Seven times Democrats played the ‘FEAR!’ card they accuse the GOP of using

The left is in high dudgeon this week over all the "fear-mongering" Republican presidential candidates allegedly did during their debate on Tuesday night. Of course, when you are inclined to believe terrorism is an environmental problem , perhaps any conversation about hard realities will come across to you as fear-mongering.

Still, it baffled me that liberals everywhere -- as if they got some kind of memo -- started hammering away at this "Republicans are the party of fear" notion. Have they never listened to the way Democrats talk?

So here are seven times in the past few years -- just the ones I remembered off the top of my head -- that Democrats tried to scare you into voting for them. They're listed in reverse chronological order, and you can count on at least some of the older ones making a comeback before we get to Election Day 2016.

1. "Here are five times Ted Cruz tried to ban contraception" -- Hillary Clinton's campaign website, December 2015

In the canon of Democrat fear-mongering, few issues surpass what they claim Republicans will do to women. Clinton's campaign ramped up the rhetoric to claim Cruz would "ban contraception." In fact, what they are complaining about primarily demonstrates their need to redefine the word "ban" so that it includes removing subsidies, not requiring private companies to provide subsidies, and perhaps prohibiting some kinds of birth control -- but far from all, as the campaign implied. After PolitiFact gave the claim a (generous) Mostly False rating, the campaign changed its charge to read he "tried to restrict access to contraception" -- still not quite truthy, but less scary-sounding than the original accusation. This is part of a Democratic sub-genre of fear that also enters into other campaigns, such as last year's Senate race in Colorado, when Democrat-aligned groups ran a Pants on Fire ad about a contraception ban by Republican Cory Gardner, the eventual winner.

2. All of the Republican presidential candidates say "let's kick out immigrants, let's take away health care from women, let's increase taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, let's end Medicare as we know it." -- DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, October 2015

I probably could have listed only this one, as it's the super-fecta of Democratic demagoguery: race/ethnicity, gender, income inequality, entitlements. Note that Wasserman-Schultz was asked about one of her party's candidates, Bernie Sanders, and whether his label as a socialist would hurt Democrats -- and her only response was to spread fear about what the GOP wants to do. Not a single Republican is talking about "kick(ing) out immigrants" in general, as opposed to deporting illegal immigrants; even then, the candidates are sharply divided on the issue. Not a single Republican is talking about "tak(ing) away health care from women." Not a single Republican is talking about "increas(ing) taxes on the middle class" for any reason, much less to "pay for tax cuts for the wealthy." A most generous review of her comments might give her credit for tacking on the "as we know it" to the part about Medicare, ostensibly a reference to plans to give seniors the option of using a voucher to purchase private insurance instead, but the clear message she wanted to convey was the "end Medicare" part.

3. By targeting federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Republicans want to take away "the only health care that a significant number of women get. About 30 percent of women, that's their health care." -- Harry Reid, July 2015

This is probably what Wasserman-Schultz meant when she said Republicans want to "take away health care from women," but she might have avoided such fear-mongering after PolitiFact gave even this somewhat-narrower formulation by Reid a Pants on Fire rating .

4. Ted Cruz "was just bribed by the Kochs to introduce a bill that would gift or sell them and their allies America's national forests, parks, and other public lands and open them for mining, drilling, fracking and logging." -- Facebook post by Occupy Democrats, August 2014

I'm kind of surprised I could think of only one instance of Democratic fear-mongering involving the Koch brothers, the left's favorite pair of boogeymen. But if there's only one on the list, at least it's a doozy: Those darn Kochs are going to end up putting oil derricks in Old Faithful! In reality, Cruz introduced a bill that would have limited landholdings by the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior to no more than half of the territory in any given state and required the government to sell any land above that threshold as "excess" property. The Occupy Democrats ad got a Pants on Fire rating, not that it induced the group to change anything about the photo, which is still available on its Facebook page .

5. Texas Republicans "believe in abolishing Social Security, abolishing V.A. (Veterans Affairs) health care." -- Bernie Sanders, September 2013

This statement is a couple of years old, and about a specific state party, but nonetheless noteworthy since it came from Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, a man whose campaign almost entirely rests on the anxieties of middle-income Americans. In true socialist fashion, Sanders thinks privatizing even part of a program equals "abolishing" it. No doubt, he and other Democrats want you to believe Republicans do want to completely eliminate things like Social Security and VA health care, the better to frighten you, dear voter. It's just that the claim is flat-out False .

6. "They're going to put y'all back in chains." -- Joe Biden, August 2012

Biden's defenders will point out that the "chains" comment was part of a metaphor related to Mitt Romney's plan to "unchain Wall Street." Problem is, as far as I can tell that phrasing, too, was Biden's, not Romney's. He knew what he was doing, and it was obvious both to his largely African-American audience and the rest of us. As Democrats try to keep the Obama coalition together, and with race relations as tense as they've been in years, you can bet there will be more of this kind of talk from Democrats in 2016, not less.

7. Republicans' proposals to privatize Medicare is like throwing grandma off a cliff -- the Agenda Project, May 2011

It doesn't get any more personal and fear-mongery than this: A Paul Ryan look-alike, pushing a grandmotherly woman in a wheelchair while she smiles -- until her face takes on a look of terror as she fears he's going to do something bad to her, which he does! By dumping her off the edge of a cliff! Message: Be afraid, your granny is gonna die!


In case you missed this subtlety, let me point out one thing. In talking about the threat posed by ISIS and other terrorists, Republicans are addressing an actual problem that requires some kind of response. Agree with their various proposals or not, the threat is real. The Democratic examples, meanwhile, try to spread fear about distorted, often completely false depictions of what Republicans -- the real terrorists, amirite? -- want to do.

In that respect, all this "Republicans preying off your fear!!!1!1!" talk is really just another example of Democrats' fear-mongering as usual.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Kyle Wingfield
Kyle Wingfield
Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.