Jay Reding.com

“A Crisis In Public Confidence”

Mark Tapscott takes a look at the incredibly low ratings given to all branches of government and sees a crisis in public confidence in the political class. The recent Gallup poll reveals that the American people only have 14% confidence in Congress and their approval rating is only 24%. Every government institution except the military has been given a vote of no-confidence by the American public. Tapscott has a theory as to why:

The opposition to the Bush/Kennedy/McCain immigration reform appears to be hardening, too, as indicated by this UPI/Zogby International survey that finds only three percent – three percent! – of those surveyed approve of the way Congress is handling the issue. Bush gets only a nine percent approval rating on the issue in the survey, which has a 1.1 percent margin of error.

This is why there is no evidence of increasing public support for the GOP in recent weeks despite the failling ratings of the Democratic majority in Congress. The root problem is a bipartisan inability – or refusal – to adopt policies supported by clear majorities of the American people.

Those policies for the most part involve a significantly lower level of government activism, whereas the political class for the most part seeks only a higher level because it benefits, financially and otherwise, from the higher taxes, greater federal spending and heightened importance of public institutions.

I think that analysis is right. The crisis in confidence in government isn’t a partisan issue — Democrats want to frame it as being opposition to the war, Republicans want to frame it as opposition to Democrats, but the reality is that it is opposition to a political system that has gone off the rails. The Democrats in Congress have taken the abysmal ratings of the Republicans and managed to lower them, while the Republicans have yet to offer anything resembling a coherent alternative. This is a bipartisan failure, and the same old partisan solutions just aren’t going to cut it.

The question is how this may effect American politics. John Podhoretz suggests that it could signal more frequent changes in political control. That’s certainly not to be discounted, but it would be something we’ve never really seen in American politics. Nor am I certain such an outcome would be good — that might erase partisan lines, but I doubt that it would do much to change the sort of back-room dealmaking that’s the longstanding tradition of Washington politics.

What I hope this will do is spring the country into a reformist mindset. Our problem is that we have a government that grows and grows and grows and demands more and more power. Even the left is taking the anti-government side (which would certainly change if a Democrat were elected in 2008) — there is a wide cross-partisan belief that government is too big, too greedy, and too powerful.

The problems with American democracy are structural — politicians are doing what politicians always do, and that is do whatever it takes to get elected — even if it means skirting the law. The only fix for this problem is to limit the size and scope of government so that there are fewer cookie jars for politicians to get their grubby little mitts into. Libertarians and conservatives don’t have much problem with that, but the liberals generally want more and more government. It’s hard to reconcile a general distrust of government with a party that wants to centralize healthcare into another government agency.

As a conservative, this mistrust of government is welcome news. The problem is that as a Republican, it isn’t. The way forward for the GOP is to regain their core convictions and stand with the American people against an ever-growing government. However, the current GOP leadership doesn’t seem at all interested in doing this.

If the GOP could get their values back, 2008 could be a bloodbath for the Democrats in the way that 2006 was for the Republicans. People are sick and tired of a dysfunctional government, and they want something better. The Republicans have to show them that big government isn’t the only way to go, but that requires a commitment to less spending, less government, and an end to the comfortable culture of entrenched power that ended the Gingrich revolution after 12 years.

American government stands at a crossroads — and partisan bickering won’t solve the nation’s problems. The American people are rightly sick and tired of it all, and if the GOP can’t provide an acceptable alternative, someone else will.

9 responses to ““A Crisis In Public Confidence””

  1. Mark says:

    “As a conservative, this mistrust of government is welcome news.”

    Herein lies the reason why fewer Americans trust you to govern. Your worldview is validated when government fails, so nudging government towards failure is an inevitable consequence towards electing your ilk.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    Herein lies the reason why fewer Americans trust you to govern. Your worldview is validated when government fails, so nudging government towards failure is an inevitable consequence towards electing your ilk.

    Given that the country was founded by people with a rather large issue where government is concerned, it’s the left that’s the most out of step with the American tradition — and reality.

    As P.J. O’Rourke quite astutely quipped, “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it. “

  3. Mark says:

    “Given that the country was founded by people with a rather large issue where government is concerned, it’s the left that’s the most out of step with the American tradition”

    If you want to turn back the clock two centuries, it was also in step with “American tradition” to go to the bathroom outside. But just like people now expect the convenience of indoor plumbing, they likewise expect their tax money will bring them competent foreign policy and federal disaster relief when they’re stranded in a hurricane-ravaged city. Following the Republican ethos of “we’ll show you liberals just how bad government sucks!”, taxpayers have nothing to show for their investment other than a continuation of tax breaks for the energy companies already profitting $2 billion a week.

  4. Eracus says:

    Well, I guess we can count Mark among the 14% of the American people who have confidence in Congress. And $2 billion a week in energy company profits!! Oh, my.

    Someone call CNBC….

  5. Aaron says:

    The mistrust in government is just openign the door for a legitimate thrid party Presidential Candidate…someone who has never served in Congress….someone who Americnas know and would trust to work for their best interests…….I have no idea who that would be….but he is out there……

    With that in mind, I think the candidate who has less political baggage and little time in congress has a great chance to win…..its why I think Obama and Edwards have a better shot than Hillary and why Guliania and Huckabee are better for the GOP…….

  6. Mark says:

    Aaron, most of your points are good, but Giuliani has tons of political and personal baggage…probably more than Hillary. Huckabee, on the other hand, has always struck me as just what the doctor ordered for the GOP…probably more so than Fred Thompson. His campaign is going nowhere though. And ultimately, Hillary could face the same 11th hour meltdown as Howard Dean when primary voters realize she’s unelectable under any circumstance. I’m not overly optimistic about Edwards’ or Obama’s electability at this point either, but at least the Dems would have a chance with either of those two.

    And with Bloomberg indicating a third-party run, and a third-party challenge from the right looming if Giuliani is the Republican nominee, it’s unlikely we’ll see the evenly divided red-blue election of 2004 again in 2008. Can’t say that I necessarily welcome the third-party candidate insertion and don’t expect anybody would have the means to actually win, but they certainly could play the spoiler, in Bloomberg’s case almost certainly to the benefit of the GOP.

  7. Marcia Crowley says:

    “there is a wide cross-partisan belief that government is too big, too greedy, and too powerful.”

    There’s a much bigger cross-partian belief that corporations ahve gotten too big, too greedy, and too powerful.

    Whether it’s from the right resisisting illegal immigration to lower the wages of all Americans, or from the left that objects to corporate fraud and and greed, the economic right is going to face a lot of flack. And that includes trying to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

    And we can all see that in the US the insurance companies, which require huge amounts of money for profits and hundreds of millions for their corporate officers, fix the price of health care and the income of doctors and hospitals.

    Meanwhile, it is harder and harder to get a decent primary doctor, as they are going broke on the insurance companies’ fixed compensation, and it taken longer and longer to get many services such as colonoscopies and hip replacements.

    Anyone who’s gotten one of those “This is not a bill” statements from their insurance company can see that the insurance companies force doctors and hospitals to get along with ever less as the CEO’s get bigger and bigger yachts. Doctors, especially primary care doctors are leaving doctoring because of the long hours and low income.

    And if you your job is sent to communists in China by captilists, to keep wages down here and make hundreds of millions from the quasi-slave labor in those countries, and you end up working as a WalMart cashier or other of those wonderful jobs the rightwing tells us are so wonderful, forget about it. YOu can’t possibly afford it, and most insurance companies won’t even accept you if you have a pre-existing condition.

    Of course the rightwing loves this situation. When so many average Americans are desperate, with huge amounts of debt – as so many are now even putting their mortgate payments and food on credit cards – and as savings is negative, the housing market dropping, homes being repossesed by slimy “mortgate brokers”, gasoline and food going up up up, the rightwing tells us the economy is great because Mr. Blackstone just made 27 BILLION dollars selling his company – no doubt to suckers or else why would he sell it?

    The top rightwing mantra is CHEAP LABOR and BILLIONS for “entreprenuers” who take the risk of not making $27 billion next year selling out to communists in China.

  8. Marcia Crowley says:

    June 22nd, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    Mark:

    ” And ultimately, Hillary could face the same 11th hour meltdown as Howard Dean when primary voters realize she’s unelectable under any circumstance.”

    Primary voters didn’t “realize” that Howard Dean was “unelectable”. The media decided to kill his campaign because he wasn’t nice to them and because they were terrified of the righwing jihad in the WH that called anyone who didn’t bow down to Bush and his Dick “antiAmerican” and “proterrorist” and said “people should watch what they say” and hailed the banning of the Dixie Chicks.

    The media caved to the Bush Regime, like McCain did after the Bush campaign that said he had a black child out of wedlock and had collaborated with the Viet Cong. That was the end of McCain in my opinion – he made an absolute jackass of himself by actually hugging Bush who had smeared him in such an ugly manner. And letting Bush pat him on the head like a child. It was revolting. Before that I admired McCain, after that, no.

    And of course the dirt-throwing rightwing piled on and made it sound as if Dean had shot someone, rather than loudly supporting his campaign workers.

    Proof? Cheney wasn’t even castigate from screaming “Fuck off!” at a senator on the floor of the senate.

  9. Marcia Crowley says:

    Eracus:

    “Well, I guess we can count Mark among the 14% of the American people who have confidence in Congress.”

    Have you forgotten that the Senate is close to 50% REpublican and the Congress not all that far away?

    And that polls show that more Americans want Democrats to win mores seats in the next election?