Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

No. Violence is not an acceptable response to electoral defeat.

Gov. Matt Bevin, Republican of Kentucky, spoke to the Christian conservative Values Voter Summit last weekend in Washington, D.C.  This is part of what he had to say:

"Somebody asked me yesterday, I did an interview and they said, 'Do you think it’s possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it’s possible that we’ll be able to survive? That we would ever be able to recover as a nation?'

"And while there are people who have stood on this stage and said we would not, I would beg to differ. But I will tell you this: I do think it would be possible, but at what price? At what price? The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood, of who? The tyrants to be sure, but who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we through our apathy and our indifference have given away."

The layers of dangerous nonsense in such talk are manifold.

In the past few weeks we've seen people go all but apoplectic because a black football player simply declined to stand for the national anthem. We've seen demands that Colin Kaepernick be fired from his job; Donald Trump even suggested that Kaepernick leave the country.

Yet here we have an elected leader, raised to one of the highest positions of authority in the land, publicly advocating armed insurrection as a valid and even necessary response to political defeat. This isn't some powerless, frustrated 20-year-old spouting off, this is a 49-year-old governor who has raised his right hand and solemnly sworn to "support the Constitution of the United States." Yet here he is, suggesting that violence may be the only recourse of patriots should someone other than his choice be elected president under the terms and processes laid out in that same Constitution.

The violence envisioned by Bevin would be perpetrated against "tyrants", which would presumably include duly elected leaders such as President Hillary Clinton, should she win that post. In Bevin's mind, he and other like-minded Christian souls would not only have the right but the obligation to "redeem" the country from such a decision with their own blood and that of others.

This is dangerous, volatile and profoundly irresponsible. It is the paranoiac gutter talk of the worst recesses of the Internet given voice by a person in power to an apparently receptive audience in our nation's capital, and down that path lies disaster.



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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.