life, and a culture of righteousness as exemplified by the Biblical teachings of Jesus. Others, when they hear the term, can’t help but think of people like Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the “family values” legislator who stands accused of extramarital affairs with five different women while embezzling campaign funds. Or Dr. Joey Hensley, a Republican state Senator from Tennessee who has campaigned on conservative Christian values since 2002, but who, according to testimony from his divorce proceedings, pursued an affair with a nurse in his employ (who is also his second cousin) for whom he often wrote prescriptions for opioids.

Is it any wonder that so many of us throw up in our mouths a little when we hear someone pontificate about “family values?”  Especially if you’re in a stable, long term, recently-legalized same-sex marriage, perhaps raising kids, and your family faces an existential threat from people like Hunter and Hensley, who view their marriages (such as they are) as far more sacred than yours?

“Fake News” is another one. The term gained popularity during the 2016 election cycle as a description of deliberately false or misleading content presented as if it were factual reporting, whether it’s intended to help or hurt a particular candidate, or simply to generate enough outrage-influenced clicks to keep Macedonian teenagers flush with spending money. The Left has retained that “false or misleading content” definition, but the Right’s use of the term has come to mean factual news that they don’t like. This is the meaning pushed by the President himself, who cries “fake news” in a calculated bid to discredit reputable reporting that fails to bend a knee to his agenda.

Justin Amash, wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie, stands behind a podium with a wide, laughing smile on his face.
Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan speaking at the 2012 Liberty Political Action Conference in Chantilly, Virginia. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr. Image cropped. CC BY-SA 2.0

All of which brings us to Justin Amash. He’s a lifelong Republican, currently representing Michigan’s third Congressional district. Recently, though, Amash’s conscience caught up with him and he realized he could no longer continue with the GOP. In an eloquent op-ed explaining his decision to leave the party, Amash called out both sides of the political divide for creating the toxic death spiral in modern American politics. With references to George Washington’s warning to avoid partisanship, the failure of Congress to act as a check on the Executive, money’s corrosive effect on the political process, and the way party leaders exploit wedge issues and messaging wars to divide and distract the public, Amash may well be sacrificing his political career at the altar of real patriotism.

Naturally, President Trump and his two tweeting thumbs hammered out a response. “Great news for the Republican Party as one of the dumbest & most disloyal men in Congress is ‘quitting’ the Party… Already being challenged for his seat. A total loser!”

If Justin Amash is Donald Trump’s definition of dumb, disloyal, and total loser, I couldn’t be more proud that the President and I work out of different dictionaries.

Related: Socialism. You Keep Using That Word…


Rep. Justin Amash: Our politics is in a partisan death spiral. That’s why I’m leaving the GOP
Trump lashes out at Justin Amash, calls him ‘one of the dumbest & most disloyal’ in Congress
Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Relationship With 5 Women He Allegedly Had Affair With Served ‘Political Purpose,’ His Lawyers Say
In a Divorce Trial, Serious Allegations About Sen. Joey Hensley
Some Real News About Fake News
Content Farm to Content Table
Russian propaganda effort likely behind flood of fake news that preceded election
WH official: We’ll say ‘fake news’ until media realizes attitude of attacking the President is wrong

Join the conversation!