The annual Values Voter Summit has become the year’s biggest gathering for the religious right movement, and it’s common for speakers to pander to conservative attendees with over-the-top rhetoric.
But even some VVS regulars were surprised by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s (R) remarks. Right Wing Watch highlighted the Republican governor’s speech, which seemed to suggest that United States can only survive a Hillary Clinton presidency through bloodshed:
“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.”
In a separate interview, Bevin added, “If we don’t step up when we have a chance to engage ideologically, philosophically, politically – then we will ultimately find ourselves forced to the point that as a people we will be forced to shed the blood of both tyrant and patriots…. [T]hat is why this election matters so, so much.”
Bevin later tried to argue that his VVS comments were related to military service terrorist threats, but it’s difficult to take this explanation seriously. In both the speech and the interview, the right-wing governor framed his concerns in purely partisan terms.
There’s a range of responsible rhetoric in a campaign season, especially from elected officials, and it’s not unreasonable to think Bevin’s apparent references to violence falls outside that range.
As Matt Yglesias put it, “Bevin is arguing not that Clinton will implement some policies that he disagrees with and hopes will be reversed in a future election, but that Clinton will fundamentally imperil the viability of the American republic.”
And it’s that outlandish fear that, according to Bevin, could result in violence and bloodshed.
Responsible public servants don’t talk this way. Responsible observers should find it difficult to defend such rhetoric.