Against American Mobocracy | Opinion

In his 1838 Lyceum Address in Springfield, Illinois, a 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln spoke on "the perpetuation of our political institutions." The speech was eerily prescient, coming 23 years as it did before then-President Lincoln presided over a nation tragically brought into a grisly Civil War—the ultimate test of that "perpetuation"—by the assault on Fort Sumter.

But Lincoln's Lyceum Address was not merely prescient insofar as Fort Sumter was concerned. Indeed, much of the speech, with its emphasis on the perils of mobocracy, reads as if it could have been delivered yesterday. As Democratic Party activists today, much like their 19th-century predecessors, yet again resort to thuggish appeals to mob force, it is incumbent upon the GOP—the "Party of Lincoln"—to heed and utilize its spiritual founder's lasting wisdom.

In Springfield, Lincoln warned that "the innocent, those who have ever set their faces against violations of law in every shape, alike with the guilty, fall victims to the ravages of mob law." Then, carefully connecting rule by mob with declining civic efficacy and democracy itself, Lincoln added: "By the operation of this mobocratic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed—I mean the attachment of the People."

Finally, toward the end of his speech, after establishing the dangers of mobocracy, Lincoln made his appeal: "There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law. In any case that arises, as for instance, the promulgation of abolitionism, one of two positions is necessarily true; that is, the thing is right within itself, and therefore deserves the protection of all law and all good citizens; or, it is wrong, and therefore proper to be prohibited by legal enactments; and in neither case, is the interposition of mob law, either necessary, justifiable, or excusable."

The overarching backdrop of Lincoln's Lyceum Address was, of course, that most fraught issue that dominated so much of antebellum American politics: slavery. But his advice, and his appeal, are timeless. In fact, that advice has never been more apropos than it is today. For today, much as back then, the threat of mob rule dangles over the republic like a sword of Damocles. And today, much as back then, that threat emanates from a similar partisan tribe: the Democratic Party. True to Alinskyite form and consistent with their riotous 1960s-era campus activist forebears, today's Democrats routinely threaten the republic with mob rule if they do not get their way.

In the lead-up to Inauguration Day 2017 and on Inauguration Day itself, leftist activists across the country blocked traffic, smashed windows, looted stores and set cars ablaze; in Washington, D.C. alone, 217 people were arrested and six police officers were injured. On October 6, 2018, the day that Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice, leftist activists, intoxicated by a smear campaign of fabricated sexual assault charges against the esteemed jurist, physically banged on the Court's doors in a ham-fisted attempt to disrupt the proceedings. In the post-George Floyd "summer of love" of 2020, Black Lives Matter and Antifa hooligans ravaged American urban corridors with a zealous "mobocratic spirit," racking up a combined arson, vandalism and looting bill of over $1 billion in paid insurance claims.

Pro-choice demonstrators gather outside the house of
Pro-choice demonstrators gather outside the house of US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in Alexandria, Virginia, on May 9, 2022. STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

On April 20, 2021, the nation waited with bated breath to see if Derek Chauvin, the disgraced Minneapolis cop, would be found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. He was, and deservedly so—but one still wonders how tainted the verdict was, given not merely President Joe Biden's wildly inappropriate pre-verdict commentary on Chauvin's guilt but also the predictable assembly of frothing leftist mobs in Minnesota yet again ready to riot and set cities ablaze at a moment's notice if the verdict did not redound to their liking. Chauvin deserved his verdict, but the "ravages of mob law" still reigned.

Most recently, leftist "protestors" have taken to picketing, demonstrating and shouting crass obscenities outside the Supreme Court and the conservative justices' personal homes—a naked example of the most sordid form of raw power politics imaginable, intended to intimidate a swing justice to defect from Justice Samuel Alito's leaked majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, this Court term's marquee abortion case. Thus far, Attorney General Merrick Garland has called these prototypical mobocratic displays "unacceptable" and "dangerous" but he has eschewed pressing charges under 18 U.S. Code Section 1507, a federal statute that clearly proscribes this grotesque conduct.

Conservative churches across the country have seen Marxist, pro-abortion demonstrators halt services, all in a bizarre attempt to better salvage the Left's foremost pagan sacrament: abortion. And in what looks an awful lot like an act of arson, a pro-life center in Madison, Wisconsin, mysteriously burned down shortly after the Dobbs leak, around the same time vile graffiti was found on the premises reading, "If abortions aren't safe than [sic] you aren't either."

The U.S. Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021—and specifically, those who breached the Capitol itself—was universally condemned by all Republican officeholders. But not so much the Black Lives Matter/antifa/neo-Marxist shock troops, who riot, burn and rage with nods and winks of approval from their Democratic Party elders in power. And even when those elders purport to condemn the anarchy, they do so because there is actually more they could be doing—see, for example, Attorney General Garland.

Fortunately for Republicans, Biden now boasts among the lowest approval ratings in modern American political history. He is catastrophically unpopular, and Republicans stand on the precipice of possibly picking up the most congressional seats that a party has picked up in any midterm election in decades. If they wish to lock in those gains and best appeal to moderates, independents and swing voters, Republicans could do a lot worse than to go back to their Lincolnian roots and run a sustained summer/fall campaign dedicated to the very simple and intuitive proposition that "there is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law."

Josh Hammer is Newsweek opinion editor, host of "The Josh Hammer Show," a syndicated columnist and a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation. Twitter: @josh_hammer.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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