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Advertise on the Tentacle

July 14, 2011

Where is the trust?

Amanda Haddaway

The trust of the public used to be a key component in a democratic society, but it seems that both locally and nationally we’ve strayed from this concept. The public should ideally trust the leaders it elects and, in turn, respect those governing bodies. However, this doesn’t seem to be happening.


Data from Pew Research Center, National Election Studies, Gallup, ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, and CNN polls shows that between 1958 and 2010, the public’s trust in government dropped from more than 70 percent to around 20 percent.


A few recent examples also highlight this erosion of trust in our society:


1.)    There has been widespread news coverage on a social studies textbook used in third grade classrooms in Frederick County. Parent Cindy Rose deserves praise for bringing this issue to the school board, but isn’t she doing the work of the current members of that body? Aren’t they tasked with giving final approval to curriculum? We have placed our trust in the school board and they have failed us <again>.


2.)    We also place trust in leaders elected to Congress. Take Anthony Weiner, for example. The good people of New York elected him to Congress and then he sent several (we’ll never know exactly how many) inappropriate photos of himself to various women. How can we be expected to trust someone who doesn’t even have respect for his own wife – or the office he holds?


3.)    Politics in Prince George’s County have often received criticism for being corrupt, and it appears that some of that criticism is warranted with the recent scandal of former County Executive Jack Johnson and, his wife, Councilman Leslie Johnson. Ms. Johnson has admitted to witness and evidence tampering, while Mr. Johnson has pleaded guilty to taking thousands of dollars in bribes. Both were elected to uphold the public trust and work on behalf of it. So, what happened? Did greed get in the way of their duty?


Last week, an undisclosed amount of households received a letter from local radio show host Blaine Young (note the distinction because he was not writing in his official, elected capacity) on behalf of We the People of Maryland, Inc. The letter states, in part:


“We can’t rely on politicians in Annapolis to do much of anything for us anymore…they are more concerned with their own agendas than working for hardworking taxpayers – like you of Maryland.”


Perhaps Young is also talking about this erosion of trust. The group appears to be off to a good start, according to one of the organization’s board members and fellow columnist, Farrell Keough. “We have done quite well with donations. It seems the public is very interested in supporting a group like this which not only educates the public on issues important to them, but goes the next step to support other groups,” Mr. Keough said. If money talks, this is a promising step in the right direction.


Will we ever get back to the levels of trust that people experienced in the 1950s? It will take a lot of work and a lot of effort, but let’s be hopeful that it can happen.


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