More on the Politics of Civility

More on the strategery of civility.

Apropos of James Joyner’s post this morning is the following from Joe Scaraborough’s Politco column (Moving past right-wing rhetoric):

Presidential-year elections are driven by a completely different demographic. Good luck trying that “Second Amendment remedies” crap on swing voters in the suburbs. It just won’t fly. And neither will the cacophony of crazy talk that has gripped the far right for the past two years.

It’s time to grow up, act responsibly and start planning for the 2012 election.

If you can’t be civil because it’s the right thing to do, then do it because it is in your party’s best interest.

There is absolutely something to this notion, as the electorate that turns out in a midterm election is not the same one that turns out in presidential elections, and therefore different kind of campaign strategies are in order.  Certainly suburban swing voters are likely to be made rather uncomfortable by gun-based rhetoric.

Of course, it is worth noting that the “‘Second Amendment remedies’ crap” didn’t work in 2010, either (at least in terms of the Nevada Senate race).  Indeed, if Sharron Angle has been a tinge less fringe, or if the NV GOP had nominated a slightly more mainstream nominee, then Harry Reid would be at home tending his garden rather than bearing the title “Senate Majority Leader.”

However, it is worth continuing to note that the variable of most significance to the electoral outcomes in November 2012 is the state of the economy, not the quality of the civil discourse.  Indeed, one of the major reasons that there was a lot of angry rhetoric (and the commensurate violent imagery within that rhetoric) was because we, as a country, were angry over the state of the economy.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. James Joyner says:

    That last paragraph is key: Most of what happened in 2010 was a reaction to the economy and related circumstances rather than political speechifying and the like.

    I’m not sure how to square the circles between the Kaus and Scarborough arguments, though. I think more polished leaders will naturally use less idiotic language and imagery and thus contribute to a culture of civility. But, so long as the electorate is ripe for demagoguery, it’s going to be hard for that type of leader to win party nominations.

  2. mantis says:

    Of course, it is worth noting that the “‘Second Amendment remedies’ crap” didn’t work in 2010, either (at least in terms of the Nevada Senate race). Indeed, if Sharron Angle has been a tinge less fringe, or if the NV GOP had nominated a slightly more mainstream nominee, then Harry Reid would be at home tending his garden rather than bearing the title “Senate Majority Leader.”

    The Republican Party went all in with a full house of crazies, and came out ahead. Sure, it backfired with Angle and a couple of others, but the general strategy was sound enough to let them capitalize on the discontent over the economy. And even if Angle had won, it would be Senate Majority Leader Durbin or some such. It would only have been a symbolic victory, and I think they had a lot of those last year (taking Obama’s old seat, etc.).

    The problem for the Republicans in 2012 isn’t so much suburban swing voters, but rather the expectations they gave their base in 2010. The base likes the crazy; they like talk about “second amendment remedies” and such. Any national candidate who focuses on winning over swing voters with sanity before they’ve locked up a primary will likely lose that primary if facing a reasonable opponent. And some of those who win their primaries will be too far out there to succeed in a general election. It’s a Catch-22 for them, but whatever; they set their own table.

  3. mantis says:

    Oops. “[R]easonable opponent” should be “crazy opponent” above.

  4. @Mantis:

    I certainly do not want to be in the position of defending “the crazies” but I would say this: there was no unified strategy in 2010 (indeed, there never is).

    I will agree that any GOP candidate is going to have to find a way to navigate the primaries before heading to the general election (but that’s nothing new) and it is always trickier for the party out of power. And yes, the Tea Party faction will make it more difficult than usual, but again their ability to drum up the anger is going to be very much linked to the state of the economy (even if they don’t see it that way).

  5. mantis says:

    I will agree that any GOP candidate is going to have to find a way to navigate the primaries before heading to the general election (but that’s nothing new) and it is always trickier for the party out of power.

    It’s nothing new, but the dynamic is a bit different for the Republicans these days, I think. How different from primary election Obama was general election Obama? Not very. The pivot from primary campaign to general election campaign had a pretty small angle for him. For the 2012 Republican primary winner, my guess is it will be a much more difficult pivot to make.

  6. Wayne says:

    More on the politics of civility, we need more of it. Not doing so will hurt you. So all you on the opposite side you need to STF up already, you crazy wing bats nut cases with you nutty crap remedies. If your issues are not mind then who the f*@k cares. Also knock off with the anger and violent speech before I knock the shit out of you.

    Just to restate what many of you are saying.

  7. “There is absolutely something to this notion, …”

    Please, tell me you don’t hold a college degree. At the least, tell me there was a nun back in grade school who failed to rap your knuckles when she held “proper use of sdjectives” class.

  8. Honestly, Taylor, how can a “something” be “absolute”? What whack copy of Strunk & White do you work from?

  9. mantis says:

    Just to restate what many of you are saying.

    You mean invent, not restate. Do us a favor and point to anyone saying anything remotely like what you wrote.

  10. mantis says:

    Penguin, I suggest you keep your wrongheaded pedantic criticisms to yourself.

    The word “absolutely” is a synonym for “positively,” “certainly,” and “assuredly.” It does not have a sole definition meaning “entirely” or “completely.”

    Also, “absolutely” is not an adjective, but an adverb. Strunk & White would prefer you do not invoke their names if you can’t correctly identify the parts of a sentence.

  11. Hey, mantis? You know gatz about sentence structure in the real world. Pull “absolutely” from the sentence and nothing changes. Pull “something” from the sentence and, since it is the real-world–yet nebulous–actionable in that excerpt–as opposed to “absolutely”, the sentence falls apart. Ergo, while technically, hanging out on its own, “absolutely” would be considered an adverb, contextually it is an adjective operand in this occasion.

    PS: For someone so excised that the word “pendant” immediately spilled forth, I gauge you someone who failed Rational Semantics and is desperate to redeem yourself with the late night collegiate BS team… NTTAWWT.

  12. john personna says:

    Civility is the pinnacle, but while a Denis Leary style rant is a ways down the slope, it isn’t near the bottom. To reach bottom you have to lie, misrepresent, refuse fact, and so on. At rock bottom you start finding those who incites, or carefully skirt incitement.

  13. Wayne says:

    Re “Do us a favor and point to anyone saying anything remotely like what you wrote.”

    James
    “Of course, it is worth noting that the “‘Second Amendment remedies’ crap” didn’t work in 2010,”

    Mantis
    “The Republican Party went all in with a full house of crazies”
    “The base likes the crazy; they like talk about “second amendment remedies” and such”
    “winning over swing voters with sanity before they’ve locked up a primary”
    “[R]easonable opponent” should be “crazy opponent” above.”

    Joe’s snippet James referred tohas .
    “And neither will the cacophony of crazy talk”

    Many prior posts, Media comments, Democrats statements contain many similar or even more over the top statements. Go back and read post on Palin and you will see all sorts of derogatory names thrown at here.

    My comment is a reflection of what I see out there. Often those who call for civility often use harsh, hateful and derogatory statements in their own statements.

  14. Wayne says:

    As for the first part of the my statement
    Joe which Jame liked.
    “It’s time to grow up, act responsibly and start planning for the 2012 election.
    If you can’t be civil because it’s the right thing to do, then do it because it is in your party’s best interest.”
    Can we all grow up and not use “it’s time to grow up” or something similar? 🙂 🙂 🙂

  15. Scarborough doesn’t even understand the politics of his own Upper West Side neighborhood, nevermind what goes on outside his Amtrack East Coast corridor.

  16. mantis says:

    Pull “absolutely” from the sentence and nothing changes. Pull “something” from the sentence and, since it is the real-world–yet nebulous–actionable in that excerpt–as opposed to “absolutely”, the sentence falls apart.

    So you’re argument is that pulling the adverb leaves the sentence intact, but pulling the subject makes the sentence fall apart? Agreed. This, however, is not a criticism, and it’s not the argument you originally make.

    Ergo, while technically, hanging out on its own, “absolutely” would be considered an adverb, contextually it is an adjective operand in this occasion.

    No, it isn’t. “Absolutely” in that sentence modifies the verb “is,” not the noun “something.”

  17. mantis says:

    Wayne,

    None of quote those are accurately described in your comment:

    So all you on the opposite side you need to STF up already, you crazy wing bats nut cases with you nutty crap remedies. If your issues are not mind then who the f*@k cares. Also knock off with the anger and violent speech before I knock the shit out of you.

    Try again and actually find someone who threatens physical violence against people on the right in response to their speech. Us accurately describing that speech doesn’t count.

  18. anjin-san says:

    Wayne, show us the threats of physical violent please. You put this out there. Kindly back it up.

  19. Wayne says:

    A man who was wounded in last week’s shooting rampage in Tucson was apprehended by authorities Saturday after he allegedly threatened a “tea party” activist at a town hall meeting of victims and eyewitnesses of the attack.

    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/15/nation/la-na-arizona-shooting-threat-20110116

  20. […] themselves against the leftist accusations that they were responsible for the Arizona shooting. Unbelievable.  A commenter on the piece summed up my reaction quite well: Until you can say on your show that […]

  21. Wayne says:
  22. mantis says:

    So basically, Wayne, on the one side we have Republican members of Congress, Republican candidates for national office, and other sitting Republican officials talking about armed revolution and “Second Amendment remedies” to lost elections, and on the other side you present a guy who was just shot twice by an assassin and some old stories about random nobody protesters getting into fights with Tea Partiers? Weak.

  23. anjin-san says:

    That’s good Wayne. A link to a right wing rant site that is openly racist. I know I am impressed. Got to say that citing that sewer is an interesting piece of unintentional disclosure on your part…

  24. Wayne says:

    The point is there are many who call for more civility but act in a contrary manner. Do you think calling people nut jobs, crazies, childish, idiot and whose ideas are crap is encouraging civility?

    First you pretend that there are no examples of threats and violence from the left. Proven wrong and you pretend that whatever examples I pull up are the only ones. I can list a long line of threats and violence from the left including flattening GOP car tires, wishing people would die of a heart attack,bloggers threatening me, etc. However I’m sure you come up with another excuse for them.

  25. Wayne says:

    Anjin
    There are youtubes sites with videos of the assaults. Look them up.

  26. anjin-san says:

    So what do we have here Wayne? Apparently, a few fringe wackos that claim to be Democrats have been involved in some relatively minor (but still unacceptable) violence directed at the GOP. There seems to be no evidence at all of the “Obama Thugs” or “Union Thugs” that seem to set right wing knees to knocking.

    So out of millions and millions of Democrats, there are a few (very) bottom feeders who have been violent. They have been universally condomned by Democrats, top to bottom.

    And then you have the GOP, where many of the most important people in the party are supportive of violence. “Second amendment remedies” or Bill O’Reilley “It’s ok for terrorists to attack San Francisco”.

    In one party, violence is abborant. In the other, it seems more like an idea who’s time has come.

    The difference is probably lost on you. Put you victim cloak on, and get back to visiting racist websites. I am still blow away that you cited that cesspit.

    > First you pretend that there are no examples of threats and violence from the left.

    Please show were anyone said this. Putting words in peoples mouths is a bad practice, and a symptom of a weak debating position. All we did was ask you for examples. You served up some pretty weak tea.

  27. john personna says:

    For what it’s worth Wayne, I think this is a much more impressive list. Are any of those “stretched?” At a glance it doesn’t look so …

  28. mantis says:

    The point is there are many who call for more civility but act in a contrary manner.

    Please show us where the people in the stories you linked to have called for civility. Or are you just blaming everyone who encourages civility for the actions of a few jerks at rallies?

    Do you think calling people nut jobs, crazies, childish, idiot and whose ideas are crap is encouraging civility?

    Not really, but I’m not one of those people calling for civil discourse. It’s a futile pursuit.

    First you pretend that there are no examples of threats and violence from the left.

    Where did I pretend that? I asked you to back up your claims. That’s not the same thing. I was curious what you would come up with. As we have pointed out, it was pretty damned weak.

    Proven wrong and you pretend that whatever examples I pull up are the only ones.

    Again, haven’t been proven wrong because you were arguing with a strawman. You do so again by claiming we say those are the only examples. I was unimpressed with the examples you gave. I never claimed there aren’t more.

    I can list a long line of threats and violence from the left including flattening GOP car tires, wishing people would die of a heart attack,bloggers threatening me, etc. However I’m sure you come up with another excuse for them.

    I’m not excusing their behavior, but the fact is what you come up with is examples of citizens getting into fights with each other. It’s unfortunate, but it’s hardly the same thing as elected national and state officials, candidates for national office, and hugely popular political media personalities openly advocating armed revolt. It’s also hardly the same thing as the long string of violent anti-government, anti-liberal crimes and terrorist actions taken over the past two years, as detailed in john personna’s list above.

    If you can’t see the difference between a sitting member of the US House of Representatives telling her supporters that they need to be “armed and dangerous” while quoting Jefferson that “having a revolution every now and then is a good thing” and some random nobody engaging in fisticuffs at a rally, you are out of your mind. If you can’t tell the difference between campaign dirty tricksters slashing the tires on a Republican Party van and an anti-government lunatic fed a steady diet of Glenn Beck conspiracy walking into the Pentagon and opening fire, or one killing police officers who visit his house because he’s convinced the president is going to take his guns away (several examples of this), or an anti-tax lunatic flying his plane into an IRS building, or “sovereign citizens” killing cops when stopped for traffic violations, or any number of other criminal and terrorist acts committed by rightwing nuts, you are out of your mind.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Wherever has Wayne wandered off to?

  30. Wayne says:

    Another example from today’s headlines and it is a elected politician.

    “Democrat Compares Republicans to Nazis”

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/thenote/2011/01/abc-news-jonathan-karl-reports-the-newfound-civility-didnt-last-long-political-rhetoric-in-congress-doesnt-get-much.html

  31. Wayne says:

    Another ekected Democrat calling for
    “It really is time for Americans to take up pitchforks.”

    http://nation.foxnews.com/claire-mccaskill/2010/12/04/claire-mccaskill-calls-violence-if-dems-don-t-get-their-historic-tax-hik

  32. Wayne says:

    So Mantis you are asking me to prove things that you already know?

    Saying “You mean invent, not restate. Do us a favor and point to anyone saying anything remotely like what you wrote” and “Try again and actually find someone who threatens physical violence against people on the right in response to their speech” is not the same as “yes there have been Democrats and those on the left who threaten violence but please give me some examples.”

    Claiming someone “invented” something is the pretty much the same as saying it didn’t happen.

  33. anjin-san says:

    Wayne,

    Once again, a very simple request. Show us where anyone in here ever said that there are no examples of threats and violence from the left.

    These are your exact words:

    First you pretend that there are no examples of threats and violence from the left.

    I am not holding my breath waiting for you to support your own remarks. We expect very little from you, and you never disappoint.

  34. anjin-san says:

    I guess Wayne is sticking with “It depends what your definition of is is”…