Tennessee GOP, Like All Fascists, Leaps to Vengeance

State Rep. Justin Jones of Nashville speaks prior to a vote on his expulsion from the legislature at the State Capitol Building on April 6, 2023 in Nashville, TN.

Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives are furious and out for revenge. Two Black Democratic members and a Democratic woman had confronted them — and embarrassed them — over their unwillingness to do anything about the slaughter of Tennessee’s children in that state’s schools.

To punish them and teach women and other young men Black men — who might think of being too troublesome in the legislature — a lesson, the GOP ran a pathetic Kangaroo Court for the world to see. And got their revenge.

Jim Jordan and his buddies in the GOP are furious and out for revenge. Donald Trump is being held to account by a Black district attorney in New York City for falsifying business records to affect the outcome of an election and to avoid paying taxes and Jordan is attempting to intimidate the prosecutor’s office.

Ron DeSantis is furious and out for revenge. After the CEO of Disney publicly disagreed with the governor’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, DeSantis thought he could hurt the company, but they outfoxed him. Now he’s demanding an investigation to harass and bully the company.

Brett “Beerbong” Kavanaugh is furious and out for revenge. Several women pointed out his drunken sexual assaults when he was a teenager and he told the Senate:

“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit … revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades … and as we all know, in the political system of the early 2000s, what goes around comes around.”

Donald Trump is furious and out for revenge. For the first time in his 76 years on this Earth, he’s being held to account for a small slice of his lifetime of criminal behavior, and being held to account by a Black man. He’s apparently trying as hard as he can to trigger another of his stochastic terrorist followers to threaten or assassinate the DA, the judge, and their families.

The Republican Party has devolved into an organized mob bent on revenge, because the people of America are rejecting their version of leadership and their abandonment of the principles of democracy. Facing increasing rejection by voters, they have turned to gerrymandering, threats, blocking the right to vote, and inciting violence.

Having failed at holding power through the democratic process, Republicans have turned instead to revenge tactics.

Revenge is violence.

Revenge as a political philosophy is rooted in violence: the domination of the many by a few, whether the main instrument of that domination is personal physical violence, the violence of great wealth and political power being used to destroy one’s enemies, or unjustified violence inflicted by the state under color of law.

But at its core, revenge is rooted in physical violence, intimidation, and murder. It’s war brought into politics and governance.

Vengeance like this has its own power and its own attraction. The media is drawn to it, making it attractive to Republicans as a way of bringing together their followers.

Insecure, frightened men (and the occasional woman) participating in revenge-fueled violence find a sense of agency, of individual power and meaning, a sort of orgasmic release from a life of ordinariness and political impotence.

And make no mistake: the GOP has become the party of revenge and political violence.

Democrats watch revenge threats of violence against school board members; against nurses and hospitals treating Covid; against abortion providers; against racial minorities and queer people who Republican legislators declare — and try to put into law — are less than human or “aberrations” that must not be tolerated in a “free society.”

“It’s the exception,” the media notes, and moves on to the next story.

In fact, these displays of revenge-based violence and the willingness to use violence are Republican declarations. They are statements of purpose. They’re spoken and executed with pride.

They are assertions by Republicans and their followers that they are perfectly willing to exercise violence and its power up to and including the ultimate: the power to take human lives, as they did against three police officers (and tried to kill others) on January 6th.

Republicans and their media lionize Kyle Rittenhouse for showing up at a Black Lives Matter protest and killing two protestors. They celebrate police revenge against Black people with “thin blue line” flags, and wave the all-black US flag that signifies the willingness to kill one’s political opponents.

They show up at protests heavily armed and wearing tee-shirts evoking General Pinochet with the slogan, “Free helicopter rides for liberals.” Their leader said there are “very good people on both sides” after his followers — demanding revenge against Jews they say are trying to “replace” them with Black people — murdered a young woman named Heather Heyer.

Republicans running for office feature guns and imply threats to kill people for political revenge in their television and online advertising. Eric Greitens is just the latest in a long list of GOP shooters glorifying assault weapons and implying political violence. This is Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie’s Christmas Card, but he’s just one of many members of Congress to pose their white children with deadly assault weapons.

These are all expressions of a political philosophy that is based in revenge.

When men like Rusty Bowers, Adam Kinsinger, and Brad Raffensperger — Republicans who dared stop Trump’s criminal attempts to steal the 2020 election — describe how they were and continue to be threatened with violence, elected Republicans fall silent.

Arizona House Speaker Bowers endured violent threats outside his home through night after night as his daughter lay dying: this kind of revenge-driven violence is devoid of compassion. It is evil.

Not a word from Ronna Romney McDaniel about the embrace of revenge by the base of the Republican Party she leads, there was not a word from congressional Republicans about the violence their own fellow conservatives like Liz Cheney now face, nor a word from Republican media other than to cynically mouth phony excuses and justifications about why they must seek revenge.

Because revenge is now their brand. They revel in it.

They boast of it in ways they sometimes claim are just hyperbole or jokes, like when Sharron Angle (and others) warned of “Second Amendment solutions” to Democratic successes at the polls, or when Donald Trump sent his mob to hang Mike Pence in revenge for failing to flip the election to him.

Their followers know what they mean: these are proud statements of their willingness to use or endorse revenge-based violence, and carry explicit threats.

Revenge is the cardinal characteristic, the logo, the brand identity of fascism. Every fascist movement in history has lifted itself to power on the scaffold of revenge against an “other” they claim have stolen from them or persecuted them.

Rightwing media revel in the language of revenge. They dehumanize the victims of their violence with words like “invaders” and “vermin” and “illegals” and demand revenge for the lost jobs, integrated schools and neighborhoods, and other insults they imagine.

To justify the violence at the heart of their movement, they also squeal a phony claim to victimhood: wealthy Republicans claim Democrats are trying to take their tax dollars. They fear gays are trying to groom their children. They pretend teachers are indoctrinating their youth in socialism. Revenge, they say, is their only option.

Over the past four decades, as this revenge-fueled movement has arisen in America and taken over the GOP, more than three-quarters of all politically motivated murders have been committed by rightwing often-Republican-aligned terrorists who invariably claim they’re rightfully seeking revenge.

Republicans justify their violence as necessary to get revenge against those they say have assaulted their faith, their families, and the “identity” of their homeland. They will tell you it’s the unfortunate last-ditch “necessity” provoked by the Democrats and dark-skinned or queer “others” who “threaten our way of life.”

In reality, revenge is not the fascist’s final, last-gasp option: it’s their first.

— It’s their most powerful recruiting tool, showing, as it does, their dominance and control of society and society’s institutions.

— It’s how they cow dissent.

— It’s the weapon that provokes action, and fascists are all about action.

— It creates chaos, and revenge needs chaos to tear down the existing structures of governance and law that they intend to replace.

The final cause to which fascist revenge is directed is what Jefferson (and Hobbes) called bellum omnium in omnia: war of all against all. Every vengeful act is designed intentionally to bring society closer to breakdown, so the fascists can openly and vengefully kill their enemies — particularly people of color and “liberals” — in the streets of the nation.

It’s why Tim McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring another 680: he told the world it was revenge for Waco and other “big government” violations of his rightwing world. It appears to be what motivated both the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people and left over 550 wounded, and the Boston Bomber. Revenge against Black people was claimed by the Buffalo killer of 20 people in a supermarket, and revenge against Hispanics motivated the 2019 El Paso shooter who murdered 23 people. Revenge against Jews enraged the Tree of Life synagogue shooter.

It’s the story line of the two best-selling books within this part of the modern Republican movement, Camp of the Saints and The Turner Diaries. Each ends with revenge-fueled mass slaughter leaving a nation of “pure” white Christian survivors, most holding well-used assault rifles as they stand atop piles of brown and Jewish bodies.

Most Americans are not driven by revenge. It’s not how they think politics should work.

They’d just like a country that works for all of us, instead of just white people, the billionaire class, and giant, monopolistic corporations. Most Americans are sick of Republicans saturating our airwaves with their revenge fantasies, their revenge investigations, their revenge against voters, their revenge programming on hate-driven TV and radio.

Revenge is a poison, and it’s deeply embedded now in the political bloodstream of our nation because Republicans who haven’t gotten their way have proclaimed the political and social equivalent of revenge-fueled holy wars.

They showed up with revenge in their hearts to make right Trump’s loss on January 6th; they sought revenge for having to wear masks during the pandemic; they seek revenge on women, racial, and gender minorities who merely want equal rights and freedoms as citizens of the United States.

A 2003 study by University of Oklahoma psychology researcher Ryan P. Brown found a strong association between revenge and narcissism, a personality disorder that has become a defining characteristic of many Republican politicians, from Donald Trump to, apparently, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Jim Jordan.

“As expected,” Brown noted, “people low in dispositional forgiveness were more vengeful than were people high in dispositional forgiveness, but particularly so among those high in narcissism; among those low in narcissism, forgiveness was less strongly related to vengeance. Thus, the most vengeful people were those who were both low in forgiveness and high in narcissism, independent of gender differences and healthy self-esteem.”

Republicans in Tennessee, preening for the cameras and high on their own white privilege self-righteousness, got their revenge yesterday. They bullied and humiliated their Democratic colleagues who were acting on behalf of that state’s schoolchildren, and expelled two “uppity” Black members.

Now, hopefully, America sees how disgusting and pathetic revenge is when compared to governing on behalf of the people, instead of just the gun industry and the morbidly rich.

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