Liars! Cheaters! Evildoers!: Demonization and the End of Civil Debate in American Politics

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The level of vitriol in American politics has been rising with no end in sight. Terms like “evildoer,” “war on terror,” and “axis of evil” have become commonplace in our discussion of international politics. What ever happened to civil debate? Where has all this moralizing come from? And what harm has this new level of attack caused to democracy in America?

In this compelling and cogent account, Tom De Luca and John Buell chart the rise of what they rightly label as the “demonization”of American politics, showing how political campaigns often neglect debates over policy in favor of fights over the private character and personal lives of politicians. Political interests are still served by this style of politics, but democracy, the authors contend, is the loser. Covering everything from the Clinton impeachment to the war on terrorism to the 2004 presidential campaign, the authors show the distinctly American qualities of demonization and how their frequency and intensity has grown in the last four decades.

Suggesting that demonization is not inevitable or irreversible, this important book offers ways out of the political mudpit and back to a more civilized debate where democracy and freedom of speech can coexist in a productive, idea-rich environment.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“After reading and hearing so many epitaphs to political discourse in a polarized nation in the wake of 9/11, I take heart from Tom De Luca's and John Buell's realistic but hopeful argument for one last mighty effort to pull democracy back from the brink.”
-Bill Moyers

“In a lively and illuminating fashion, De Luca and Buell chart the politics of demonization in America, placing its temptations into correspondence with the sacrifices it imposes on democratic life.”
-William E. Connolly,author of Why I Am Not a Secularist

Liars! Cheaters! Evildoers! captures the power of demonization in our polarized politics, though as the authors rightly point out, this is deeply rooted in our history and political economy. Rather than give in to a diminished civic life, Tom De Luca and John Buell set out a compelling course for restoring democratic civility to politics. This should be on the short list for those who wish to ready themselves for the next battle in our culture wars.”
-Stanley B. Greenberg,author of The Two Americas: Our Current Political Deadlock and How to Break It

“Mines diverse sources—newspaper columns, films, commercials, popular music, academic scholarship—offering a truly fair and balanced treatment of Democrats and Republicans, left and right, utterly refusing to demonize the demonizers. This vibrant book could not be more timely.”
-Jane Bennett,co-editor of The Politics of Moralizing

“Masterful! Fascinating! Unsettling! Explains why Americans regularly demonize political opponents then suggests how we might free ourselves from a long, angry legacy. This rousing book should be required reading for scholars interested in the troubled past and citizens looking to a more democratic future.”
-James A. Morone,author of Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814719756
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom De Luca is associate professor of political science at Fordham University and the author of The Two Faces of Political Apathy. He is the 2006 Fulbright Distinguished Thomas Jefferson Chair in American Social Studies at the University of Amsterdam.

John Buell is a columnist for the Bangor Daily News and a former editor at The Progressive. He is also co-author of The End of Homework.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Holy War by Other Means
Part I Demonization in America
1 Demonization American-Style
2 The Politics of Moral Personae
3 America’s Moral Paradox
4 The Deep Divide and the Most Vulnerable
Part II Demonization and Wars
5 Seeking the Enemy
6 Terror, Evil, and the New Cold War
7 Terror Wars and Culture Wars
8 Preserve the Environment! Become an Environmental Sport
Conclusion: A New Democratic Covenant
About the Authors
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2006

    Thoughtful, timely, and fair

    This book does an excellent job of putting demonization in a historical context. If you have been getting fed up with the stupidity of current political discourse you will find this book a helpful guide for understanding that this problem is not limited to either party and that there is a way out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2006

    DeLuca and Buell Reveal the Truth!

    The authors provide a detailed look into the demonization of American politics--complete with historical backup. It is well written and allows for any bi-partisan person who might not even follow the circus we call 'politics' to understand the issues that plague our political infrastructure today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2006

    The First political book I've read since the elections

    Ever since Election Day of last year, I've been reluctant to pick up a political book. Walking through the bookstore, glancing at all the antiquated and soon-to-be-discarded anti-Bush titles, titles prophesizing the future triumph of the left, even seeing the occasional Kerry-Edwards bumper sticker reminded me of more hopeful times, hopes that the election had dashed. However, I did recently pick up and read, from cover to cover, a book on politics. Liars! Cheaters! Evildoers!: Demonization and the End of Civil Debate in American Politics, by Tom DeLuca and John Buell, is a thoughtful analysis of demonization in American politics today. It traces the history of demonization in American politics, uncovering and outlining the social structures that allow for demonization of a moral and personal nature to occur. It also looks at several groups that have been targeted for demonization: immigrants, the poor. And it examines the rhetoric of demonization in the war on terror, the Clinton Impeachment, and the 2004 elections. The authors, in concluding the book, suggest how we can overcome this and live in a world that is freer of demonization. Deep, insightful, and informative, this book is a must-read for anyone mildly interested in politics.

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