How’s That Trust Thing Going?

It’s official. This year’s midterm is the nastiest election in recent history. And after all this viciousness, we’re all just gonna sit down and make nice? We’re gonna work together? We’re gonna trust each other? And a society without trust goes where? Does what? Succeeds how?  I am not a happy camper.

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4 Responses to How’s That Trust Thing Going?

  1. It wasn’t just nasty. The lies were large and absurd, but they have controlled much of the debate. And meanwhile a lot of anonymous money was poured into the campaigns, further distorting the truth. How can we trust blatant liars? How can we trust people who don’t put their names behind their money and opinions?

  2. Roger Martin says:

    I’m going to pass along a commentary I’ve been working on, Diane. We need something entirely different. Entirely. Burn the ballot boxes, I say. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.

    Inspired by an extravagant midterm election that cost the candidates and special interest groups about the same as what Disney paid to acquire the rights to 5,000 Marvel comic book characters last year — $4 billion –- I have an extravagant proposal of my own to make.

    It’s an idea for an event. Think of it as a Tea Party kind of thing, except that those who attend this event wouldn’t label taxation and big government as THE PROBLEM.
    They’d point to the sense of exhaustion and despair, born of powerlessness, that has settled upon a good many of us.

    That sense derives from the distance between ourselves and our leaders.

    Think gap . . . or gulf . . . or abyss.

    One reason is financial. My net worth is well below a million bucks. The same goes for 99 percent of Americans. But in 2009, 44 percent of Congress members – and a majority of the Senators – were millionaires.

    Another distancing factor is behavior. Thoughts of attacking or belittling someone in his or her presence, except in a moment of panic or fear, makes ordinary people squeamish. But those who ascend to power learn to be comfortable mocking others to their faces (and in front of crowds to boot).

    A third reason for the estrangement from lawmakers is physical. I’ve never in my life shaken the hand of a member of the United States Congress. Never spoken a word to one. Never had one speak to me.

    Feeling so little kinship with those in high office makes it easy to fantasize about a made-for-TV, You Tube-ready event called “Walk for a Change.” It starts with somebody young, say a kid from Goessel, Kansas, packing a sleeping bag and camping gear and heading toward Washington, D.C. At a doughnut shop she runs into some old gaffer. He joins her, and down the road they meet up with a middle manager from a Wendy’s who’s on staycation and a copy editor let go by a downsized daily and a gaggle of tea partiers. The thing just snowballs. Think media flyovers of a swelling river of human beings moving east.

    They don’t see eye to eye on everything, of course, and disagree violently on some things. But they are ALL fed up with feeling so estranged from those in power.

    As the walkers talk, they dream schemes to re-empower the legions of the politically hopeless and dispossessed.

    They might even reach a consensus about ways and means. Or not.

    (My particular fantasy, by the way, starts with a bonfire built from ballot boxes. Next, I’d divide the U.S. population into demographic groups, and then choose representatives from each group, by lottery – their number depending on the size of their demographic relative to the entire population. Those selected by chance to serve as legislators would be paid a living wage [means tested, of course]. Reality TV show producers seeking access to the lottery winners for prime time would be turned away.)

    There are obvious downsides to “Walk for a Change.” The march east might peel a few thousand points off the Dow Jones. Or everybody might go away mad – or just go away – long before they reached the Capitol mall. But what’s to lose? Something feels so wrong about politics these days that I’ve lost faith that electing this or that person with this or that ideology to this or that office is going to help.

    Replacing elected officials with lottery picks is off the deep end. But if you share my perception that the political system is buried to the axles in mud, and if you’re sick and tired of feeling as if those driving that mired vehicle dropped you off a long, long time ago, then I invite you to make a proposal.

    Because something’s got to give.

    Roger Martin
    Martin retired from the University of Kansas in 2005, after 25 years of writing about KU research for print and broadcast media.

  3. dianesilver says:

    As always, Roger, you present fascinating ideas. Thanks for posting this. I love the image of the swelling river of people marching east. It’s a beautiful, but I don’t see much changing, even with your sweet river of foot-sore folks. Ballot boxes aren’t the problem. People are the problem, and what’s going on inside of us is the problem with all the twists and turns of our psyches.

    If your sea of people made it to DC and found a way to replace the elected politicians without a bloodbath, then what? If they truly were an accurate representation of the population, then you would still have deep and nasty disagreements. I love the idea of throwing out the scoundrels. But then you replace them with another set of scoundrels because people tend to be scoundrels, and people in power even more so. (By the way, I just read a report of research that showed the more power you have, the more of a jerk you become.)

    This sounds pessimistic, but I don’t mean to be so. I’m actually fairly optimistic, but I’m also not certain how we’re going to get to where you and I want to go. Certainly, changes in the political system would help, like vast changes in campaign finance, but burning ballot boxes does nothing, except change which scoundrels are in charge.

    And so it goes…

    • Roger Martin says:

      You’re right. It’s just a longing for reasonableness in politics.

      I’m working on a bumpersticker idea, something to this effect:

      Cutting taxes = cutting military, social security, Medicare.
      Let’s bleed to death, OK?

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