The Trust deficit that is plaguing America

I recently posted in a Facebook group dedicated to politics about the judge's decision to open up the churches, and one of the commenters asked where all the attacks on Governor Cooper's pandemic restrictions were coming from. I explained about the upcoming election, including Dan Forest's dismal poll numbers, and that has definitely played a role in the visible pushback. Forest is connected to both the ReopenNC people and the Return America group that filed the lawsuit.

But in order to really understand why these (and many other) people are primed to defy common-sense government actions, we need to delve into the trust deficit that has been building for decades. Follow me below the fold if you can trust me to not mislead you:

Pew Research has been looking at this issue for some time, and here are some of their findings:

Nearly two-thirds (64%) say that low trust in the federal government makes it harder to solve many of the country’s problems. About four-in-ten (39%) who gave follow-up answers on why this was the case cite domestic concerns, topped by immigration and border issues, health care, racism and race-related issues, or guns and gun violence issues. Some also cite environmental issues, tax and budget matters, or political processes like voting rights and gerrymandering.

Another 70% of Americans believe that citizens’ low trust in each other makes it harder to solve problems. (They were not asked a follow-up question to explain their answer.)

They should have been asked a follow-up question, because that "each other" distrust actually drives the distrust in government. Issues like gerrymandering and corporate money in elections merely exacerbate the trust deficit that already exists. We can see a shadow of that in what people say could improve that deficit:

More than eight-in-ten Americans (84%) believe it is possible to improve the level of confidence people have in the government. Their written responses about how to make headway on trust problems urge a variety of political reforms, starting with more disclosure of what the government is doing, as well as term limits and restrictions on the role of money in politics. Some 15% of those who answered this question point to a need for better political leadership, including greater honesty and cooperation among those in the political class.

Similarly, 86% believe it is possible to improve peoples’ confidence in each other. They say local communities can be laboratories for trust-building as a way to confront partisan tensions and overcome tribal divisions. Some also make the case that better leaders could inspire greater trust between individuals. Others suggest that a different approach to news reporting – one that emphasizes the ways people cooperate to solve problems – would have a tonic effect.

Probably step on a few toes here, but most of that is bullshit. As far as "disclosure" of what the government is doing, only a tiny fraction of the people out there make an effort to look. My relatively small town has some 7,500 residents, and our town website has *tons* of information available on how that government operates. Agendas, minutes, reports, contracted (taxpayer funded) studies, etc. But that website only gets a few hits a week, and people bounce right off after a couple minutes. Yeah, there are some issues with government entities not publishing personnel issues or other controversial data, but that is the exception, not the rule. And yet, there is a widespread belief that government operates in secrecy constantly.

As far as local communities engaging in "trust-building," there are already countless events that are organized, from farmer's markets to softball/soccer leagues. Now, if you really want to see adults show their asses, go to one of these softball tournaments for 8-9 year-old girls. Good grief. I've seen more (physical) fights started there than when I used to bar-crawl on Hay Street in Fayetteville before they cleaned it up.

My point is, the distrust in our society runs much deeper than just partisan bickering. While the media has played a role in this, with the constant coverage of violence and crime, the widespread distrust we're facing stems from a move towards insular behavior more than anything. When was the last time you went to a neighborhood cookout? They still happen, but much more rarely than in the past. Usually the people attending actually live 10, 20, 50 miles away. They have met the qualification to be trusted, via business or political association.

But these folks will likely not be at said cookout:

Nonwhites, poorer and less-educated individuals, and younger adults have lower levels of personal trust than other Americans. These differences show up when it comes to their sense of the exploitative tendencies or fairness of others, as well as their assessment of the overall helpfulness or selfishness of others. This illustrates a spectrum from least trusting to most trusting.

In reality, most of these people have lost trust because society has lost trust in them. But strangely enough, their cookouts are mostly attended by people who live next door or just down the street. Imagine that.



I flogged that "cookout" theme

until it lay whimpering on the floor. Sorry. But I think it's important for each one of us to own part of the problem, instead of pointing to this or that (that somebody else is doing) as the key.

Our July 4th party

After almost 40 years, we're not having our July 4th party this year. It has long been a neighborhood gathering and people seem to really appreciate the opportunity to meet and mingle. C19 is putting a hard stop to that event ... maybe forever. Who knows.

I was thinking this morning about this from a different angle: The emergence of armed 2A terrorists in daily life. Not something that does much to instill trust, don't you agree?

Does not help, at all

And the weird thing is, those nutters only seem to trust other nutters. Makes no sense.