In the 2020 Presidential Election, some Moderate Republicans chose to not only support Joe Biden, but support him on the grounds of “civility.” The “civility” argument holds that Trump’s Twitter account is too ‘nuts and wild’ for a normal human being to witness without exploding, shattering into a thousand pieces and being ‘scattered into the wind,’ or that it can cause a person to become so offended that a fatal error within that individual’s conscious mind occurs leaving them in a ‘vegetable-like’ state.
That’s all a bit of a fun exaggeration, but you get my point. The moderate Republicans hold that Republicans cannot win elections if they cross a line into being “uncivil.”
These Republicans, such as Ridge, McCain, and Romney, arguably tipped the Presidential election to a Democrat, infuriating the Millions of donors and volunteers of Trump, without putting an alternative Conservative policy platform in place. Their argument simply boiled down to a very arrogant one, arrogant in the face of Trump’s millions of donors and supporters, that Trump was too ‘uncouth’ and ‘uncivil’ to be President of the United States, largely because of his social media accounts.
An ivy-league educated President, a wildly successful businessman, and a family-man, with an excellent family, supported by the American Worker like no President ever before, was too “uncivil” to be President.
Again, these Moderate Republicans did not argue against Trump by putting forth an alternative policy platform because Trump was right on so many issues. He was right on China, he was right on trade and re-shoring American manufacturing, he was right on ending the foreign wars in the Middle East. These Republicans had no significant policy agenda to put forth, but a low-blow, that Trump was too “uncivil” to be President.
Civility is a bad argument for Conservatives.
These moderate Republicans now, for many Conservative-Republicans in the United States, have ‘poisoned-the-well,’ so to speak, desiccated the political, and more importantly, policy interests of those who fought so hard for Trump, who felt that Trump represented a genuine change to the Washington establishment. All in the name of “civility.”
What Trump understands, and what the older generation of moderate Republicans do not understand, is the nature of digital media in the 21st Century. In fact, many people do not understand the nature of digital communication, not even some of the platform providers, that on the digital ‘terrain’ everybody is in open information warfare with everybody else. In other words, POTUS must compete with every other Tweet for attention and engagement, even against “Quackity.” Don’t know who “Quackity” is, then you don’t know digital media. Every day, POTUS is ‘running’ against “Quackity.” (Check the engagement).
With one absurdity, “Quackity” can command thousands of hearts and shares from a vigorous and engaged fan-base. In the Middle 21st Century, if politicians are not commanding attention with their real, raw, and authentic opinion, then “Quackity” wins the day. Of all people, the reality TV star Donald J. Trump understands this better than most. He understands what will likely go down in history as the exemplary moment of how the political elites lost the era to the populists: “Please Clap.”
Jeb Bush famously demanded that his audience “please clap” for him when he said nothing of particular note or inspiration.
Established politicians have been demanding applause for many, many decades in the United States because of their command over local and national media outlets. Locally, when an established politician, business interest, or wealthy elite wants publicity, they simply email their local newspaper, now hemorrhaging revenue for this very same reason, with the words “please clap.” The newspaper sends a reporter to cover whatever the elite wants, almost at the full command of established business and political interests.
The same thing happens nationally and if there is ever one to know the power behind these two words, “please clap,” it is Jeb Bush.
Now, as a writer, I align more with the established political and business interests. I have two Ivy-League equivalent postgraduate degrees and successful businesses. But like Donald J. Trump, I respect earning my meal ticket. The words “please clap” sound foreign to me, because if somebody every asked that of me, I’d say loudly and clearly, “fuck off.”
The antithesis to “please clap” is “fuck off.” Now here, I’ve broken a cardinal sin of newspaper publishing in the pre-digital era, and like our President, I used the “f-word” in official communication. Of course many will sit back in their chairs gasping for air as I’ve demonstrated just how truly “uncivil” I am. But you know what didn’t happen? The world didn’t collapse, it kept on moving, no children were permanently scarred by me writing those words, if anything, one local newspaper lost a subscriber. Every time somebody swears on social media, a local newspaper loses a subscriber.
The numbers don’t lie. As “Quackity” commands attention for his keen insight on ‘honey-bees,’ as I take a subscriber away from the local newspaper with my swears, as Donald J. Trump battles on the ‘terrain’ of information warfare against Tweets without substance, the “civility” police are sent out in full force attempting to arrest us all! But just take a look at Jeb Bush’s Twitter account. He doesn’t say “please clap” anymore, he Tweets real, raw, and authentic Tweets, and while he’s still not the most charismatic person the world, I respect him for that.
As digital media becomes more pervasive, and it is becoming vastly more pervasive with the younger generation than non-digital-natives can fully appreciate, we must acknowledge that our public persona is more akin to a reality TV show, with all of its baggage and mud, its ‘beautiful-disaster,’ than it is to the print in our local newspapers. When a new issue is contested ideologically, readers don’t go anymore to the newspaper’s “OpEd” section, they tune into a user’s social media feed. We know this. But what many politicians must begin to accept is that if we are to use social media to manage our public persona, we can no longer use these platforms as sterile mediums for boring press releases. We must tweet from the heart, and if we don’t, our political careers will go the way of the business models of local newspapers or the political fortunes of Jeb Bush.
The “civility” argument is the worst possible argument that moderate Republicans could make in our current media landscape. It fails to consider the reality of digital communications in the 21st Century, and it fails to acknowledge the success that Trump had on this terrain. But even more importantly, it fails to consider just how much of a losing argument “civility” is in comparison to the populism on the left, Democratic-Socialism.
These moderate Republicans who decry Conservative populism without putting forth an alternative platform, must also consider that they cannot take on leftist populism with their “civility.” Can they? Will establishment Democratic PA candidates such as PA-177 Joseph C. Hohenstein beat John Fetterman or PA’s “Squad?” How about Summer Lee? Check out her engagement of 53,000 likes.
Hosenstein hasn’t had anybody like his Tweets in an entire year! I know what the ‘political consulting class’ is thinking right now. Who cares about Twitter? I’ll just donate to Joe’s campaign and give him a few email introductions. Wrong! Users measure a politician’s authenticity, ability, and stature with their social media impressions. Joe cannot even run against Summer for that Gubernatorial nomination, because if he did, social media users would do a quick scan to see that he is not even in the same ball-park!
In the 2020 general election, moderate Republicans like Ridge, the McCain family, and Romney felt that they could ‘tip-the-scales’ into Biden’s favor on the grounds of “civility.” But they cannot ‘tip-the-scales’ as leftists populists ride social media granted populist rhetoric into power. They cannot ‘tip-the-scales’ against today’s Conservative Movement that has won the ideological platform on China, trade, and war.
Finally, there is one last reason why “civility” is such a bad argument. It is a direct contradiction of our God-given, First Amendment rights. We have these wonderful social media platforms, and we must ensure that we do not erect a society that either directly abolishes free speech through social media censoring, or where citizens feel like they cannot post openly and freely on social media because they are worried about informal retribution or retaliation on their careers, their businesses, or in other areas of their life.
The move by the moderate-Republicans to do just this, “retaliate” against Trump for his populist rhetoric delivered on these platforms, sets the worst possible example of a social media culture that indirectly “cancels” free speech and 1A.
I’ll say it again. Civility is a bad argument for Conservatives.
I am genuinely asking that the moderate Republicans in Pennsylvania ‘get-with-the-program’ and begin to look closely at the values that they supposedly advocate for, but they can start with just one simply step: open a damn Twitter account, so I can give you free impressions with my fuckin’ news publication! I’m sick and tired of giving them to “Quackity!” Sheesh!
William E Scholz is the founder of The Review Network of political publications and prefers to eat what he kills, not have it served to him.