Pat Buchanan has a predictably outraged column about the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (via Conor Friedersdorf), and in between the medley of culture war tropes ("San Francisco values...social experiment...homosexual lobby...1960s...elites...pseudo-intellectuals..."), he gives voice to what is no doubt a common sentiment on the right in the last couple of days:
Remarkable. The least respected of American institutions, Congress, with an approval rating of 13 percent, is imposing its cultural and moral values on the most respected of American institutions, the U.S. military.
Remarkable indeed. How dare Congress think it could impose its values on America! Who do they think they are -- lawmakers?
I highlight this because it's becoming increasingly common to argue not just that a government policy or decision you don't like is wrong or misguided, but that the entity that made it lacked the right to do so. If a court renders a decision you didn't like, then it's "unelected judges" (therefore without democratic legitimacy) running wild. If Congress passes a law you don't like, then it must be unconstitutional and therefore illegitimate. If a candidate you don't like gets elected, he must have been born abroad and therefore be ineligible to be president.
And before anyone says, "Hey, liberals thought George W. Bush stole the 2000 election!", here's why that's different. Many liberals did believe that. But I didn't hear any of them argue that, say, Bush's reinstatement of the Mexico City policy was illegal because he wasn't really the president. The decision in Bush v. Gore may have been indefensible, but it did make Bush the president. Once he took the oath of office, he was allowed to do the things presidents do, as objectionable as many of them may have been. And likewise, the Republican Congress passed many bills to which liberals objected, but they didn't claim that Congress lacked the legitimacy to make laws.
-- Paul Waldman
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