play the card
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play the (something) card
To introduce the issue of discrimination against some group, especially that of which one is a member, in order to gain an advantage in or dismiss or discredit an argument. There you go playing the race card again. I don't care if you're purple—I still think it's a bad policy! He always plays the Jewish card whenever he feels like someone is attacking him. I hate it when casual racists try to brush off legitimate criticism by claiming that you're just "playing the race card."
play the — cardexploit 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.