Politics & Policy

Trump’s Virtual Lynch Mob

(Scott Olson/Getty)

Call it a high-tech lynching.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s being shut out in Colorado — final delegate count: Ted Cruz, 34; Trump, 0 — his fans have formed virtual mobs, and on Sunday a particularly passionate Twitter user tweeted out the home address and phone number of Steve House, chairman of the Colorado GOP.

House’s personal information has been retweeted more than 1,100 times. He says he’s received some 3,000 phone calls, most of them uncomplimentary:

Meanwhile, the same Trump partisan also tweeted information for the state’s national committeewoman, Lily Nuñez, and committeeman, George Leing. Of course, the brave Twitter user in question did all of this anonymously, and lots of other brave people have applauded — also anonymously.

The unsavory Trump fans in question appear to be multiplying: Something similar is already afoot in Indiana, which hasn’t even voted yet. Kyle Babcock, an at-large delegate selected at one of this weekend’s nine congressional-district conventions, made the mistake of explaining to the Indianapolis Star that he would not back Trump, because he believes Cruz stands a better chance against Hillary Clinton in November. For his trouble, Babcock received e-mails such as this one: “Wrong side Kyle. Hope the families [sic] well. Your name and info was sent to me on a list that is going public. Think before you take a step down the wrong path, the American people want to have faith in your [sic] but it looks like a future in hiding is more appealing.” The same person sent a similar note to Thomas John, chairman of the Republican party in Indiana’s seventh congressional district.

There is no indication that the Trump campaign was involved in these threats, but make no mistake: This effort started at the top. After floundering in the Centennial State, Trump took to Twitter to peddle his usual conspiracy theories: “The people of Colorado had their vote taken away from them by the phony politicians. . . . This will not be allowed!” With the help of sympathetic media outlets — the Drudge Report suggested that Iraqi elections were more fair than Colorado’s delegate-selection process) — his false allegations gained traction.

#share#And here we have the results: Trump fans exposing the personal information of Republican leaders on the flimsiest of pretexts. Remember “Chicago-style politics”? Obama’s most ardent fans had nothing on these zealots.

There’s been a lot of talk of late about the need for a renewed populism to balance the power of our political “establishment.” But Trump isn’t the candidate of “the people”; he’s the candidate of the mob. He’s the candidate of kneejerk anger, of groupthink, of storming the Bastille with pitchforks. He’s the candidate of self-congratulatory cyber-thugs such as “@Thomas1774Paine,” whose great service to the republic is encouraging the intimidation of public officials.

Trump has encouraged democracy’s worst impulses, rather than restoring its best. Because of his lie — peddled to tremendous effect, there’s no denying — that “the system” is fundamentally corrupt, a faction of so-called conservatives has emerged that believes that the only way to restore “democracy” is to be ruthlessly anti-democratic.

#related#This, it goes without saying, is not conservative. It’s also dangerous. Whether as correctives to corruption or as rulers themselves, mobs have a lousy track record. The constitutional framework conservatives endorse and strive to preserve is intended to prevent such power bases from forming, and to thwart their inevitable desires: “Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay! Let not a traitor live!”

So says the mob in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Or maybe those were Trump fans in Colorado. It’s hard to tell the difference anymore.

— Ian Tuttle is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.

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