BOOK REVIEW: ‘Demonic’
DEMONIC: HOW THE LIBERAL MOB IS ENDANGERING AMERICA
By Ann Coulter
Crown, $28.99, 295 pages
In “Demonic,” Ann Coulter’s thesis is that the Democratic Party “is the party of the mob.” Plainly, this is a proposition that will evoke a visceral reaction. For her analytical framework, Ms. Coulter points to a series of criteria laid down more than a century ago by Frenchman Gustave Le Bon, in his book “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.” And while she is seldom given to understatement, Ms. Coulter’s conclusions are supported by extensive citation of the behavior she critiques.
Le Bon identified several characteristics of mob behavior. For example, the “creation of an idol is textbook mob behavior.” Le Bon observed that the “primitive” emotions of a crowd slip easily into “infatuation for an individual.”
In modern America, Ms. Coulter notes, liberals “worship” their “political deities.” To illustrate, she reels off a string of fawning, “teeny-bopper patois” quotations by media luminaries about assorted liberal politicians that is impressive even to those who pay attention to this sort of thing. Newsweek’s Joe Klein called President Obama “the political equivalent of a rainbow - a sudden preternatural event inspiring awe and ecstasy.” The Washington Post wrote of Mr. Obama’s “zest for inquiry, his personal involvement, his willingness to make the tough call, his search for middle ground.”
Of course, the “flip side” of liberal hero worship is, as Le Bon put it, that mobs also “consider as enemies all by whom [their dogmas] are not accepted.” Thus, President George W. Bush was routinely compared to a Nazi, even as the media largely ignored the fact that staunch Obama supporter George Soros “had helped the Nazis identify Jewish homes in his native Hungary as a boy.”
Consistent with this point, Ms. Coulter explains, Americans who oppose Mr. Obama are now attacked; no longer is dissent “patriotic.” To note only two of many examples, those opposed to the nationalization of health care were slurred as “teabaggers” on CNN and called “un-American” by then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Le Bon also posited that members of a mob are “perfectly capable of holding completely contradictory ideas at the same time,” because they steadfastly refuse to engage in critical analysis of the positions they espouse. Ms. Coulter, of course, enjoys presenting abundant contemporary evidence in support of this point. “Only liberals could sponsor college speech codes, but say that anyone who doesn’t want to subsidize [offensive art] hates free speech.” The Obama Department of Justice systematically makes race-based decisions about law enforcement, while the administration’s supporters decry all who disagree with its policies to be “racists.”
Then there is the gullibility of mobs, their willingness to embrace falsehoods that fit their prejudices. As Le Bon observed more than a century ago, a mob will believe its own myths even though they “most often have only a very distant relation with the observed fact.” Here again, evidence abounds, as Ms. Coulter’s recapitulation of the Duke lacrosse case (to name but one example) makes clear. Liberals, Ms. Coulter concludes, are the “some of the people” who can be fooled “all of the time.”
“Demonic” also provides historical perspective on mob behavior by contrasting the French and American Revolutions. Ms. Coulter’s chapters showing how genuinely different these events and their participants were, in their goals and their ideologies, are excellent summaries. She reminds us what we celebrate, what we rebelled against and how our Constitution was aimed at preventing the very sort of mob rule that characterized the revolution in France.
Also especially noteworthy is Ms. Coulter’s chapter dismantling the “liberal fairy tale” that the Republicans are the party of Jim Crow. The facts she marshals are impressive, simply because they remind us how false is the firmly entrenched liberal narrative on this subject. To note but a few: President Eisenhower “broke the Democrats’ hold on the South in 1952,” despite Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson’s choice of Alabama segregationist Sen. John Sparkman as his running mate. The 1956 Republican platform supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education; the Democratic platform did not, and Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Harlem Democrat, endorsed Eisenhower that year.
Republicans supported “every civil rights act from the end of the Civil War right up to and including the 1964 Civil Rights Act.” In 1968, moreover, when third-party candidate George Wallace faded in the polls as the election neared, it was Hubert Humphrey the Democrat - not Republican Richard Nixon - who got the “Wallace vote.” And, on “a statistical basis, there was more desegregation of Southern schools in Nixon’s first term than in any historical period, before or after.”
Ms. Coulter’s hyperbole aside, this book provides ample material for civil conversation aimed at getting Americans to discuss issues instead of shouting slogans.
Ray Hartwell is a Washington lawyer and a Navy veteran.