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Without Trust,
Life is Not Worth Living

-- Confucius

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The Trust Deficit – Washington: Did you hear the Message?

November 3, 2010  by Robert Porter Lynch   Copyright, 2010

In the aftermath of the November election, it’s quite easy for Republicans to bask in victory’s sweet sun. 

Celebrate not in thy prideful glory;
Alas, be not content, for thy fortunes are illusory.

Newly elected: You are on a tight probationary leash.

Americans are not nearly as gullible as pollsters think. We did not vote for the Republican agenda, we voted to register a powerful sign of protest against the conduct and egregious lack of character of our politicians. As a nation, we are revolted by the abuses they have heaped upon us. As Charles Krauthammer said so well:

    Every two years the American politics industry fills the airwaves with the most virulent, scurrilous, wall-to-wall character assassination of nearly every political practitioner in the country - and then declares itself puzzled that America has lost trust in its politicians. 

Trust is at an all time low in America. In last January’s State of the Union address, President Obama declared that the most important deficit in the country was the TRUST DEFICIT. Yet he did nothing about it. 

How long can a democracy prevail when its people don’t trust its elected representatives? Depending upon the most recent poll, only a scant 6-20% of our citizens trust Congress. Consumer Confidence, another trust index, is wallowing in the pits, keeping our economy depressed as a result. When consumers trust the future, spending goes up, and deficits go down.

Look at what virtually every grass roots focus group across the land declared on the eve of the elections: “lack of accountability,” “lies and deceit,” “too many brutal attacks,” “smear campaigns,” “not concerned with current important issues, like jobs,” “negativism,” “no real solutions,” etc. 

Apparently Washington did not listen to the people during this campaign, and there is no evidence that any transformational revelation is in the works. For the next two years our elected representatives are on probation; we will be looking to see if we can trust them, because we can’t now.

The parties have no real ideology that distinguishes them, just constituencies to which they try to appeal. John Dean, former White House Counsel observed that today’s political parties have

     “coalesced political force through the power of negative thinking and the ability to find common enemies… defining themselves by what they oppose … without enemies [today’s] politics would lack its organizing principle.”

Will we see the dawning of the new era of trust we all yearn for? Here’s what Washington must do:

First, don’t continue acting like a bunch of bickering children fighting in the sandbox. That’s unacceptable behavior for kids, and deplorable in adults. We hire politicians to be leaders and problem solvers of the world’s leading nation at a time of crisis and tension. We are betrayed when such petty squabbling overwhelms the agenda of solving serious problems like war, job, healthcare, and education.

Second, start acting like senior executives of the greatest nation on earth. Cross the border: Republicans and Democrats must start to talk to each other and build alliances on behalf of the American people to resolve problems and move the American agenda forward. When John McCain and the late Teddy Kennedy did this, they were castigated by both sides. When Republican Senator Lincoln Chaffee acted to serve his entire constituency, his party ostracized him. (He just ran as an Independent in his state, and won, defeating Republicans and Democrats).

Third, begin to act civilly, treating people you don’t agree with in a manner of dignity and respect. Bludgeoning and constant degradation is not the hallmark of civilized behavior. Now that the campaigning is over, leave the election’s battle weapons checked outside the Capitol for the next two years.

Fourth, remember Congress represents all the people, not just special interests and narrow blocks of constituencies. Listen to what the people need to feel safe and secure in their world. Stop letting banks take our homes and the equity in them, get the economy rolling by giving business confidence in our banking system and turning the tide of joblessness, give our children an educational system that doesn’t have to rely on metal detectors to gain entrance, and unscramble the convolutions of the healthcare system to make access easy and affordable.

Fifth, President Obama, learn the lesson of Ronald Reagan. He developed a personal trusting relationship with his would-be nemesis, Tip O’Neill. They were from opposite sides of the political spectrum, but agreed to work together to lead the nation out of economic despair and cold-war strife. 

Do these things and we will take you off probation!

Robert Porter Lynch Copyright 2010

My Friend and Colleague, Jim Reeds (CEO of the Rural Telemedicine Foundation) Provided this very insightful response:

Dear Robert:

Well Done!

You might consider the same comments applicable to both State and Local politicians and their constituencies.

In that vein, I must point out the very same negative chemistry that enveloped the California State Gubernatorial contest between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman ” it illustrates your point exactly.

Whitman’s constant (and personally expensive) message was not defined by issues and the concerns for the California electorate.  Rather, it was defined by scurrilous personal character attacks on her opponent, Jerry Brown. These personal attacks were so transparently negative that even Republican Party followers raised concern over her campaign’s tenor.  At a rally held just a few days before the election, she was booed from the audience over her response to a question from the floor: ”Can’t you stop with the negative character assassination of Jerry Brown?” Her reply: ”No.” That answer and the mindset that it represents literally cost her the election!  The even sadder observation: not many believe that anything was learned from the experience.

Jerry Brown, no newcomer to public service, simply persevered by literally remaining above the fray. While there were some ads that cast negative aspersions at Meg Whitman’s lack of experience, he remained always gracious in public and private (civility).  Many pundits here believe that this was his defining political advantage, and that alone earned him the Governor’s seat. (His specific platform on the issues was as fuzzy as Whitman’s).

You could add that the negative character assaults against a typical political opponent at any governmental level has served to deter the civic involvement of the many fair and high-minded citizens of our country. Many (including myself) simply do not have the energy nor the will to involve themselves in a contest of character flaws and policy issues that are solely defined by falsehood. (Famous Graucho Marx; ”When Lies Come in the Door, Truth Goes Innuendo”).

You are right: there IS a disease abundant in this country, and it has seized the soul of a Great Country.  We are all mostly clinically depressed by the unbecoming behaviour  and general incivility of our elected representatives.  And.it’s contagious. It spreads to the level of everyday human contact, and it results in clinical civil depression, and gives weight to otherwise wacky ideas and behavior.

Of course, the first sign of the possibility of a psychic national turn-around, is the sense that
(1) a message has been sent and
(2) that it has been received.
The important point is, how this message will be acted upon.

As I recall my history, the real “Tea Party” held in Boston Harbor was a message sent to King George that ”We [Colonists] have had enough!!” That message was ignored in England -- and look what happened!!

Cheers, Jim
 

All Rights Reserved -- Copyright 2010

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