Legitimate illegitimacy

We have a president who achieved his office though unconventional — and in some cases, unusual — electoral means in several key states.  Of that there is little question among honest people.  He won despite a personal lockdown in his basement and socially distanced campaign events where the press made up most of his "crowds," all while his opponent drew enthusiastic (and often raucous) overflow crowds in the tens of thousands.  That Joe Biden, a lifelong politician of little achievement and substance, won the 2020 presidential sweepstakes, after living pictures of incongruence played out on our televisions each night for month after month, leaves the rational mind with questions.

Often phrased in this way: "How the Hell did this happen?," several of the questions are about the same characteristic — legitimacy.

What is legitimacy? 

In a 1922 essay titled "The Three Types of Legitimate Rule," Max Weber, the noted German sociologist and political economist, proposed three sources of legitimacy:

  1. Traditional Authority: Legitimacy may rest on an established belief in the sanction of immemorial traditions and on the need to obey leaders who exercise the authority according to the traditions.
  2. Charismatic Authority (Exceptional Personal Qualities): Legitimacy may secondly be based on "devotion to the specific and exceptional sanctity, or exemplary character of an individual person."
  3. Legal Authority: Legitimacy may rest on the belief that power is wielded in a way that is legal.  What is done legally is regarded as legitimate.

If we accept these three aspects as accurate, it seems reasonable that the greatest legitimacy will be achieved by satisfying all three criteria and diminished legitimacy will result if there are failings in one or more.  It would also seem logical that, if someone ascends to power during the opposite of these types, that would lead to illegitimacy or, at least, a form of false legitimacy, one marked by superficially doing things "the approved way" but rising to positions of authority by imitating tradition; presenting exaggerated or false personal qualities to the public; or achieving office, status, or power though corrupted legal processes.

I would propose that it is difficult, if not impossible, for leaders to be legitimate if they ascend to their positions through any of the latter practices.

I speak only for myself when I say I have issues with how Joe Biden was elevated to the Oval Office. 

Since our traditions are those of a representative republic, it could be generally assumed that no person has a right to rule based on "immemorial traditions."  However, it has become a belief within the progressive left that there is a "right to rule" tradition within the Democrat party.  That belief verges on almost a divine right, as the left has adopted the good/evil dichotomy with itself on the "good" side.  The left seemingly has trouble recognizing evil, unless the object of its observation is its opposition.

Biden charismatic?  Only if bland, colorless, anodyne, and subservient personalities attract you.  Biden has had a few moments in his career — notably the 1994 Crime Bill, the Clarence Thomas hearings, and becoming Obama's harmless V.P. — but for every highlight, there is a lowlight.  The self-aggrandizing lying about his personal history, the plagiarism, the hair-sniffing, the sexual misconduct allegations, the kowtowing to America's enemies, and his willingness to be manipulated offset anything "good" about his career in public life.

What remains is the situation giving me the most pause: legal authority.  In this case, Biden was aided in reaching office by irregularities bounding on the corrupt.  The Executive and Judicial Branches of various states changed election rules on the fly, the cavalier handling of both unvoted and voted ballots (mailed out to everybody with an address), the strange events during the counting processes, the statistical improbabilities in the vote counts, the Judiciary's reliance on thin procedure excuses to refuse to entertain arguments and — the final insult — the claims that congressmen and senators were "insurrectionists" simply for employing constitutional procedures to authorize an investigation — all combine to create a toxic soup of questions.

I have said it before, and I will continue to say it — I have no definitive evidence that the election was compromised but, by the same token, I have no definitive evidence that it was not.  I take no comfort in assurances, especially when those assurances are based on even less tangible evidence than that of real and obvious irregularities.

President Biden meets none of Weber's criteria for legitimacy.

And given that he has accelerated Obama's "fundamental transformation" of America, that is a problem for me — as it should be for all Americans.

Image: Joe Biden caricature by DonkeyHotey. CC BY 2.0.