Last five American presidents seen as illegitimate in dangerous trend

Recent American presidents have all faced a crisis of legitimacy in a trend that threatens the health of our democracy.

Last five American presidents seen as illegitimate in dangerous trend

Four-year-old Miles Slentz from Aberdeen, Maryland watches his two elder sisters and parents protest in front of the US Supreme Court, 13 December 2000.

Credit: MANNY CENETA/AFP via Getty Images
  • After a contentious election, some Americans are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Joe Biden victory.
  • Legitimacy concerns also plagued the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
  • The trend of attacking a president's right to rule is growing.

    • The election of 2020 concluded the way Donald Trump's ascent to power began – with claims over legitimacy. In fact, the last five American presidents have been labeled "illegitimate" by their opponents, demonstrating a growing and dangerous trend that threatens bedrock principles of our democracy.

      Bill Clinton's 1992 victory came as a result of a three-way race between him, George H.W. Bush, and the third-party candidate, Ross Perot. Garnering 43 percent of the popular vote, Clinton's support in the country seemed low, especially in light of the fact that Republicans blamed Ross Perot for siphoning off votes that their candidate could have received. As a result, Republican leaders at the time like Bob Dole proclaimed that Clinton did not have a mandate to enact his legislative agenda, hinting at his lack of true legitimacy.

      This kind of sentiment led to opposition to what was perceived as Clinton's liberal agenda—allowing gay people in the military, raising taxes, and attempting to fix the healthcare system. The Republican opposition coalesced in the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 and culminated in the impeachment hearings of Clinton's second term.

      Bill Clinton, Ross Perot, and George H. W. Bush

      U.S. presidential candidates Bill Clinton (L), Ross Perot (C) and President George Bush (R) shake hands with the panelists at the conclusion of their final debate on 19 October 1992.

      Credit: J. DAVID AKE/AFP via Getty Images

      The 2000 election brought issues of legitimacy to the contest between Clinton's successor George W. Bush and Al Gore. Bush received fewer votes in the national count and won as a result of a Supreme Court decision after a wait of several weeks. The infamous Bush v. Gore decision stopped a recount of Florida votes, giving the state to Bush by just a few hundred votes. A later analysis revealed that a full statewide recount could have netted Gore the victory. As such, a perception of illegitimacy followed Bush (at least until 9/11).

      Who was calling for Bush's impeachment at the time for getting the U.S. involved in the Iraq War under false pretenses (lack of WMDs)? None other than Donald Trump, who revealed how he thought Clinton's impeachment was a total overreach compared to the fact that Bush got off scot-free for pulling America into a war it didn't need to fight.

      Al Gore supporters

      Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate and vice president Al Gore march to the Florida State Capitol to rally against the Florida legislature. 2000.

      Credit: TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images

      Trump, of course, is also the one who for years questioned the right of the next president, Barack Obama, to have such a position. Trump was the most high-profile "birther," pushing the unfounded conspiracy that Obama wasn't a real American and was, in fact, born in Kenya.

      Who else spread such theories? It's worth noting that Hillary Clinton supporters were known to circulate chain emails with similar Kenya-oriented claims about Obama's origins.

      Donald Trump and Barack ObamaDonald Trump Is Sworn In As 45th President Of The United States

      Credit: Scott Applewhite - Pool/Getty Images

      In his turn at the helm, Donald Trump's 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton was plagued strongly by the notion that he received help from foreign powers and didn't win fair and square. The Mueller investigation into his potential collusion with Russia found much support for this notion but didn't go as far as to charge the President. Still, harkening to the clear-cut conclusions of various investigative and spy agencies, Democrats generally saw a major asterisk around Trump's election, with Hillary Clinton and Rep. John Lewis flat-out calling him an "illegitimate" president.

      The nearly two decades of political behavior that saw an escalation of legitimacy attacks against the country's most powerful elected leader bring us to 2020, with another crisis in the making, courtesy of Trump. With no evidence to back it up, the President has been claiming that the election has been stolen from him in favor of Joe Biden. While his arguments haven't found much support among the courts, Trump continues to make the claim, both to continue the fight and to weaken his opponent even if Biden does end up with the Presidency.

      Donald Trump and Joe Biden

      This combination of pictures from October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump and now President-elect Joe Biden during the final presidential debate.

      Credit: JIM WATSON and Brendan Smialowski / AFP via Getty Images

      Where does this leave us, with each subsequent election creating a deep polarization and disappointing half the country to the point where they simply don't believe the other side and feel cheated? Nowhere good. Professor of Journalism Andrés Martinez described the situation aptly in 2017, in a way that resonates even louder today when we face a continuation of this sad trend:

      "It's desirable, and quintessentially American, to strenuously oppose policies and ideas we disagree with," wrote Martinez in Washington Post. "But the haste of recent years to delegitimize opponents, and to call them un-American, is itself un-American. It leaves us with a bankrupt, even illegitimate, politics, devoid of shared narratives, aspirations, values and, increasingly, facts."

      Martinez's prescience that facts will fall soundly at the expense of political ambitions is exactly where we find ourselves. The once-collegial chambers of government rife with unbreakable gridlock and loud accusations of misdeeds by opponents that your side doesn't even need to prove any more. A country where half the people feel the leader is illegitimate yet again but with much more anxiety and anger than ever before. A country tearing itself apart.

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      A new study finds surprising evidence of the self-evolution of urban foxes.

      A fox at the door of 10 Downing Street on Janurary 13, 2015.

      Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images
      Surprising Science
      • A study from the University of Glasgow finds urban foxes evolved differently compared to rural foxes.
      • The skulls of the urban foxes are adapted to scavenging for food rather than hunting it.
      • The evolutionary changes correspond to Charles Darwin's "domestication syndrome."

      How much can living in the city change you? If you were an urban fox, you could be evolving yourself to a whole new stage and becoming more like a dog, according to a fascinating new study.

      Researchers compared skulls from rural foxes around London with foxes who lived inside the city and found important variations. Rural foxes showed adaptation for speed and hunting after quick, small prey, while urban fox skulls exhibited changes that made it easier for them to scavenge, looking through human refuse for food, rather than chasing it. Their snouts were shorter and stronger, making it easier to open packages and chew up leftovers. They also have smaller brains, not meant for hunting but for interacting with stationary food sources, reports Science magazine.

      Interestingly, there was much similarity found between the male and female skulls of the urban foxes.

      The observed changes correspond to what Charles Darwin called the "domestication syndrome," comprised of traits that go along with an animal's transition from being wild, to tamed, to domesticated.

      The study was led by Kevin Parsons, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow.

      "What's really fascinating here is that the foxes are doing this to themselves," Parsons told the BBC. "This is the result of foxes that have decided to live near people, showing these traits that make them look more like domesticated animals."

      The researchers are not suggesting you should go out and get a fox as a house-pet just yet. But they are seeing the evolutionary process taking place that's moving the urban foxes along the path towards becoming more like dogs and cats, explained the study's co-author Dr. Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.

      A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London

      A fox beneath a tree in Greenwich park, south east London on May 14, 2020.

      Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP

      "Some of the basic environmental aspects that may have occurred during the initial phases of domestication for our current pets, like dogs and cats, were probably similar to the conditions in which our urban foxes and other urban animals are living today," said Kitchener. "So, adapting to life around humans actually primes some animals for domestication."

      The specimen came from the National Museum Scotland's collection of around 1,500 fox skulls.

      You can read the study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

      fox sleeping beneath stadium seats

      A fox at the LV County Championship, Division two match between Surrey and Derbyshire at The Brit Oval on April 9, 2010 in London, England.

      Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

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