Scott Tibbs

"Own The Libs" is not a coherent philosophy

By Scott Tibbs, May 12, 2023

I really do not care if someone wears a mask. They might be wearing a mask for any number of reasons, but ultimately it does not matter to me at all. It does not harm me or restrict my liberty in any way. A basic tenet of conservative philosophy for generations has been "live and let live," and I apply that to masks. I understand opposition to mask mandates, but to attack people who voluntarily wear masks looks more like bullying than a serious statement.

Not all "conservatives" feel this way. They mock and ridicule people who wear masks, calling them "stupid" or saying mask wearers are "sheep." These "conservatives" either do not realize how petty this mockery is, or they do not care.

But the mockery of mask-wearers is just one part of a deeply troubling turn for the conservative movement: One that places trolling, mocking and "owning the libs" as one of the highest values conservatives can reach. CBS News polls found on two different occasions (see here and here) that Republicans support candidates for office who "make liberals angry."

This is not to say that mockery or satire has no place in politics. Sometimes things are so stupid that mockery is perfectly appropriate and maybe even necessary. But that has to be mixed with serious discussion, logical argumentation and principled articulation of policy. The conservative movement cannot be defined by feces-posting on 4Chan made into political advertisements and policy positions.

This is the single biggest reason that Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. What Trump never understood is that "own the libs" is a counterproductive strategy that does not gain him anything. The people who love the "mean Tweets" will vote for him no matter what. There is no need to appease them with trolling. Moderates and even some conservatives will be alienated, and (this is important) liberals will be highly motivated to oppose President Troll. 2020 saw huge turnout by Democrats, not because they were excited about Joe Biden but because they were motivated by Trump's foolishly and needlessly antagonizing them.

The excitement over "making liberals angry" explains everything wrong with the modern Republican Party. The conservative movement and the Republican Party used to be about ideas. Remember the 1994 campaign, when Republicans ran on the Contract with America? This was a concrete set of policy goals that united Republicans and, along with a backlash against Bill Clinton, gave Republicans a then-unprecedented mid-term victory that resulted in Republicans controlling the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years.

That is gone now. The Trumpification of the Republican Party is now complete. The party that was once founded on ideas is now reduced to showmanship that would be more appropriate for professional wrestling than for serious people who want to implement consistent conservative policy. This is not a surprise, since Trump himself is in the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, and was part of a featured match at WrestleMania in 2007, where he delivered a clothesline to WWE owner Vince McMahon. Marjorie Taylor-Greene is following in that tradition.

There are still Republicans who are serious people and actually care about policy, but they are being drowned out by the entertainment wing of the party. But can we really blame the party or the candidates when the voter base is more concerned with trolling and showmanship than actual policy wins? The problem with the Republican Party, ultimately, is not Donald Trump. The problem is Republican primary voters. For the good of the country, that needs to change.

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