In a healthy democracy, when citizens elect a government representative, they do so with a basic underlying assumption – that the elected representative will faithfully represent their interests, advise them on the workings of government and communicate the rational for their decisions. Inherent in this is an implied trust. I believe that most people are content with the democratic process, and supportive of it, if they believe that elected representatives are honest and acting in good faith when it concerns their electorate. In general, this is true even if decisions are made that an individual disagrees with. Without trust an individual voter could make decisions that may not be rational and individuals can be elected that act counter to broad national interest.
We currently find ourselves in a situation where elected representatives act both individually and collectively counter to broad national interest. The examples are many – passing legislation that is clearly opposed by the vast majority of citizens; acting in the interest of a special interest at the expense of the general population; willfully misrepresenting a decision or piece of legislation; acting fiscally irresponsibly; falling to address critical national issues and pass needed legislation. The result is that trust in our collective government bodies has been severely eroded. At the individual level trust varies, but the trend is not good. Many citizens find themselves voting for the ‘least worse’ option – not the hallmark of a healthy democracy.
This is not an isolated issue. There are many contributing factors – money in politics, gerrymandering, unconstrained lobbying, political antagonism and rivalry, good qualified candidates avoiding public service, etc. Rebuilding trust will take time and can only be accomplished if the fundamental issues are addressed. These issues are addressed in earlier and future blog posts. My outlook – we are facing a timeframe of many voting cycles. This is a generational timeframe issue.