Readers may wonder why I keep returning to the theme of legitimacy. The reason is simple: legitimacy is the ground on which Fourth Generation war is fought. It is, above all, a contest for legitimacy, and winning (or losing) is measured by gains or losses in legitimacy. Fourth Generation war on our own soil is by far the greatest threat this country faces, and as the legitimacy of the government, and even more of the state itself, wains, Fourth Generation war spreads and intensifies.
From this perspective, barometers of legitimacy–anything that helps us measure the rise or fall of the legitimacy of the current order of things–are earnestly to be sought. I can identify at least three. The first is widely recognized: opinion polls that ask Americans how much trust they have in various institutions. These include the Presidency, Congress, the courts, and, perhaps most important, the integrity of the electoral process. As I noted in a previous column, the latter is the equivalent of a claimant to a throne having (or lacking) royal blood. Nothing else in the political system is as important for legitimacy. For decades, polls have shown a downward trend in Americans’ trust of all these institutions. Since the 2020 election, distrust of the electoral process has spiked, not surprisingly given the abandonment of long-standing rules designed to prevent vote fraud.
I think a second barometer of legitimacy is Americans’ willingness to be vaccinated against Covid-19. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 58% of our population has received at least one dose. (I have received both shots, which probably means I will have a large green horn growing out of my forehead by Christmas, which should look festive; I may add tinsel and lights.) But as vaccine availability increases, the number of people lining up to get jabbed is shrinking. As we begin to get some sense for how many people will refuse the vaccine, we also get a measure of the state’s legitimacy, not just the government’s. Why? Because the whole establishment, Republicans (or most of them) as well as Democrats , along with the usual “celebrity” riffraff, is urging people to get the shot(s). Those refusing are rejecting the entire system.
A more interesting, and ominous, measure of the whole system’s legitimacy is the rising number of shootings. Such an important barometer is moved by more than one thing; the war on cops is a factor, the cultural collapse of the black urban community is another, the 15 minutes of fame the media gives a shooter motivates some. But I think a broad and spreading sense that the establishment has transformed what used to be America into an insane asylum may be a major and unacknowledged cause. Down is now up, white is black, day has become night and night is filled with nightmares. This is Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of all values,” and it is a core component of the Frankfurt School’s cultural Marxism, aka “wokeness”, “Political Correctness”, etc. In an insane asylum, people do insane things, including shooting their families, friends, co-workers, and anyone else they can.
In all of these barometers we can read the change in political weather most easily if we compare what is happening now to life in America’s last normal decade, the 1950s. President Eisenhower was widely popular. Congress did not top anyone’s list of most trusted institutions, but ordinary Americans did not think they had to invade it to make their voices heard. The Warren court was disliked and distrusted by many conservatives, for good reason, but the problem was Warren, not the court itself. Everyone knew vote counting in some big cities might be crooked, but elsewhere the process was trusted. As to vaccines, when the polio vaccine became available virtually every kid in the country took it, because mom and dad told them to. And gun violence was rare, beyond mobsters killing each other. The government and the state were accepted as legitimate by the vast majority of Americans.
No more. The future looks grimmer still, because no one in the establishment will consider for a moment how their actions affect legitimacy. Add in the coming debt crisis and inflation and it begins to look a lot like Weimar. As was true then, what replaces the current dysfunctional mess will come from the right, not the left.