Someday, political scientists and historians will look back at this time and call it the “Age of Delegitimization”. An era where both political parties sought not to just defeat each other, but to destroy the legitimacy of elected officials, government institutions and other pillars of society in case they lost.
That was accomplished in the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh–who will forever be referred to as an “accused rapist” who “shouldn’t be on the court”. The same goes for Justice Neil Gorsuch, whose seat “legitimately” should have been filled by Merrick Garland–President Obama’s nominee that was never given a hearing by Republicans, because they argued a President shouldn’t be allowed to make a nomination in the last year of his term–delegitimizing that process.
Of course, the 2016 Presidential elections were delegitimized after the fact by accusations of “Russian meddling” that benefitted the winner–Donald Trump. That came after Trump tried to delegitimize the election before November by claiming that his expected loss would be due to a “rigged system”. And let’s not forget the arguments that the Electoral College undermines the “legitimate will of the people” by not rewarding the winner of the popular vote with the White House. All of that came after years of claims that Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and most state legislatures were not the result of the actual will of the people but rather the illegitimate process of “gerrymandering districts”.
It’s not just modern day politics that is being delegitimized. The Constitution itself is now called into question with claims that because it was drafted by white, racist, slave-holding, misogynist men seeking only to preserve their power over women and people of color, that the document itself is illegitimate. With that argument, all aspects of Government–Judicial, Executive and Legislative–are delegitimized, destabilizing the democratic institutions all the way down to the local level.–undermining the ability to govern ourselves.
Add to that the concerted efforts to undermine the legitimacy of police powers, scientific research, free speech rights, and reporting of the news and you are sowing the seeds of the destruction of our society. Because when you trust no one, you fear everyone. The question is, how to rebuild something that took more than 230-years to construct when no one will agree on what we should try to create?