A rigged America? A significant portion of Americans increasingly believe that elites and the institutions that they oversee are dishonest and are actively working to conspire against them.
As I drove home this evening and listened to the continued news stories about Donald’s Trump claims that the presidential election is “rigged”, I came to the conclusion that we are living through an unprecedented time in recent American politics. Never before have we experienced such deep mistrust of core American institutions. Whether it be the political system, the media, professional experts (economists, scientists etc.), non-partisan government organizations i.e. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or corporations – many Americans believe that so many of the institutions that form the bedrock of our society are fundamentally dishonest and actively working to hoodwink the general public.
Indeed, a relatively large swath of Americans, not just one bombastic political candidate, believe that many of the foundational institutions that underlie our government are disingenuous. This is profoundly dangerous. Our great republic relies on a free and fair press, transparent government and corporations that act in good faith.
What happens when a 1/3 (or close thereto) of the American public no longer believe basic news stories in major press publications such as the NY Times or Washington Post? When they believe that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is “cooking the books” to benefit one political party? When they believe that climate scientists are falsifying data? Or when they believe that Wall Street Banks are deliberately dishonest with consumers in order to generate profits?
We have reached a new and increasingly dangerous point in American history. Never in my lifetime, have I seen so much animosity directed towards the pillars of American democracy or the modern economic system. And while much of it may be underserved, we must resist high-minded urges to dismiss this distrust out of hand and attempt to understand and address it’s root causes.
A free, fair and fully functioning Democracy of the kind that Jefferson and Madison envisioned rests upon a sacred trust between the government and the governed. The American people must be all in on this 240 year “great American project”. This includes a belief that our core institutions are neutral and objective arbiters of information.
In the spirit of the aforementioned Jefferson and Madison, Democrats and Republicans should come together to address this issue after the election and work to build American’s trust in American institutions once again. Enduring national unity may depend on it.
To read more about this important topic, see this excellent piece in the October 14th edition of the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/americans-are-losing-faith-in-democracy–and-in-each-other/2016/10/14/b35234ea-90c6-11e6-9c52-0b10449e33c4_story.html?utm_term=.19d0c66c0d16