“A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green.” Sir Francis Bacon
It’s an obvious and well accepted statement that U.S. politics have become more polarized in the last 8-9 years. But as harmful as this polarization is to our political process, it’s magnified exponentially by the politics of revenge that are playing out in DC right now. A perfect example of these politics are the refusal by the vast majority of Senate Democrats to confirm the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. This despite Judge Gorsuch’s singularly impressive qualifications for the job, according to Byron Tau of the Wall Street Journal :
“Democrats are also upset about the treatment of former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, who was nominated for the same seat. Republicans declined to vote on his nomination, saying that the seat shouldn’t be filled in the during an election year.”
This trend towards making political decisions for the sole purpose of revenge upon the other party, or voters from the other party, is vitriolic and destructive to our system. The idea that a politician would refuse to make a decision or a vote that is good for Americans solely to settle a personal or party grievance is reprehensible, even if (unfortunately) it is not surprising.
The politics of revenge have been around since the first group of humans created a political structure. It is very difficult to separate the personalities of politicians from their acts, and powerful people like to exert their power when they have the opportunity. Unfortunately, when their constituents not only support the politics of revenge but insist upon them, we begin a downward spiral that creates a Hatfield vs McCoy type of tit-for-tat conflict with no foreseeable end.
The roots of the politics of revenge go far back, particularly among liberals. I asked a very liberal friend in the late 90’s what he thought of the OJ Simpson murder trial verdict. His response was that even though OJ was most likely guilty by the evidence, it was right that he was acquitted because of all of the black men who had been unjustly convicted over the years. Justice for the murder victims, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, was not even a factor in this cold calculation based upon the politics of revenge. Indeed when revenge is the primary purpose behind making a political decision, justice, the greater good of society, and even the precedent being set all pale in consideration to the need to exact payback from some perceived previous mistreatment.
Affirmative action is another example of politics by revenge. When a person is denied the opportunity to get into a college based upon the color of their skin, regardless of what that color is, that is racism. Any racism begets more racism, and past racist wrongs do not make current racism right. A video showing a Black Lives Matter organizer ordering whites to the back of the protest is a particularly apt example of the politics of revenge being exacted on even those who support the cause at hand, simply because they conveniently happened to be available.
As in the cases of Neil Gorsuch and Nicole Brown Simpson, the ones who caused the original perceived harm were not even those who were affected by the revenge. Neil Gorsuch was not responsible for the refusal of the Senate to consider a lame-duck President’s nominee. Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were not responsible for the wrongful convictions of African-American men in the United States. In the politics of revenge, however, such considerations as justice and fairness become inconsequential to the need to exact retribution from anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These politics of revenge are simply one aspect of a lack of moral compass by liberal political groups. Between violent demonstrations with molotov cocktails on campuses designed to shut down free speech, refusing to consider school choice to avoid displacing money going to teachers’ unions, and moral equivalence that equates treatment of women and gays in the U.S. with their treatment under Shariah law, American liberals have lost their path from their roots as compassionate souls who abhorred slavery, demanded free speech and fought against the unequal treatment of different groups of people.