Losing Trust In Government

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Would it surprise you to learn that a large majority of Americans affirmatively agree that they do not want to see their local hospitals destroyed by heavy rainstorms? I mean, let’s hope not. Fine, the question is silly but the problem isn’t: it’s raining more than it used to.

82 percent of those polled support a requirement that all federally funded infrastructure in flood-prone areas be constructed to better withstand the impacts of flooding. This would apply to new construction and to repairing and rebuilding structures severely damaged by flooding, including roads, transit systems, or hospitals.”

                                                                                    The Washington Post, 6/24/18

Sure, the poll wasn’t completely unanimous, but we as Americans all (pretty much) agree on some things, like non-flooded hospitals.

Vulnerable infrastructure presents a national problem, and a large majority of the country agrees on the solution: Over 250 bipartisan elected leaders representing more than 45 million Americans signed a statement of principles, including prioritizing decisions that “improve resiliency requirements for buildings and infrastructure systems built before and after flood-related catastrophes.”

Given the scope of the problem, and its national bipartisan support, it seems like a job for our national government. Well.…

The problem here isn’t just that the national government won’t require taking caution before building hospitals in flood-prone areas (to give just one example—we can all acknowledge there are examples on each end of the political spectrum). It’s that Americans not only don’t expect their government to do the popular thing everybody wants; it’s that increasingly Americans of all political affiliations don’t even expect their government to do the right thing:

When the National Election Study began asking about trust in government in 1958, about three-quarters of Americans trusted the federal government to do the right thing almost always or most of the time. …. Since 2007, the share saying they can trust the government always or most of the time has not surpassed 30%.”

Why the erosion in trust? For one thing, twice in the last 18 years our country didn’t send to the Oval Office the person who won the national popular vote. The electoral system doesn’t incentivize candidates to pay attention to national issues: In 2016, the candidates (and the public) knew that the presidential election would effectively be decided by the voters of only 11 states.

There’s a potential solution here, as common-sense as flood-proof hospitals: make every vote count

Matthew J Donnelly