America’s Legitimacy Crisis Heats Up
By: José Niño
From those who view America as an irredeemably racist nation to those who believe the 2020 election was stolen, Americans are losing confidence in the political system at remarkable rates.
For two straight elections, Americans have questioned the legitimacy of the election results. Although the Russiagate drama was farcical, the fact that a substantial portion of the American electorate cast doubts on the results of an American election—a holy process that is perceived to be incorruptible—illustrates how the US is entering uncharted waters.
Further fuel is added to the fire when looking at how two-thirds of Republican voters believe that the 2020 election was rigged. Regardless of the merits of each side’s claims regarding the integrity of the electoral process, distrust in the way elections are being conducted is now a shared, bipartisan grievance.
Almost taken as a given in the past, election results in the US are no longer treated as legitimate. The US is exiting its “exceptional” status and is becoming just another country on the world stage; one that looks more like a banana republic addled with crime, economic instability, and institutional uncertainty. With national divorce entering the conversation, state separatist movements, and growing talk of an Article V Convention, Americans are increasingly losing confidence in the political system. It is no stretch to say that America is experiencing a legitimation crisis.
The very fact that the ruling class is having fever dreams of armed supporters of Donald Trump seizing power if Trump loses in the 2024 elections shows that the grip of the ruling class on reality is declining precipitously. This behavior is the province of a political order that is on the ropes.
The ruling class has already portrayed the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol as a coup attempt that threatened American democracy. Over the past year, opportunistic politicians and national security figures have used the January 6 incident as a pretext to launch a domestic war on terror crackdown against the alleged threat of right-wing extremism. The same color revolution scenarios that the US and its junior partner Britain help orchestrate abroad, which use highly contested elections as springboards for external subversion, are making their way back home. This subversive script could be employed once again in 2024 if the presidential election that year produces an undesirable result for the political establishment.
The establishment’s mask is coming off and as the days go by, their vapid talk about protecting the sanctity of democracy grows hollower. With three retired generals recently calling for lawmakers to “war-game” for a potential coup attempt during the 2024 elections, a heavy-handed state crackdown against right-wing dissidents is likely on the table.
Inquiring minds would like to know how the ruling class will respond to a controversial election result that doesn’t go their way. Use a military that heavily relies on enlistees from the American South to intervene in the allegedly racist flyover country and other areas replete with “deplorables”?
Indeed, the Washington class is facing a situation where it could potentially miscalculate and use force against the deplorables. And if it reaches that point, all veneers of democratic legitimacy will be erased.
Americans will have to recognize that the serene days of political normality in America are long gone. People can yearn for them as much as they want, but trying to recreate the unity of yore is a fool’s errand. We’re living in a postpersuasion society where people are even tribalizing on the basis of the TV shows they watch. Can anyone say with a straight face that the US will be able to put the pieces back together?
At this juncture in American history, most Americans aren’t exactly cracking open books extolling the finer points of Misesian decentralization, but they instinctively know something is wrong with the US. This is where these Misesian insights can be inserted into the national discussion and, more importantly, gradually implemented in areas where it’s most feasible.
The current pandemic and lockdown environment has created a “forced localism” of sorts where people have been compelled to tune in to their local politics to stay updated on the latest policy absurdities that state and local officials have foisted on them.
The more people distrust the electoral and the broader political process, the easier it will be to get them to consider new forms of political organization. Even if the system were to collapse, there always exist opportunities to forge ahead and build a new decentralized order that better reflects the political desires and cultural vision of America’s multifarious constituencies.
Exercising some degree of political creativity, through the embrace of soft secessionism and other gradualist forms of nullification, could provide an off ramp to a potential conflict. Continuing the present course is only asking for increased tension and for a potential tragedy to unfold.
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