If there’s one thing that the Republican Party has undeniably mastered over the last decade, both locally and nationally, it’s the art of misdirection. A misdirection is a tool that magicians and street corner hustlers use when engaging in sleight-of-hand trickery as a calculated way to divert focus from what’s really happening toward something else as a means of deceptive distraction.

Whether it’s “pick a card, any card” or the quick chaos of Three Card Monty, the trick has always been to distract the observer from the real action that’s occurring right before their eyes. Republicans began using this idea in politics way before Trump, but now they’ve taken it to a whole new level. Under Trump, there is no shame in outright lying and the rules are held in blatant contempt and scorn.

In Alabama, we’ve seen it during the long trial and conviction of former AL House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who notably still hasn’t served his sentence years later. We also saw it with the nonsensical defense of ousted AL Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as he attempted to downplay charges of dating underage girls.

The new Republican playbook for defending malfeasance and self-serving cronyism is simple and shockingly effective in manipulating public opinion in this era of heightened cynicism and socially-accepted, privileged political apathy.

“There’s nothing to see here.”

Even if you’re eyes are telling you something different, Republicans have learned to repeat that there’s no there there. Instead, they want you to focus on something else and forget what you’re lying eyes just plainly witnessed. Obviously, you’re mistaken. 

Read the transcript. Oh, even though it spelled it out plainly in black and white, it didn’t really say what you think it said. Just forget the facts and evidence in front of you because you really need to be looking somewhere else. Hey, look! Is that guy over there blowing a whistle? How about you do me a favor though, why don’t you just ignore the mountain of evidence regarding this whole “quid pro quo” thing, and I’ll get you what you want…capiche?

So what if the American Bar Association says that a federal judge appointee is woefully unqualified and has never really practiced law? There’s nothing to see here. So what if the stock market is doing great and unemployment is at historic lows, but you still are barely getting by from one paycheck to the next? There is nothing to see here. So what if health insurance is still ridiculously unaffordable and the system is broken? Again, nothing to see here.

This type of Republican political misdirection has become commonplace and absolutely mesmerizing to many. It’s just like Three Card Monty when the stooge is down to his last dollar but betting once more because he’s sure the next hand will be a winner. Sadly, the player walks away broke trying to figure out how his eyes deceived him again and again.

AL Rep. Mo Brooks used this tactic recently when asked about the impeachment inquiry and the whistleblower by saying, “It becomes a real problem when you have people like the whistleblower, who is, in fact, a spy in my judgment. And he was a spy on behalf of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, and who knows whom else.” That’s right. Mo, we’ll just ignore the obvious extortion and all the credible corroborating evidence of withholding foreign aid for personal political favors and focus on that, um, “fact” that you seemingly just pulled out of your… judgment.  Oh, if only someone had your great and unmatched wisdom!

Don’t fall for the obvious and absurd misdirection of the Republicans. Trust your eyes. What you’re seeing is corruption and self-dealing. They’re going to work harder than ever before to keep you distracted. Indeed, there is something to see here.

Clete Wetli
Clete Wetli is former Chair of the Madison County Democrats and a liberal political activist.