June 19, 2021

QUESTION ASKED AND ANSWERED BY CHARLES MURRAY:

The question asks itself: If a minority consisting of 13 percent of the population can generate as much political energy and solidarity as America’s Blacks have, what happens when a large proportion of the 60 percent of the population that is White begins to use the same playbook? I could spin out a variety of scenarios, but I don’t have confidence in any of them. I am certain of only two things.

First, the White backlash is occurring in the context of long-term erosion in the federal government’s legitimacy.

Since 1958, the Gallup polling organization has periodically asked Americans how much they trust the federal
government to do what is right. In 1958, 73 percent said “always” or “most of the time.” Trust hit its high point in 1964, when that figure stood at 77 percent. Then it began to fall. By 1980, only 27 percent trusted the government to do what is right. That percentage rebounded to the low 40s during the Reagan years, then fell to a new low, 19 percent, in 1994. It rebounded again, hitting a short-lived high of 54 percent just after 9/11. Then it plunged again, hitting another new low, 15 percent, in 2011. It has been in the 15–20 percent range ever since. A government that is distrusted by more than 80 percent of the citizens has a bipartisan legitimacy problem.

When a government loses legitimacy, it loses some of the allegiance of its citizens. That weakened allegiance means, among other things, a greater willingness to ignore the law. The federal government has enacted thousands of laws and regulations. Many of them apply to every family and every business in the nation. They cannot possibly be enforced by the police or courts without almost universal voluntary compliance. When a government is seen as legitimate, most citizens voluntarily comply because it is part of being a citizen; they don’t agree with every law and regulation, but they believe it is their duty as citizens to respect them. When instead people see laws and regulations as products of the illegitimate use of power, the sense of obligation fades.

Events since the summer of 2020 make me think it is too late to talk about if Whites adopt identity politics. Many already have. That’s the parsimonious way to interpret the red-blue divisions over wearing masks, the widespread belief in red states that the 2020 election was stolen, and the rage that resulted in the invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. This is all evidence that the federal government has lost its legitimacy in the eyes of many Whites. If that reaction spreads, the continued ability of the federal government to enforce its edicts in the reddest portions of the nation will be thrown into question. The prospect of legal secession may be remote, but the prospect of reduced governability from Washington is not.

See also: The Coming Middle-Class Anarchy.

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