Trust in government

By Michael P. Riccards

It is axiomatic that the very essence of leadership in a democracy is trust, especially between the people and those who chose to rally them to their causes. But we are seeing a very troubling set of findings in the United States: the absence of trust among about three-quarters of us in the basic institutions on which we once depended. 

The most recent New York Times polls show that the percentage of people who have confidence in Congress — the people’s branch — is only 7%; the presidency 23%; the Supreme Court 25%. Not only is the federal government held in disdain, but the percentage of people who have confidence in organized religion is 31%; in our public schools it is 28%, and in organized labor is 28%.

To match those results, we now know that our children and grandchildren have so little knowledge of history basics that we cannot have a serious debate. 

Conservatives argue that we have infected the schools with something called critical race theory or the belief that our institutions are infested by racism that prevents minority people in any area from getting a fair shake. It is hard to find that is so, except in some elitist law schools, when very few of our fellow Americans know what exactly the Reconstruction was, know that the United States was on different sides from the Nazis in the last great war, that America for a long time excluded Asians from immigration and closed the doors on Southern Europeans and Jews.

We can not say that they discriminate against Native Americans when they do not have a history of those peoples’ removal. We can’t talk of anti-Semitism when most Christians do not know of the Holocaust. Ignorance is dangerous, and those who do not know history are bound to repeat it.

Ask young or old Americans who their U.S. senators or congressperson are. They don’t have a clue. How can we present to our representatives our grievances if we don’t know what their names are? 

We can deny that there is discrimination in our deeds if not our thoughts but look around. I just returned from a baseball game with the Tampa team, and they play in a domed stadium in St. Petersburg. In order to build that ballpark the city and the team had to evict thousands of Black families to clear the land for the stadium.

Now after 20 years, the team is unsatisfied and wants a new stadium for over a billion dollars. What happens to those families once evicted? Are they going to be allowed to move back or do we have another barebones stadium in the middle of a run-down neighborhood? No wonder the Black community in Tampa is still resentful of their treatment. Would the state have put that facility in Fort Myers? 

My children and their children should know that this is happening. They don’t need the scaffolding of critical race theory, but a traditional American sense of fair play

The biggest employer and taxpayer in Florida is the Disney empire, and they have one day a year to celebrate gay people. There is much to hold Disney accountable for, like very low wages, wearisome working conditions, extraordinarily high prices for families, and autocratic control of utilities in its self-governing parks. The governor doesn’t mention those findings, but he is fearful Mickey might not be straight.

We cannot govern a free people without trust and common sense… which is maybe why we are so cynical and depressed in this post-pandemic world.

Michael P. Riccards, a former college president. is the author of 30 books, including a two-volume history of the presidency, The Ferocious Engine of Democracy, and the recently published Woodrow Wilson as Commander-in-Chief. Riccards wrote this article for the Jandoli Institute.

Categories: Jandoli Institute, Media, Michael Riccards, Politics

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