All democracies need to rebuild social trust. Nowhere is this more critical than the United States, once a beacon on the hill.
Social trust is, essentially, our faith in people and institutions to behave well enough, so as not to harm our interests. I see social trust as the foundation upon which representative government can actually work.
Today is “election day” in the United States, whatever that means any more. Joe Biden’s entire campaign has been based on a strategy to rebuild social trust. Mr. Trump’s entire campaign has been intended to further fracture it. My assessment of social trust in the United States is so low that I actually have no idea who will win this election when the dust settles.
Americans’ trust in its federal government, and each other, has declined for a long time. The Vietnam War was probably the catalyst. The “tea party” movement was the accelerator back ten years ago. Since then, the Republican Party has failed to provide any wisdom to “discern the true interest of the nation”. Thus died James Madison’s vision of effective representative democracy.
2020 has provided a wake-up call for democracy and the need to rebuild social trust.
Don’t get me wrong. Since Obama, the Democratic Party has done little to rebuild social trust. The so-called progressive wing has ignored the pain of the declining economic reality that drove many citizens towards electing a fake President. Perhaps Joe Biden’s return to the center can fix that. Good luck.
Rebuild Social Trust in Canada
Our trust in Canadian government is somewhat higher than in United States. And, unlike in the US, our trust in government has actually increased during COVID-19. So has our trust in each other to do the right thing. But for those of us in western Canada, our federal government is less admired and needs to rebuild social trust through actions rather than platitudes.
This whole mask wearing controversy in the US is probably our salient indicator of the decline of social trust. Here in Canada, we wear masks and life goes on. We get the odd demonstrator (and I mean that literally) but by and large, it’s no big deal.
Here in Alberta, our COVID-19 deaths are passing through 7 per 100,000 population. Not good, but a heck of a lot better than the 70 south of the border.