Why you gotta be so mean? *

Betty BeanKnox Scene

Tennessee House Republican Caucus Leader Jeremy Faison’s first reaction to the news that Gloria Johnson is running for the Senate seat now occupied by Marsha Blackburn was to accuse Johnson of mutilating children (and other stuff).

“Gloria Johnson is a radical socialist who would work to destroy our Tennessee values in the United States Senate. She supports late-term abortion, child mutilation and gun confiscation. We must ensure she does not win.”

His colleague Jody Barrett beat the rush and didn’t wait for her formal announcement to suggest that she’s stupid because she uses a medically prescribed scooter to navigate the marble hallways on Capitol Hill:

“I know it’s hard to keep up on that little scooter, but try.”

And there was the no-name semi-literate who tweeted:

“Fatso here is a liberal communist! wo the He** needs her in congress.”

The response to this uppity woman’s latest offense almost makes me nostalgic for the days when the defining characteristic of GOP philosophy was conservatism, served it up with generous sides of family values, low taxes, small government and Jesus. I was naïve enough to look forward to a time when they’d move on to other tangents, figuring that things couldn’t possibly get any worse. Boy, howdy, was I ever wrong.

It’s the meanness that defines them. They’re even mean to each other – like peeing in a colleague’s chair. Really, guys?

And nothing draws the meanness out more than smiling schoolmarm Gloria Johnson, whom I’ve been writing about since 2007 when I decided to track down the special education teacher who was spending her spring break in North Carolina, knocking on doors for Barack Obama. She’d never been involved in politics before, and I didn’t know her, although I’d seen her around and figured she must be a former Lady Vols basketball player – it’s rare to run into women who stand 6-3.

Turned out she wasn’t a hooper, but I liked her right from jump. She was funny, kind-hearted, energetic, enthusiastic and smart: a natural. And those are rare.

People are upset when denied the chance to speak to legislative committees during the special session. (Photo by The Tennessee Holler)

Gloria Johnson, who has no children of her own, was working for kids long before she became one third of The Tennessee Three, or even ran for office. This is not an act. It’s who she is. And when she talks about the day one of her students was shot and killed by a kid who brought a gun to school, she’s not faking those tears. Or that anger. That’s who she is, too. Her own health issues have made her acutely aware of what it’s like to navigate that system, and growing up with a father who was in the FBI (he was one of the agents dispatched to the Deep South to enforce federally mandated desegregation orders) helped make her aware that the “system” can be cruelly unfair.

Her professional resume stands in sharp contrast to the allegations being belched out on the other side of the aisle, where meanness rules. This makes them extremely easy to predict, in Tennessee, and nationally, too.

For example, after the sharp-tongued, slippery and truth-challenged Vivek Ramaswamy laid waste to his opponents in the first GOP presidential candidate debate, political writer Michael A. Cohen, whose Twitter handle includes the disclaimer NOT TRUMP’S FORMER FIXER, made the following prediction:

“Vivek Ramaswamy is one of the more unappealing politicians I’ve seen in quite some time … which means that he will likely rocket up the GOP polls.”

And sure enough, Cohen was right. Ramaswamy, who carefully avoided criticizing Donald Trump, was pronounced the winner of the “debate,” and became an instant contender.

Because he was mean.

And why does House Speaker Cameron Sexton think he has a chance to be the next governor despite images of upset parents being escorted out of the gallery because they held a small sign? Why does he try to silence and even expel legislators who disagree with him?

Because Republican primaries have become a race to the right – winner takes all and the winner is the meanest of the lot.

Meanness is a virtue in MAGA land, where they claim to care about unborn babies and female athletes, but have little regard for the healthcare needs of women or children after they exit the womb. It doesn’t take much searching to uncover what defines the 2023 Republican Party.

All they’ll ever be is mean. *

(Hat tip @Taylor Swift)

Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinioin column for KnoxTNToday.com


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