The Simple, Effective Way to Rebuild Trust in America’s Institutions
You don’t need me to tell you that America is increasingly a “low-trust” society. Most people who are old enough to have lived through more functional periods of America can just FEEL IT in the different way they look at government, at institutions, and at their neighbors.
If you’re wondering how bad it has gotten, looking at this chart will definitely be an eye-opener:
So, the first question we should ask is whether most of these institutions DESERVE the public’s low level of trust in them. With a few exceptions, yes, they do.
If anything, the public has TOO MUCH TRUST in many of these institutions. Perhaps in some very limited cases, like the Supreme Court and the police, you could make a case that they’ve been heavily targeted by the media for political reasons, but for the most part, the institutions on here deserve their scores.
Of course, if that’s the case, then it begs the question, “Why have people lost faith in the institutions?”
There are two common themes you will see pop up again and again.
1) They’ve become heavily politicized and have lost a lot of their credibility in the process.
2) These organizations are no longer good at their primary job because they’ve gotten too focused on other things.
As a starting point, let’s take the institution that does the best here, which is the military. Despite the high standing of the military, their numbers are actually at a two-decade+ low:
Why? Well, the military has simultaneously been making headlines for being woke and having a disastrous finish to the war in Afghanistan. Some people in the military would no doubt argue that they aren’t woke, but they’ve done a lot of the damage themselves:
In the words of the late, great Rush Limbaugh, the military is supposed to be all about, “killing people and breaking things.” When it also starts to be about political issues like DEI, being trans-inclusive, fighting global warming, etc., etc., it loses focus. If the military continues down that path, you will see respect for the military and recruiting continue to crumble.
What about television news and newspapers which have relatively similar terrible ratings? Well, what is the job of mainstream news organizations SUPPOSED TO BE? You can find that job in the slogans of many of these publications.
Things like Fox’s, “Fair and Balanced,” The New York Times’, “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” USA Today’s, “News, Not Noise” and even the now-defunct Aberdeen Examiner’s, “No Fear, No Favor.”
These slogans may be for individual papers, but they describe what almost all mainstream news organizations aspired to be not so long ago. Certainly, they didn’t execute it perfectly, but even 15 years ago, news organizations almost across the board cared a great deal about getting it right and all of them that weren’t explicitly partisan put a lot of effort into at least APPEARING TO BE non-partisan.
Today? Pretty much the entire media is now heavily partisan one way or the other and certainly not all news sources, but an awful lot of them – including in the conservative media – are far more concerned with putting out propaganda that people on their side want to hear than getting the story right.
In other words, our news today is about as reliable as the news the Soviet people used to get from PRAVDA and everyone knows it. It’s also teeming with outrage bait.
You might not know anything about the real news in the world, but you will certainly hear about it if a celebrity uses a racial slur or a white cop shoots some black lowlife in Nowhereville, Indiana if there’s any question about whether said lowlife deserved it.
So, where do you go to get not “your truth,” but “the truth” without a heavy bias to one side or another? Well, you don’t. That’s one of the biggest problems in our society today.
What about the difference in perception between big and small businesses? At first glance, doesn’t it seem a little odd that small businesses are so well thought of while people don’t trust big business? After all, what is big business other than a small business that succeeded?
When Ray Kroc got McDonald’s off the ground or Sam Walton created Wal-Mart, they were small businesses. 65% of the public has faith in small businesses. However, now both companies are big business and only 14% of the public has confidence in organizations like them. The drop-off has been particularly sharp among Republicans:
Why? Well, SOME OF IT could be the well-deserved and extremely bad press companies like Pfizer, Merck, and Moderna got over the way the COVID vaccine was handled, but a lot of it is simply corporations jumping headfirst into political issues they never should have been involved with in the first place.
Why was the NFL putting “Black Lives Matter” in the end zones? Why is Netflix switching out the races and genders of so many characters? Why is Disney pushing freaky-gender-bending on kids? It’s worth noting that as many big corporations embraced this concept, their numbers tanked with both Republicans and Independents, but also didn’t really improve with Democrats.
So, although many of these corporations will try to spin these controversial forays into politics as victories, when you look at how the public is reacting to the broader market, it certainly doesn’t look like it.
What about the medical system? Did they do their job well during COVID or did they rather famously get all sorts of things wrong while demanding we censor people that disagreed with them?
What about large technology companies? You mean the ones aggravating large percentages of their own users by heavily censoring them for overtly political reasons?
What about Congress and the presidency? Well, we’ve come a long way from great men like George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan to our last few presidents. Congress seems to be mostly grandstanding fame-whores and sociopaths doing whatever lobbyists tell them to do while they get rich instead of that old ideal we imagine of the selfless legislator who is dedicated to doing what’s best for his constituents in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington:
There is one glimmer of hope here. One piece of good news. That is, it would be extremely simple for most of these institutions to reverse this trend and start regaining the trust of the public.
All they’d need to do is set politics aside and DO THEIR JOBS.
Granted, that may not be easy, but it is simple and genuinely doable. Let the military get out of politics and focus on winning wars. Let corporations focus on making good products at a good price instead of pushing woke ideas. Let members of Congress put their constituents first instead of getting payouts to their kids and cushy jobs lined up after they get out of office. Let the medical establishment get out of the censorship business and focus on serving their patients, not the pharmaceutical industry.
These institutions came into being for a reason and they can still serve an important role in society, but only if they function. Only if they start doing their jobs first and foremost while leaving the politics to everyone else.
Can it be that simple? Yes, in most cases, it really can.
No one needs woke Major League Baseball, but an MLB that allows people to forget about politics while coming together to enjoy the American pastime is valuable. We don’t need teachers to promote gay and trans issues to kids, but schools that are good at educating kids are invaluable. A Christian church that slowly dies in the background of American life is nothing compared to a strong, effective church that is reaching young Americans and teaching them morals while they’re brought to Christ.
We don’t need more politics shoved into every nook and cranny of American life, but do we need functional, trustworthy institutions? Yes, we do. Maybe now, more than ever.