Bullies, goons, and political meanness

I do not like bullies. Not one bit.

The outside owners of a book and software publisher that employed me for many years would send in a new president every three years or so as part of an executive development strategy for their publishing empire. First year to get settled, second year for changes, third year either up or out. Most were decent folks. But one guy quickly revealed himself as a bully, trying to make changes more by personal threats of losing your job than by mutual goal-setting. When we realized that he pulled this job threat on each of his several direct reports, we all got together and presented a mass resignation “alternative proposal” to his boss at the parent company. The guy was fired that same day. Sometimes Karma works.

The Trump goons

A goon is a hired bully. I first encountered the bullying cons used by the proto-political Donald Trump during the 1990s casino years when that same employer sent me to New York on a team finalizing the purchase and integration of a new subsidiary. They had a significant outstanding receivable from The Trump Organization. Instead of paying on his growing credit line, Trump had sent a goon to the company’s office to threaten their accounts receivable clerks.

Note that this was years before Michael Cohen testified that “gooning” was part of his own job with the Trump Organization, so I could only laugh-cry when I heard Cohen describe the process in front of Congress. My employer, the bullied company’s new owner, quietly wrote off the bill in the purchase settlement in order to avoid any trouble. That Trump Organization business model has long been heavily dependent on bullying behavior, the goons who can enforce it, and the bosses who just want the trouble to “go away.”

Iowa “Not-Nice”

For many of my years living in rural Iowa I would brag about the stereotype of “Iowa Nice” because it was so often evident. While most people I knew lived very conservative lives relative to, say, the coasts, there was always a running thread of progressiveness reflected in good schools, the welcoming of many Laotian immigrants after the Vietnam War and, in 2009, being one of the first states to legalize same-sex marriage, by a Republican-dominated State Supreme Court, no less. Members of my own small community were very active in modernizing girls’ six-on-six basketball in the 1980s and more recently a good friend was part of a state-wide school board effort to stop the bullying of LGBTQ kids in Iowa schools.

With the return of Terry Branstad for his second run at governor in 2011, however, I could feel the social change afoot. I had met Branstad a couple of times at community development events, as well as his then-Lieutenant Governor, now Governor, Kim Reynolds. Here is the overt anti-LGBTQ political bullying happening this week by Kim Reynolds:

Kim Reynolds - Bully

These teen girls were brought to the Iowa Capitol to cheer Governor Reynolds signing into law the immediate prohibition of transgender kids from participating on Iowa sports teams, both at the high school and the college level. This is nothing short of high-powered political cruelty, aimed at a handful of Iowa children whose birthed gene expression offends the Governor and her political supporters. Kim Reynolds is a political bully, supported by far too many goons in the Iowa legislature.

And then there is this clown

Gov. Ron DeSantis

Earlier this week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared in my part of the state for a political event, and the first thing he did walking in was to berate the students in attendance for wearing masks, calling it “theater” and “ridiculous.” Nearly every press conference reveals his Trump-inspired first reaction to every question he does not want to answer, which is to personally attack the reporter asking the question. Ron DeSantis is a political bully, although at least two of these students refused to submit to his trumpiness. Bravo for them!

I could go on naming politicians who have been freed in the last five years by Donald Trump to express their political goonism like they were 8-year-olds proudly passing gas in church. But you get the picture. This “bully disease” behavior has now spread to school board meetings and airplanes, which should both be the very models of calm community “get-along-ness.”

Are there Democratic bullies?

Yes. Clearly the former Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo had a finely-developed in-your-face persona to accompany his sexual cluelessness. But his behavior, too much even for New York, eventually did him in. And good riddance. Democrats tend to get booted quickly, sometimes with little mercy or due process, while Republicans have learned to strut their shame.

And by the way, asking you to pay higher taxes on your new yacht (cough, cough, Representative Vern Buchanan) is not political bullying or even “wokeness.” Sometimes the reason you were “cancelled” is that you were acting like a rich, entitled asshole. Insert your anti-favorite celebrity/sports-figure name here.

For me, the political choice has long been obvious and simple:

No bullies or goons

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