Scott Tibbs

Eric Greitens, overreactions and uncivil rhetoric

By Scott Tibbs, July 1, 2022

It is important for people in politics to keep their criticism proportional to the thing they are criticizing. If you go too far, you leave yourself vulnerable to counterattack for making a false claim and it becomes easy to ignore the legitimate points you have made. The outrage over the "RINO Hunting" commercial from U.S. Senate candidate Eric Greitens is an example of this.

No, Greitens was not announcing his intention to literally hunt down and kill "Republicans In Name Only." In this case, "hunting" is an idiom - a stand in for defeating them in primary elections. I should not have to say that, but too many people see an ad like this and take it literally. Of course, others do not actually take it literally. They know what it means but lie about it anyway.

The Greitens commercial was poorly thought out and unnecessarily militant. We live in a time of ever-increasing polarization, angry rhetoric and even political violence, so an advertisement with a militaristic theme only makes the political culture worse. Greitens can and should be criticized for being overly inflammatory and not taking ideas and policy seriously. Being willing to "fight back" with a parody SWAT commercial is hardly the same as actually passing legislation, rolling back burdensome regulations or providing much-needed oversight.

Too many Republicans seem to think that using harsh language, cosplaying as a "tough guy" or "owning the libs" through childish trolling is what it takes to be a "good Republican." It is not. The purpose of politics is policy. Somewhere along the way, we have lost that focus and put Twitter trolls over policy wonks. And, obviously, character still matters. Greitens was forced to resign from office in disgrace, and Republicans can do better than someone of such low moral character.

Had Greitens' critics said what I said, rather than stretching the meaning of his advertisement to something he did not say, they would be on much more stable ground. Overreacting also carries the danger of being the "boy who cried wolf," leading people to dismiss warnings of actual threats or employment of violent thugs in a campaign or elective office. A more focused criticism, rather than alarmism, is the best path to political success.

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