© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

OnWords: Opposition Research vs. Treason


It’s interesting that we’d be at a point in our nation’s history where we’d be having to decide if a meeting between the family members of a presidential candidate and a foreign agent should be defined as opposition research or treason.

“Opposition research” is supposed to mean finding information about a candidate against whom you’re running in order to gain political advantage.

The term has a scientific tinge, the word “research” making it all seem data-driven and proper for a tech-savvy election team well adapted to the Internet Age. 

Like a field biologist looking through its poo to better understand a wild beast, opposition research might seem kind of nasty at times, but the precision of the term creates a connotation that it’s all for the greater good.

Treason, on the other hand, is a capital offense, the ultimate act against one’s nation. Those who commit treason go down in history for all the wrong reasons, their names forever associated with double-dealing and betrayal.    

This dichotomy splits our image of what really happened, making it impossible to see the full picture.

But what happened might be clearer than we think.

In their excitement to gather as much poo to fling at Hillary Clinton as they could, the Trump family may very well have used opposition research as a chute down which they slid into the murky land that borders treason.  

These two terms, one being technical and emotionless, the other legalistic but fraught with feeling, can’t fully express what happens when people are desperate to win, when their competence is clogged by the stench of victory.