The Big Bag of Meanness Skip to content

The Big Bag of Meanness

Forget sex. Sex no longer sells. Meanness does. And meanness is the Republican Party’s brand.

3 min read

I set out to write a story about Gov. Kristi Noem — potential VP pick for Trump — but I don’t have it in me.

I can’t do it. I can’t go there. I can’t spend my mental currency, my heart (thank God, I still have my heart) on that lurid level of poison. We all have our limits and this is mine.

But this is the state of American politics.

It seems centuries ago since writer Adam Serwer coined “the cruelty is the point” in 2018, the early Trump days. But here we are, exhausted by it. Drowning in it. The cruelty, the meanness, really is the point, isn’t it.

Forget sex. Sex no longer sells. Meanness does.

And meanness is the Republican Party’s brand.


Kristi Noem did not just shoot her puppy. Let’s be clear on that.

Kristi Noem, a GOP leader, the governor of South Dakota, bragged about shooting her puppy, saying she hated the puppy and was sick of the puppy not training himself. She bragged about throwing her dying puppy alone, into a gravel pit, because she thinks a story about hating and shooting a puppy and throwing his body away like trash is what sells.

Kristi Noem thinks this level of meanness is what it takes to get Trump’s attention.

And she’s probably right.

From South Dakota to Washington DC to Kentucky, the Republican Party’s specific brand of meanness is now in our water supply and we are all drinking it, whether we want to or not.

Here in Kentucky, GOP leaders like Senate President Robert Stivers and Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer might not be shooting puppies, but they are on the meanness train, too.

The men we expect to be above it all, to be statesmen, to lead, regardless of party, proudly and viciously snarl and wag their fingers at fellow lawmakers to prove they are, by God, mean enough to lead.

The sexism, the lying, the racism, the horrifying bills they shove through with enraged glee.

You wanna see “mean” they seem to be saying, fist in the air like the cliche of a mean drunk. By God, we’ll show you “mean.”


Men like KY House Majority Whip Jason Nemes — what in the hell happened to Jason Nemes? we all ask, didn’t he used to be normal? — now spend the bulk of their legislative currency twisting with indignant anger, shaking fists, yelling, hawking hateful, cruel, expensive bills with questionable data … and how dare anyone question them.


Meanness, man.

Meanness is where it’s AT.

Meanness sells.

And the bigger the bag of meanness the better.

Trumpism — and the cruelty and meanness that comes with him — is today’s GOP brand, and leaders from Kristi Noem to Robert Stivers to Damon Thayer to Jason Nemes are tripping over themselves to get their name on the list.

Trump is both their leader and their hero.

The cruelty is the point.

The meanness is the point.

Meanness is the means to power.

And if it takes bragging about shooting a puppy and throwing that puppy’s body into a gravel pit to prove it, sign ‘em up.


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Teri Carter

Teri Carter writes about rural Kentucky politics for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Washington Post, and The Daily Yonder. She lives in Anderson County.



The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

A very light news day, with most of the focus on the arrest of the golfer at the PGA last week. Of note, though, is Heather Cox Richardson’s summary of President Biden’s commencement speech at Morehouse.

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