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Public Trust and the Federal Government. Behind the anger and mistrust


by Don Azarias

June 25, 2010

A survey from the Pew Research Cen ter showed public confidence in the federal government at one of the lowest points in a half-century. Nearly 80 percent of Americans say they have little faith that the massive federal bureaucracy can solve the nation’s ills. Unless I calculated it incorrectly, 80 percent means that 4 out of 5 Americans don’t trust the federal government at all. And, from the political standpoint, when you talk of an 80 percent plurality you might, as well, translate that into 100 percent.

The recently-released poll illustrates the threatening political situation facing President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party as they struggle to maintain their comfortable congressional majorities in this fall’s elections. Traditionally, the party in power tends to lose more seats in Congress during midterm elections. And with the American voters showing a raging discontent against Democratic incumbents, a lot of those Democrats may soon be out of work.

The survey found that a little over 20 percent of those questioned say they can trust Washington almost always or most of the time and just 19 percent say they are basically content with it. Nearly half say the government has a negative impact on their daily lives, a sentiment that’s grown over the past decade or so.

The poll was based on four surveys done from March 11 to April 11 on landline and cell phones. As I said earlier, the poll is indicative of a politically troubling situation for Obama and the Democrats that could jeopardize the political survival of current Democratic incumbents. If that happens, the control of Congress would change hands in favor of Republicans. Analysts are predicting that the out-of-power Republicans could well benefit from voters’ anger toward Obama and his Democratic allies come November.

The most compelling sign of voters’ anger against the government was reflected in the visibility of the tea party movement’s nationwide protests in previous weeks. As as a way of showing their contempt, the protesters held a huge rally in Washington, D.C. on April 15 to coincide with the tax filing deadline. And, while they acknowledged that it was a problem before Obama, they said that he’s certainly not helping fix it.

The survey also found that Obama’s policies were partly to blame for a rise in distrustful, anti-government views. In his first year in office, the president orchestrated a government takeover of Detroit automakers and the firing of GM’s CEO. He and his Democratic allies, using their congressional plurality, secured a $787 billion stimulus package and $700 billion to bail out some of those much hated Wall Street financial institutions while taxpayers are losing their jobs and their homes. Obama and his Democratic allies are also being blamed for passing the prohibitively expensive overhaul of the health care system.

Majorities in the survey call Washington too big and too powerful, and say it’s interfering too much in state and local matters. The public is split over whether the government should be responsible for dealing with critical problems or scaled back to reduce its power, presumably in favor of personal responsibility. About half say they want a smaller government with fewer services, compared with roughly 40 percent who want a bigger government providing more.

The recent, more exhaustive, MSNBC poll conducted as to why the public is not trusting the government provided the following: It found that 93 percent said there’s too much partisan fighting between Democrats and Republicans; 84 percent said special interests have too much influence over legislation; 74 percent said the government isn’t doing enough to regulate Wall Street; 61 percent said Democratic majorities are trying to push through legislation without bipartisan compromise; an equal 61 percent said Republicans are trying to block any Democratic legislation without bipartisan compromise; 58 percent said the federal government is doing too much; and 47 percent said Obama is failing to provide the kind of leadership needed on the economy and health care.

Needless to say, this trend bodes ill for any incumbent, Democrat or Republican, who supported Obama’s radical agenda like the health care reform program that many Americans view as socialized medicine. It also explains the rise of the Tea Parties and the fear of Democrats heading into the midterm elections.

By and large, the long-term consequences of people’s distrust in the federal government could be devastating to the United States as a nation. Here are some of the following worst-case scenarios that could happen: A possibility that disgruntled states in the union could advocate secession, although that’s not likely to succeed; military coup d’etat by principled military leaders intent on defending the country’s Constitution and the will of the people, although that’s a very remote possibility; people’s refusal to vote or get involved in both local or national governments and participation in other form of civil disobedience; some form of radical agitation that could result in the emergence of militant organizations like a more belligerent tea party movement, anarchists, terrorist groups, Ku Klux Klan, skinheads and other White supremacist organizations acting under the guise of the First Amendment but who, in reality, are hell-bent on destabilizing the government.

The United States is supposed to be the leader of the free world. It has a democratic form of government and, as intended by the Founding Fathers, should be a nation where sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. For the American people, they know that the federal government should operate under such premise———that it’s a government of the people, by the people, for the people. However, they feel it is not.

And, like the majority of the people, at times, I feel the same way too.



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