Republicans on the Bridge: Who are these people? Skip to content

Republicans on the Bridge: Who are these people?

A cargo ship without power to stop hits a bridge and knocks it down. And who do Republicans blame? I mean, really – are you kidding?

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Key Bridge salvage operation (photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Reaves / U.S. Coast Guard, [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons)

It did not take long.

Within hours of the early morning collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge on Tuesday, March 26, Republican candidates for office tried to earn “Trump points” by blaming Democrats for this tragic accident. (see Maegan Vazquez, Washington Post, 3-28-24)

Utah State Representative Phil Lyman (R) attacked Port of Baltimore Commissioner Karenthia Barber, “a Black woman whose biography says she owns a consulting practice that takes on work related to DEI [Diversity, Equity, Inclusion].” Lyman, who is running against the current Utah Governor, Spencer Cox (R), wrote on X that “this is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the well-being and security of citizens.”

Later Lyman blamed his comment on his team, admitting it “was not our finest moment.” This was intended, one supposes, as a half-hearted apology.

The same morning Anthony Sabatini, a GOP congressional candidate in Florida, also blamed DEI for the bridge collapse, and Hung Cao, a Republican who is challenging Senator Tim Kaine (D) in Virginia, attacked Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg for spending “more time talking about racial equity with regard to highways and about climate change than focusing ... on keeping our country and infrastructure working.”

Fox News joined in this blame game, also on Tuesday. Interviewing Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla), the host Bartiromo tried to connect the bridge collapse to border issues by “the potential for wrongdoing or foul play given the wide-open border.” Maybe he was unaware that the immigrants killed had lived here for many years and were engaged in a dangerous job protecting our infrastructure.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, piled on by slyly suggesting in a statement to Newsmax that those victims might have been “drug-addled” workers.

The embarrassing Republican statements weren’t universal. The Baltimore City Republican Party had the decency to “stand with” Governor Wes Moore (D) in “the biggest challenge of his term of office.”

Thank God for small favors.

What are we to make of this litany of distain for those suffering from a major crisis in our country? Is this just “politics as usual” or is it something more troubling?

My conservative friend Keith York, in a recent column (3-29-24), pointed out that “the Left seeks to use language to influence our thinking.” He is correct, but the Trump Right does so as well. However, there is a big difference between calling a mother a “birthing person,” an example of silly political correctness, and Trump referring to migrants as “animals.” Trump’s word choices are often designed to provoke violent thoughts, which can lead to violent actions such as the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Terms like “pro-life” and “pro-choice” make one’s political position appealing. They are used by both sides and have become, like it or not, part of our normal political rhetoric. They do not demonize opponents as does a suggestion that workers on the Key bridge might have been “drug-addled.”

One of the characteristics of Trumpist political rhetoric is use of projection – accusing the other side of doing what you do or have done. The best example of this is Trump’s insistence that Biden stole the 2020 election when, in fact, it is clear from the evidence that he tried to steal it.

Another characteristic of “Rightist” Trump-inspired political language is connecting things that are not really connected. Whatever you think of DEI, it is ridiculous to make any connection between this movement and the collapse of the Key bridge in Baltimore.

And Pete Buttigieg’s desire to have more diversity in hiring on construction projects has no connection with events in Baltimore harbor on March 26. And just how, pray tell, are problems on the border connected to the collapse of the bridge?

So who are these Republicans who blame Democrats for the collapse of the Key bridge? Do they think voters will appreciate their lack of logic, common sense, and compassion? Wouldn’t it have been better if Republicans had offered support to Marylanders facing this complex tragedy? Even DeSantis and Biden worked together during Hurricane Idalia in 2023.

One can only hope – and of course, vote against mean-spirited candidates in November.

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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