To say that the Republicans have become the party of hyperbole might be hyperbolic in and of itself, but they are really into extremes these days. At the Value Voters Conference on Saturday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin made some startling prognostications about what would happen if Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton were elected president. Specifically, he suggested that “blood will be shed” by “patriots.”
Granted, the party's nominee fits this tone of hyperbole. From Donald Trump possibly being “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency” to his insinuation that Second Amendment supporters could shoot Clinton, there seems to be little that the Republican nominee won’t say. In fact, his suggestion in August that “the only way we can lose... is if cheating goes on” calls into question the central tenet of American democracy.
Bevin appears to have taken this one step further with his intimation that violence might be required for America “to recover as a nation.”
“I want us to be able to fight ideologically, mentally, spiritually, economically, so that we don’t have to do it physically,” Bevin said at the Washington, D.C. conference. “But that may, in fact, be the case.”
Bevin made reference to Thomas Jefferson’s 1787 quote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & [sic] tyrants,” which was in a letter to William Stephens Smith.
The irony there, of course, is that in 1800, following the first truly divisive election in American history, the transfer of power from John Adams and his Federalist Party to Jefferson’s own Democratic-Republican Party, the precedent was set for the peaceful handover of power between American political parties. The lack of bloodshed was so novel that the election is now commonly taught in schools as the “peaceful revolution of 1800.” In his inaugural address, Jefferson even took a moment to acknowledge this, proclaiming, “We are all Republicans, and we are all Federalists.” (Imagine for a moment, if you will, Trump saying something along these lines in his inaugural address.)
What’s so infuriating about this type of Republican rhetoric coming from Bevin is that it claims the mantle of authentic American-ness while wholly undermining those qualities of the country that made it (and make it) good. Comments like these might be intended to rile up the base, but what it ends up doing is threatening the core functionality of our system of government. I’m not trying to suggest that the system is perfect — far, far from it — but Bevin’s veiled calls for violence amounts to claiming to save the country by burning it to the ground.
In fact, there have already been some calls for his ouster. Democratic congressional candidate Nancy Jo Kemper is already calling for Bevin's impeachment, describing the governor’s remarks as “unambiguously life threatening.”
But in case we get distracted by history and rhetoric, I have another way to describe Bevin’s remarks: unbelievably nuts.