WORDS MATTER: Calling Trump a 'Convicted Felon' Is the Rhetorical Equivalent of Murdering George Floyd

Democrats embrace structurally racist language to attack political rival

(Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
May 31, 2024

Donald Trump, the beloved former president, was found guilty this week on 34 felony counts related to his alleged hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. Most legal experts do not expect Trump to serve prison time, and many anticipate the conviction will be overturned on appeal.

Nevertheless, mainstream journalists and other Democrats celebrated the verdict, gleefully describing Trump as a "convicted felon" and arguing that his conviction should prohibit him from reintegrating into society by seeking gainful employment. These reactions amount to nothing less than a full-throated endorsement of the racist police violence at the heart of America's flawed criminal justice system, suggesting Democrats have learned nothing from the racial reckoning of 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder.

Criminal justice reform activists have urged members of the media to stop using "dehumanizing labels" such as convict, felon, and criminal to describe individuals found guilty in a court of law. The Marshall Project, a nonprofit new organization dedicated to criminal justice reform, advocates the use of "people-first language" as opposed to words that "narrowly—and permanently—define human beings by their crimes and punishments." The Fortune Society, an organization that supports "reentry from incarceration," suggests a number of less stigmatizing alternatives such as "person or individual with justice system involvement."

Alex Soros, the left-wing activist who uses his father George Soros's fortune to advance radical left-wing policies across the country, completely disregarded the "people-first" message pushed by the very groups he funds. He urged Democrats to "refer to Trump as a convicted felon at every opportunity" so Americans are forced to "wrestle with the notion of hiring a convicted felon."

Dozens of prominent Democrats used the word "felon" to dehumanize Trump and suggest that his involvement with the justice system should preclude him from obtaining a job in the White House. "Newsflash: It matters that the Republican nominee for President is a convicted criminal," wrote Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut. "He can never be President again."

Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California who touts himself as a champion of "equality and social justice," echoed this stigmatizing view. "The 2024 election now comes down to this: Do you want a convicted felon in the White House?" he wrote. "Or do you want Scranton Joe—who fights and delivers for working families everyday?"

Democratic lawmakers in Illinois recently passed a bill that would replace the term "offenders" with "justice-impacted individuals." That didn't stop J.B. Pritzker, the Democratic governor of Illinois, from using problematic language to dehumanize Trump and other individuals affected by our flawed criminal justice system. "Donald Trump is a racist, a homophobe, a grifter, and a threat to this country. He can now add one more title to his list—a felon," Pritzker wrote on social media.

Language matters. Given that many journalists, activists, and Democratic politicians have argued that words are "literally violence," it stands to reason that labeling Donald Trump (or anyone else) a felon is the rhetorical equivalent of murdering George Floyd in cold blood. Those are the rules.

It's not at all surprising that Democrats would abandon their support for social justice (and opposition to police violence) in order to launch petty attacks on Donald Trump. During the 2020 election, they eagerly abandoned the #MeToo movement—and the imperative to "believe all women"—after former U.S. Senate aide Tara Reade credibly accused Joe Biden of sexual assault.

Oh well.