Liberals’ thin edge of delegitimization has brought with it the thick wedge of lawlessness. In contrast to leftist apologists’ claims, this is not an unintended consequence but a direct result of the Left’s strategy to deny authority to the existing status quo. It knows exactly what it is doing, only America remains in the dark.
Lacking control of legitimate authority, and thereby the means to remake society, the Left must seize authority. To do so, it must first wrest authority from its legitimate holders. Unable to do this by force, or it undoubtedly would do so, it must erode the legitimacy by which authority is currently held. The Left therefore must undermine current legitimacy and delegitimize it.
None of this is new — least of all to the Left. America’s godfather of leftist radicals, Saul Alinsky, propounded this throughout his life. Half a century ago, Alinsky wrote the radicals’ Bible, Rules for Radicals, which he called “a pragmatic primer for realistic radicals.” Describing the ideal organizer, Alinsky stated, “He knows that all values are relative.” He must “maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a ‘dangerous enemy.’ ” To organize, he must first disorganize: “The first step in community organization is community disorganization.” To successfully attack, he must “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.”
What Alinsky wrote 50 years ago, America’s Left has been implementing over the last four. It started with delegitimization and progressed from incivility to civil unrest.
Even before President Trump was elected, his followers were demonized as “deplorables” by Hillary Clinton. Once elected, Trump and his followers were insulted routinely and accosted in public. They were hounded out of public places; the vice president-elect and his family were lectured from the stage of Hamilton.
The establishment media either ignored it or implicitly condoned it. Main Street America accepted it as the Left’s “acting out” — after all, it was just “what the Left does” when it does not get its way. Thus, it continued in increasingly virulent forms.
To ad hoc delegitimization official efforts were added. There was a Russian collusion investigation of the administration, the only real insight of which was that the wrong side was investigated. To that investigation were added countless others. The official delegitimization effort culminated in congressional impeachment, the end of which did not occur until a Senate vote earlier this year.
The unofficial and official delegitimization efforts were joined by those of the establishment media. The establishment media have run every conceivable negative story — and many inconceivable ones — rarely, if ever, correcting them when overridden by contradicting facts.
In the last year, the collective Left has turned its delegitimization tactics from the administration and executive agencies implementing the elected government’s policies to the broader target of America’s law enforcement system. The Left now deems America’s law enforcement to be systemically racist. In response, the Left has triggered unrest in cities nationwide.
To understand how America got from incivility to civil unrest, it is important to go back to their effort’s roots: delegitimization. The word “legitimate” means to conform to the law. When something is delegitimized, it means just the opposite, to strip away its authority — literally to take away the legal imprimatur surrounding it. If successful, the effort results in the target’s loss of legal authority.
For four years, the Left has pursued delegitimization with increasing fervor. Aimed at a multiplicity of targets, the overall effort has been one of stripping away law. Creating an absence of law is by definition the creation of lawlessness. America therefore should not be surprised with the lawlessness it now sees daily.
Urban violence is not an aberration; it is an extension on the Left’s continuum. Despite the illogical thought process behind it, it is the logical result. It is the continuation of what has already been pursued, allowed, and done.
The violence in America’s cities is simply the manifestation of the termination of legitimate authority. This is what lawlessness looks and acts like. Naturally, its first beneficiaries are lawbreakers, those formerly held in check by legitimate authority. Its first losers are the law-abiding, those now left defenseless in legitimate authority’s absence. And its biggest losers are the law-abiding poor, those most dependent on legitimate authority and its public services.
The Left’s effort to redefine lawlessness, violence, and riots as “peaceful protests” is equally an extension of its overall efforts. Having sought to define away conventional legitimacy, naturally the Left would seek to replace it with its own self-created legitimacy. The vacuum of lawlessness is not the Left’s end goal; it is just a temporary destination on its intended journey.
America is reaping what it has allowed the Left to sow. None of the lawlessness America is now experiencing is a mystery or an aberration. The Left wants this, it has worked assiduously for this, and it fully intends to continue this until it has supplanted the legitimacy of the status quo with its own.
What the Left does not want is for America to see or understand what is going on. It wants America to see each step as isolated and unconnected, the first step of which was delegitimization — the thin edge of its wedge. It wants America to continue to see each occurrence, not as a wedge progressively separating it from established and legitimate institutions, but as random acts that the nation rationalizes away and dismisses.
J.T. Young served under President George W. Bush as the director of communications in the Office of Management and Budget and as deputy assistant secretary in legislative affairs for tax and budget at the Treasury Department. He served as a congressional staffer from 1987 through 2000.