Nine months into Biden’s presidency, faith in government has plummeted

Dan Balz, the Washington Post’s senior writer about politics, looks at the results of a recent Gallup poll on trust of government. Based on these results, he suggests that the public’s souring on government bodes ill for Joe Biden’s agenda.

That’s a fair conclusion.

Gallup conducts an annual survey of attitudes about government. Last year, as the pandemic raged, 54 percent of Americans said the government should do more to solve America’s problems. This year, with the government having tried to do plenty and the pandemic persisting, 53 percent told Gallup that the government is trying to do too many things that are better left to businesses and individuals.

Balz calls this a reversion to the norm. The only other time the poll showed the public wanting a more active government was in 2001, after 9/11. However, Balz also notes that the public’s faith in the government’s ability to handle both domestic issues (39 percent) and international problems (also 39 percent) is “anemic” compared to the average response in the past two decades.

In the latest survey, the views of Republicans and Democrats haven’t changed all that much. But independents have done an about-face. A year ago, 56 percent of them wanted more government action. That number is now down to 38 percent, with 57 percent saying government is trying to do too much.

I find the new numbers particularly interesting given claims by some Democrats that Congress needs to enact massive spending packages lest the electorate be turned off by the failure of Democrats to deliver. The Gallup poll suggests that the only thing worse, electorally, than failing to deliver vast of amounts of new government activism and spending would be to deliver them.

That’s why the more honest Democrat case for the spending/activism packages is that this is likely the last chance the Dems will have in many years to enact them.

The latest poll results may be, to some extent, a reversion to the norm, as Balz says. But I still believe the Democrats are victims of their own BS. They made it sound like the pandemic and its scope were due to inaction by Donald Trump — a lie. Biden made it sound like electing him, so he could unleash the federal government, would put an end to the high death toll associated with the Wuhan coronavirus.

Now that Biden’s presidency hasn’t produced this result, and now that we’re experiencing all sorts of new problems, it’s natural to conclude that government isn’t the answer to our problems. A bit more modesty about what government can and cannot do might have produced less disillusionment. But who makes modest claims in politics these days?

I’ll conclude with my favorite passage from Balz’s piece:

Trust in the government to handle international problems is at an all-time low, at 39 percent. As a cautionary note, this survey was done shortly after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which could have negatively affected the findings.

For sure. And once Joe Biden cleans things up in Afghanistan, disarms the Iranian regime, and brings China to its knees, those powerful, haunting images from the Afghan debacle will recede and America’s faith in the government’s ability to handle international problems will be restored.

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