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Beware of the Mob

Our Modern Lynch Mob

Democracies are in general prone to fits of the mob. Just read the Thucydidean account of the debate of Mytilene. Or watch a 1950s Western as the lynch party heads for the town jail. Fear of democratically sanctioned madness is why the Founders came up not just with classical tripartite government to check and limit power between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches, but also now generally disdained notions of allowing states to impose property qualifications for voting, the Electoral College, two senators guaranteed per state regardless of population, and senators originally selected without direct votes.

They were not concerned that under Athenian-style democracy the proverbial “people” and their populist Rottweilers in government and the press could not check the power of capital and birth, but were worried, as Juvenal later quipped, over who would police the police. So there had to be checks on the mob as well — a fickle and unpredictable force as we saw in the last eight years.

2006 Evil Guantanamo/ 2009 Good Guantanamo

Sometime around 2005, the anger of the mob over the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols peaked. Preventative detention, renditions, military tribunals, Guantanamo, Predators, wiretaps, and intercepts were all considered unlawful, unnecessary, and immoral. The Bush-Cheney “terror state” seemed capable of almost anything, as it shredded the Constitution while claiming to “protect” us from non-existent terrorists. Dick Cheney went from a respected and perennial Washington insider, given his due by both liberals and conservatives as a sober and judicious administrator over the past thirty years, to a pernicious Darth Vader.

The Left never really adduced any evidence to support its charges, but such serial attacks went largely unanswered. Candidate Barack Obama both benefited from and whipped up the venom, only as president to embrace or expand all of what he had once so vehemently denounced. He soon became predator-in-chief, increasing targeted assassinations eightfold, as he joked about them being unleashed at any potential suitors of Malia and Sasha.

The Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism policies were quietly reinvented as necessary (given that no post-9/11 plot [and there were many] had succeeded) and continue on today as if no one ever had questioned their utility or legality. The fist-shaking mob apparently decided that what was truly bad before 2009 was mostly good afterwards, or at least not bad enough to question an Obama presidency. So it threw down the torches and drifted on home, wanting the proverbial prisoner in the jail freed and canonized rather than hanged.

Today we are left with either one of two liberal assumptions: the Bush-Cheney protocols are still bad, but to continue to criticize them would now be to weaken the liberal agenda of their present adherent Barack Obama; or, why get riled over politics? —  every out-party attacks the in-party any way it can, so get over it.

Planet Warming on Hold

One of the most venomous lines of attack against George W. Bush was his supposed failure to address climate change. These were the mob days of the anguished Al Gore, still smarting over having won the popular, but not the electoral, vote in 2000, damning Bush as a liar, as he created Gore, Inc. — a near organic-growing merchandising empire of several hundred millions of dollars.

Gorism both hyped a global carbon threat and then offered the consulting and expertise to address it. His carbon footprints and “offsets” followed the medieval model of selling exemptions. In such holy work, there were no such things as conflict of interest, influence peddling, or simple bad manners. Gore rode his Earth in the Balance / Inconvenient Truth express train to a Nobel Prize, a sizable fortune — and a general impression that he had become unhinged, whether in his incarnation as a “crazed sex poodle” or a vein-bursting screaming “he lied!” mental patient.

No matter, Barack Obama came into office on the shoulders of this screaming mob. His team lectured us on the wisdom of withholding oil leases, on the desirability of European-level gas prices, and on why we must soon pay skyrocketing energy prices. Obama-sanctioned cap-and-trade passed the Democratic-held House.

And then?