Live-blogging Midmorning: Trust and unity

How do we put all the acrimony of the campaign behind us? Today’s show is based partly on a post I wrote a few weeks ago. We’re electing someone who can lead. But how willing are we to follow?

Our guests are: Marc Hetherington: Associate professor of political science at Vanderbilt University. He’s the author of “Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American Liberalism.” Russell Hardin: Professor of politics at New York University and the author of “Trust and Trustworthiness.”

I want to hear your comments. For purposes of the discussion, assume a candidate in next week’s election that you don’t favor… wins

9:09 a.m. – Hetherington says a CBS poll on trusting the government recently showed it was at its lowest level ever. True, I’m thinking, but the fact of the matter is after next Tuesday, we’ll still have a government. Hetherington says it all comes back to “performance,” but what comes first: embracing a route to follow or following after it’s clear the route is the way to follow?

9:12 a.m. – Hardin comes down on the mistrust is good side of the argument and I wouldn’t disagree and it makes me regret using the word trust.

Here’s a story: Yesterday on the Current, I read a story about a guy in Pennsylvania who fired a gun at some kids who were stealing his lawn side. Afterwards, I told the story to them and waited for one of two reactions. I only got one: “Whose lawn sign was it?” In that moment, it was clear to me that our standards of behavior is rooted in politics.

9:15 a.m. – I’m uncomfortable with how Kerri is framing the question. “Is distrust healthy?” Of course it’s healthy. We’re not supposed to be sheep. But that’s different from transitioning from a “closed mind” during the campaign phase of government to an “open mind” on the part of the citizen during the governing phase.

9:17 a.m. – Are we reaping what Republicans have sewn, a caller asks? Not really, a guest responds since government has expanded under the Republican administration. Hetherington says Republicans end up losing in the end with an anti-government mantra. “You don’t want government to fail so spectacularly that nobody wants you in charge,” he says.

9:20 a.m. – Hetherington notes that the next president has to put “the bickering behind us,” but how? He says Roosevelt was able to do it long enough for there to be “some results on the ground.”

9:21 a.m. – Hetherington says we were never more trusting in government than we were in 2004.

9:30 a.m. – I just read Nathan’s comment on the air regarding skepticism. Hardin says that’s what Jefferson meant when he talked about trust in government. He says we have trusting relationships in small groups, but not in the larger sense.

9:31 a.m. – Interesting comments from Jessica:

To regain my trust, folks elected next week would need to promise that they will not run for another term, OR that they would not fundraise or campaign for their next election until 6 months before the election.

It’s an interesting view and gets to the heart of my original treatise. The 2010 election cycle begins next week. And, if you believe the New York Times, the 2012 election cycle is already underway.

9:34 a.m. – The conversation is a bit too philosophical for my taste. Think of the morning of 9/12/01. How do we get that unity of purpose back? I’m not suggesting the answer is everyone should just do what they’re told by leaders. But we were looking past the means to an end, and seeing unity in an end. It’s very much an emotional state that I think also think Roosevelt had going for him that we don’t have in 2008. Reaction?

9:40 a.m. – A caller suggests one way to restore trust is for the next president to appoint a cabinet members of different political stripes. William Cohen, a Republican, was the defense secretary for Clinton, for example. Of course, he was a Maine Republican and a lot of Republicans will tell you that’s not a real Republican.

Jesse Ventura appointed the most bipartisan (tripartisan/) cabinets in the history of Minnesota. In the long run, it didn’t do him much good with the governing process, even though he might well have been re-elected had he run again.

9:44 a.m. – Nancy says the problem is the current administration

We were lied to about reasons to enter Iraq, about the outing of Valerie Plame, and more. We’ve seen this administration “reframe” all kinds of things in political language that turns reality on its ear — the — what was it? — “clean air” or “blue skies” act that actually reduced the quality of the air.

Perhaps that’s true Nancy, if you’re a Democrat, but many Republicans don’t see it that way and if Obama wins on Tuesday, we just flip where people are standing. We’ll replace your dissatisfied group with a new dissatisfied group. So we’d be in the same situation.

But you’re right, the govenrment is “us,” but how do you define “us?” Is it the people with whom you agree politically? Or is it everyone, including those with which you vehemently disagree politically and what’s the plan for getting everyone pointed in the same direction. That’s the question that people are ignoring.

9:48 a.m. – Does a president need ” a certain quotient of trust?”

“Absoutely,” says Hetherington. “The anti-govenrment distrustful environment our country is characterized by.,… when trust in government is high, we innovate more.”

9:55 a.m. – I gather than the reason nobody has posted with the hypothetical that “the other guy” wins next Tuesday is people simply don’t want to think about the possibility.

9:58 a.m. — Let’s take it this way. You’re the winning candidate next Tuesday and now you’re looking straight into the camera and you have one thing to say to your political opponents that can make the difference between success and failure. What is it you’re about to say?

  • Nathan

    I think there should be skeptisim in government, but not distrust. I should be able to trust that the government wants to do what’s best for the American people.

    You should be skeptical over how this is done, and skeptical how each party paints each other’s platforms.

  • jessica

    To regain my trust, folks elected next week would need to promise that they will not run for another term, OR that they would not fundraise or campaign for their next election until 6 months before the election. I think this is the closest we could ever get to campaign finance reform. If they had to go there and actually were able to spend 100 percent of their time working for us, maybe we could restore the notion of by the people for the people.

  • Nancy

    I’m amazed by this short-sighted discussion. If we wonder why people are so distrustful of government, we should be honest about the incredible number of reasons we’ve been given to distrust over the past 8 years. We were lied to about reasons to enter Iraq, about the outing of Valerie Plame, and more. We’ve seen this administration “reframe” all kinds of things in political langauge that turns reality on its ear — the — what was it? — “clean air” or “blue skies” act that actually reduced the quality of the air. . . . We’ve seen this administration squander our international goodwill and use language like “axis of evil” as replacement for diplomacy, and squander the budget surplus it inherited. We’ve seen Congresman after Congressman implicated or convicted of felonies and other misbehavior. What more reaons do we need to distrust?? As for the Democrtas, they’ve been ineffective, complacent and quiet. Eight years of what we’ve seen is enough to make anyone distruct and wonder why we have a government. And yet — isn’t the government really — US??

  • Duane Silkworth

    People need to understand that the government is the ONLY institution in our life that has the explicit charter to look out for the common good of all of us. All other institutions like corporations, NGO’s, social organizations, churches, families have smaller constituencies or more specific goals.

    To establish more and appropriate trust in government, in our discourse, we need to start to recognize and discuss the implications of this basic fact.

    An ideological premise like “Government is the problem, not the solution” or “Government can’t be trusted” is irrational. We need to improve government, not denigrate it.

  • Janna Sundby

    I think the dilution of trust in the government is in part because the current media is no longer a real watch dog of government. We can’t trust the media companies because they have their own agenda’s. I think some distrust in government is good, but where do we go to get the truth? It seems we can only get the truth many years after the fact, thanks to “public media”.

  • Tressa Reisetter

    It’s difficult for me to trust a government that is quick to define qualifications for students, teachers, and schools, but has no qualifications for themselves. If you have a lot of money and are good at networking, you can be a politician. As a psychologist, I am closely monitored for how well I abide by our ethical code. If I made some of the mistakes politicians are caught doing, I would lose my licnese. An unethical politician appears to have very few consequences.

  • Nancy

    You missed my point about the significant contributors to the current mistrust — what we’ve ALL seen over the past 8 years — things about which most of the media agrees, and which is discouraging, disillusioning and undermines trust. And I did include the Democrats in my comment, BTW.

  • Rick Spaulding

    At, trust is defined as:

    1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.

    2. confident expectation of something; hope.

    As applied to our government, to me this means that we should have a reasonable belief that they have the ability and will to work with our best interest in mind. The current occupants have proven that they clearly do not.

    This administration is the most deceitful and incompetent in my adult memory and I’m 48 years old.

    To trust government again I need to see proof that they are willing to set aside their own self interest and work for the American people, not in spite of them.

  • Bob Collins

    Rick, you’re in the “you go first camp,” which is perhaps where most people are.

    I assume you’re an Obama supporter. So next week, you’re position will be occupied by a McCain supporter. Should they wait? And what should they wait for before joining in whatever effort…whatever sacrifice…the nation needs to make to solve its problems.

  • Bernt Stenberg

    Re: Young Voters:

    I know it the next hour hasn’t started yet, but I wanted to share why I think, partially anyways, this election is so important and motivating for young voters. Simply put, McCain reflects the old practices, viewpoints, and attitudes, and Obama reflects more closely the realities of being an American in a “flat” world. Sooner or later the power of the economy and the major influence in politics will switch from the Boomers to the Gen X/Y/Zers, and I think that’s what we’re seeing in this election. We simply cannot survive in a global network as a xenophobic and self-absorbed capitalist leviathan (see: corporate self regulation of mortgages). We must understand that what helps the world helps us.

  • Mina

    student loans are outrageous. we wont be able to own a home in the futer. there will be no social security for us. our infrastructure is going to fall apart just in time for us to take care of it. the environment….sigh …. where do i even begin.

  • Bryna Pascoe

    I am a 24 year old currently living in Italy. I’ve already mailed my ballot, and I know I’m not alone.

    This election season there has been, as we know, a huge flood of information available in the internet. What this has meant for young voters like me is it has been easier than ever to find information regarding voting from abroad. With websites like Facebook you can easily find links to your state’s website for voter registration, ballot requests, declaring missing ballots, addresses, etc. This network of young voters is constantly connected, encouraging and helping each other.

    This ‘mobile population’ is taking advantage of the internet to make its vote count from all over the world.

  • Anna Cariad-Barrett

    I think we are poised to see high turn out from the youth vote because the last eight years have motivated us to wake up to the injustices in our world, realize that we are at a choice point that’s much larger than the election, and take ownership of our future. I am looking for a president with heart, integrity, and vision. I think it’s also important to put the potential presidency of Barack Obama into perspective: he is not the answer, but a reflection of the grassroots movement for positive change very much alive in this country.

  • Mina

    I hear a lot of talk about the number of youth coming out to vote, but nothing about important issues to us. Education, Social Security, Savings, Income, Environment.

    We are emulating the same thing that the campaigns do in this conversation. We are just talking about the turn out numbers.

  • T.j. Rawitzer

    I’m 29, Married with 2 young children.

    On the topic of distrust- I have much distrust in our current government on all sides. It’s hard for me to trust elected officials who have lied to, misled, overused and out sourced us, while at the same time lined there own pockets and told us they understand our hardships. There is in my opinion on one person that will solve are problems. We need to all come together and work together to solve the basic problems. The first step is to vote. I don’t care who you vote for just vote.

    P.S. by the way Ill be voting for Obama

  • Dennis

    This country was founded on the notion that we need to be constantly wary of the government. The people that constructed how America would be, had first hand experience with what government control can do to it’s people. The Soviet Union which collapsed is a good example of what to much government can do to the free market of goods, services, choices and ideas. Nothing worked to it fullest potential under communism an extreme form of socialism. If people want to achieve their fullest potential we need to be wary of any government; republican or democrat keep it at bay and let it do only what we as individuals can’t do. Protect our borders and maintain our infrastructure. We as a people need to get back to building our lives and communities the way we used to and keep big government out of the way. Yes be wary and question.

  • Merry Domke

    Thank you for your select a canidate option. I just decided my votes on everything except my school board. I am going to vote and I am encouraging everyone I know of age to be active. I am even encouraging my younger friends from work to get informed because next round they are up to bat! It is not just our future, it is the Youth of America, we are voting for this year. And by Youth I don’t just mean my 3 year old son. We need universal heathcare to presserve our Elder’s youth as well!