lynch verb \’linch\
: to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal sanction. Example: The accused killer was lynched by an angry mob. First Known Use: 1836
Perhaps future dictionaries will include a section on this word as a political weapon. Twenty years after Clarence Thomas turned the tables on his accusers by describing questions about his sexual conduct as a "high-tech lynching," the word is being used by Cain's supporters to defend him against accusations from anonymous women that Cain made inappropriate sexual remarks years ago.
This reminded me of a more recent use of the word, during the Rod Blagojevich scandal. Accused of selling the Senate seat vacated after Barack Obama was elected president, Blago shot back by appointing Roland Burris to fill the position. Burris is black. There were, at that point, no black U.S. senators.
Even though Blago's appointment seemed doomed by his corruption charges, Burris' blackness was used to push him into the Senate. Swinging the hammer was Chicago congressman Bobby Rush. Weeks earlier, Rush had said that Blago "has no moral basis for appointing the next senator from the state of Illinois. ... That person would be as tainted as they could be." But when Burris' name was called, Rush stood next to Blago and said, "I would ask you not to hang or lynch the appointee as you castigate the appointer ... There are no African-Americans in the Senate, and I don't think that anyone, any U.S. senator who is sitting right now would want to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don't think they want to go on record doing that."
The specter of the noose worked. Despite initial vows from Senate Democrats not to let Burris in, he was seated and served out the remainder of Obama's term. He did not run for re-election in 2010.
Now here we are with Cain and another case of lynch leverage. Webster's, take note.