A more proper title for this article would have been “The Dangers of Perceived Illegitimacy” as often it’s the perception that matters even more than the reality of legitimacy. An illegitimate government that is perceived as legitimate will wield power as peacefully if not as effectively as a government that is truly legitimate and perceived as such. Conversely a legitimate government that is perceived as illegitimate will create an atmosphere of civil discord and strife.
Today in much of the U.S. we find ourselves in a position where there is a camp that increasingly believes our federal government is exercising unconstitutional powers through a variety of mechanisms including executive orders, legislative shenanigans (like the White House failing to submit the Iran Nuclear
capitulation ‘Deal’ to the Senate for approval as the Constitution requires for treaties), an activist judiciary, kill lists that include the names of U.S. citizens…likely bad people yet still U.S. Citizens who are assassinated without ‘due process.’ There’s even a subset of this camp that believes that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and is therefore not eligible to lead the nation. As to that latter allegation that same camp never alleges that the President’s mother wasn’t a U.S. Citizen which would make him eligible in any case. Not hearing the same outcry against Senator Ted Cruse who was born in Canada to U.S. Citizens either.
As if the perception of federal illegitimacy wasn’t bad enough there’s a different, sizable camp that believes that their state and local governments are illegitimate due to racism, the legacy of slavery or because minority interests are merely protected and not promoted at the expense of other minorities and the majority populace. In fact as George Will so eloquently puts it there are so many things to be offended by, and so little time to agonize about each. The dangers of illegitimacy were put brutally on display recently when a uniformed official of the high school football variety was brazenly attacked on the field by two high school students who perceived him as racist.
The dangers of illegitimacy, perceived or correct do have the power to destroy our nation. I’d argue that the various perceptions of illegitimacy have already greatly weakened us. When a first lady of the United States says that ‘for the first time in my adult life I’m proud of my country‘ because it elected her husband she was expressing her perception of our entire nation being illegitimate. When a leading presidential candidate states that our country was founded on ‘racist principals‘ instead of properly stating that our great nation was founded on the concept that all men are created equal in spite of the human failings of some of our founders he’s questioning our legitimacy. When the race baiters and extremists highlights our differences instead of our commonalities then we enter dangerous territory where those with communications platforms or even just a social media account begin calling for the execution of police officers for the ‘crime’ of keeping the peace or for outright class war or ‘race war‘ When our unelected two party officials craft debate participation rules so as to assure their desired range of outcomes they add to this perception of illegitimacy. When congress passes tax laws so Byzantine and clearly targeted at the producers and entrepreneurs that the IRS becomes a symbol of oppression and illegitimacy we are in danger of inciting a tax revolt.
To make matters worse our federal government now regularly sues our State and local governments to force the States to stop enforcing the very laws that the federal government itself is sworn to uphold while our States regularly, in turn sue our federal government for abridging the rights of the States and her citizens.
Only by once again embracing the principals of transparency, fair play and rule of law can we hope to recapture the perception of legitimacy at the State and federal level. Those willing to commit government overreach on the left and the right would do well to remember both the words of President Jefferson and the legend of Robin Hood that so many generations were raised on. Even if we do everything right…perceptions are fickle things and people will believe what they want in spite of the facts but if we don’t try then the dangers of illegitimacy may prove fatal to our Republic and many of our fellow citizens.