Scott Tibbs

Civility is not why we lose elections

By Scott Tibbs, January 6, 2023

After referring to "these bastards in the media" who are mistreating Donald Trump in her Turning Point Action speech, Kari Lake made a gesture that means "up yours" directly at the camera.

This is not how a leader should behave. And yes, Leftists have done things as bad or worse, but their hypocrisy does not excuse this lack of professionalism and decorum. There was a time when this kind of behavior - which was almost certainly calculated in advance as an applause moment - would have seriously damaged someone's political career. Today, you get praised for being "tough" and those who hold to old standards of behavior are "losers" and "cucks" who compromise with the Left.

It would be easy to dismiss this as the rantings of a few Internet cranks, especially when the final obscenity-filled Tweet is from an anonymous account that features Pepe the Frog as its profile picture. But this is not just angry people fulminating on social media. This is the attitude that is extremely prevalent in the Republican Party. It is not enough to point out flaws in a candidate's character or negative consequences of his policies. No, we have to be nasty and obscene.

If you think making an "up yours" gesture gains Republicans a single vote, or gets a single piece of conservative legislation passed, you are sadly mistaken. The only people pleased by that kind of behavior are people who are already motivated to support Republicans. But it turns off more moderate suburban and even some conservative Republicans, and heavily motivates the Democratic base to work against you. The "up yours" sign does not advance an argument or change minds: It only reinforces and hardens where the "true believers" already are and does not bring in new voters.

Compare Kari Lake being "tough" with obscene gestures to "establishment squish" Mitch McConnell actually being tough in running the Senate. McConnell blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, giving us Neil Gorsuch. McConnell then pushed through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett after the unexpected death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Gorsuch and Barrett provided two critical votes in the 5-4 Dobbs v. Jackson decision last summer. Lake's alleged "toughness" got applause from right wing activists. McConnell's actual toughness uprooted Roe v Wade and will save millions of lives.

None of this means we cannot be negative. I am convinced that candidates for elective office have an obligation to go negative. If you truly believe that your opponent's policies would harm the nation, state, county, city or township, you owe it to the voters to explain why. If you believe an incumbent has ran his office poorly and is not fulfilling his duties, you owe the voters that information and analysis. Republicans have to stop being terrified of going negative. But there is a world of difference between negative and nasty, and that is something the Trump wing of the Republican Party cannot understand.

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