Republicans just aren’t funny anymore

Betty BeanKnox Scene

I had a notion to write my first 2024 column asking why Republicans are so mean.

Having taken most of December off, this seemed like a natural way to ease my way back into the opinion-piece game, and Lord knows the topic of Republican meanness is a target-rich environment. I’d planned to start with Dear Leader celebrating the birthday of the Prince of Peace by cracking jokes about issues like Joe Biden’s stutter and the late John McCain’s inability to raise his arms, which of course were paralyzed as a result of having been tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Good stuff, right?

The Frontrunner outdid himself on December 25 by issuing a special Yuletide greeting for his political opposition on his hilariously misnomered “Truth Social” platform: “MAY THEY ROT IN HELL. AGAIN, MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

I, of course, don’t get it, but Donald Trump’s supporters line up to laugh at his quips, buy his merchandise and repeat his pronouncements, although that’s not really a surprising reaction from the same bunch that laughed off Trump’s boasting about sexual assault (“When you’re a celebrity you can do whatever you want – grab ’em by ….”) also spun jokes and spread salacious rumors and internet memes about 83-year-old Paul Pelosi getting his skull bashed in by a hammer-wielding crackpot who broke into the Pelosi home in the dead of night looking to eliminate the Speaker of the House. In her absence that night – she was in Washington, presiding over the House – the ill-informed Q-Anon thug settled for attempting to beat her husband to death instead. The Trump crowd found this amusing.

I guess I just don’t get GOP humor – there’s just something about being mean that tickles the Republican funny bone.

Although I strongly believe that this is true, I didn’t find anything amusing Wednesday morning when I watched the kickoff of the 113th Tennessee General Assembly – specifically the House of Representatives, which once upon a time was called The People’s House. I didn’t laugh once, although it might once have been kind of amusing to watch House Speaker Cameron Sexton and his all-male, all white “leadership” team get escorted to the House chamber by a phalanx of state troopers intent on keeping then safe from a bunch of Christian school moms who wanted to talk to them about gun violence. There’s something about those Covenant School parents that scares the bejesus out of the legislators.

The two Justins scare them, too. Bills have been filed to deal with Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, the outspoken young Black legislators whose constituents sent them right back to the House after Sexton & Co. expelled them for being “disruptive” last year. The proposed legislation would require members who have been kicked out of the body to sit out four years before being allowed to run again. This is one of the joys of super-majority status – changing the rules to suit your political aims.

There’s also nothing funny about The Speaker’s very creepiest action so far this session – restricting admission to the visitors’ galleries (which were filled with Covenant School parents, students and friends after the mass shooting there last spring). These balcony seats on either side of the House chamber were designed to give citizens the opportunity to watch their legislators at work, but starting this year, Speaker Sexton has decided to issue special tickets, one per House member, for VIP admission to the west gallery; thus restricting public access by half.

I can’t find much humor there, either.

The meanness is there, of course, but what I mostly see is fear.

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for


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