Playing the “card” card: Hillary defangs a beloved Republican attack line

There’s always a risk in trying to turn an opponent’s words back on them. You may well end up reinforcing their message.

But when the opportunity is there, you can pull it off… especially when your opponent’s message resonates with their base but not with your persuadable audience.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign did just that yesterday after Sen. Mitch McConnell accused her of asking people to vote for her because she’s a woman—and said “the gender card alone is not enough.”

If reading that phrase made you grind a few chips of your molars, welcome to the club. For the past several years, the right wing has used “the race card” and “the gender card” as a way to silence discussion of inequality and injustice.

The phrase is a masterpiece of intellectual dishonesty, conveying an accusation of manipulation and duplicity without coming out and saying so. It’s rooted in the conservative narrative that claims that oppression is actually privilege, and that—… auuuugh, don’t get me started.

The point is, that narrative is near and dear to the Republican heart. But it’s a lot less convincing to persuadable voters… and gag-inducing to the Democrats that Clinton wants to mobilize as primary season looms.

So Clinton turned that phrase on its head, with a brief but powerful message in the form of a literal “gender card”:

She followed that up with a video that flipped the “card” idea back at the Republicans:

And that helped prompt a conversation under the hashtag #gendercard that can’t be what McConnell had in mind.

When you realize your opponent is relying on an attack line that has lost its bite, you have the chance to turn it back on them. You want to do it carefully, and you need to do your homework. But done carefully, it can be devastating.

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