Charismatic appeal undermines gov’t
True national security depends on a legitimate government. A government is considered legitimate whenever its citizens accept its decisions as just and legal. Governments that are not legitimate rule by force and fear. Actions that undermine legitimacy threaten domestic peace and stability.
The Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787 and submitted the structure of government it proposed to the people for acceptance or rejection is an example of “rational-legal” legitimacy.
That is, citizens accept the laws that are passed because they are done by the rules of the game.
“Traditional” legitimacy is perhaps the most common and powerful form, when the passage of time leads us to accept what the government does because it has acted in ways that have become familiar.
“Charismatic” legitimacy is the easiest to establish but is also the most unstable.
Here the appeal of the great leader, his “charisma,” makes his government acceptable. Think, Oliver Cromwell, Hitler, Mao, or Castro.
But such leaders’ attraction rarely transfers to a successor, so legitimacy is lost.
Moreover, charismatic leaders often construct harmful myths. Belief in the legitimacy of any opposition is often denied.
George Washington giving way to John Adams and then Adams to Jefferson helped make the new Constitution legitimate by rational-legal processes.
Lincoln’s actions in 1861 preserved its growing traditional legitimacy. Recent efforts using charismatic appeal to undermine the legitimacy of a transition of power threaten the whole existence of constitutional rule.
Be part of solution, not the blame game
In her Nov. 19 column, Sara Foss (“Public tired of Cuomo, COVID”) says we are tired of the way things are with our governor and the covid crisis.
I wonder who among us is not tired of the side effects of the virus on all of us. Trying to place blame on Cuomo does not help anyone or solve the crisis. He is at least trying to do something.
I have been around a while and have yet to meet anyone who has gone past finger-pointing or offered perfect solutions. I have yet to meet anyone who does not make mistakes or who can please everyone all the time.
A reminder to the finger-pointers: How many fingers point back while you point yours out? Are you part of the solution or part of the problem? Stand up and tell us all what your solution is that will please everyone. Long ago, a man told me if all I look for is fault that is all I will ever find.
The Great “I” has no solution, but I can offer help instead of blame and criticism. I can offer my deepest gratitude to those who do or try to give help in these troubled times.
God bless America.
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