play the (something) card

play the (something) card

To bring up a particular, typically contentious issue or idea in order to gain an advantage, as in an argument or political agenda. Playing the race card like that doesn't change the truth about the topic at hand. He always plays the Jewish card whenever he feels like someone is attacking him.
See also: card, play

play the race card

To dismiss or discredit an opinion, argument, position, action, decision, etc., as being the product of prejudice against one's race. The candidate played the race card as an explanation for why her polls were much lower recently, claiming that the media has been giving her less visibility than her white opponents simply because she is African American. I hate it when casual racists try to brush off legitimate criticism by claiming that you're just "playing the race card."
See also: card, play, race

play the — card

exploit the specified issue or idea mentioned, especially for political advantage.
This expression comes from the view expressed in 1886 by Lord Randolph Churchill that, concerning Irish Home Rule, ‘the Orange card would be the one to play’.
1998 Edinburgh Student The SNP, who dominate the Scottish independence campaign, argue that they do not play the race card.
See also: card, play