Governing a nation that spans an entire continent is more than difficult, and sadly, the failure of American leaders to manage it competently is indisputable. Even in the 19th century, the obvious shortcomings of bureaucracy forced an exasperated Henry David Thoreau to conclude, “This government is the best that governs least. There is no turning the ship of state upside down and back to the state of nature, but President Biden’s brand of federal piloting is leading the nation on the rocks.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center highlights the staggering dimensions of distrust of federal authority. More glaringly, only 24% of respondents say they are satisfied with the current state of the country, while 75% describe themselves as dissatisfied.
Breaking down attitudes toward Washington by political persuasion, it’s no surprise that Pew finds a paltry 10% of Republicans expressing satisfaction with the nation. It is surprising, however, to learn that only 35% of the president’s Democratic colleagues think so.
Moreover, the survey reveals that only 20% of respondents say they trust the federal government “to do the right thing almost always or most of the time”. Admittedly, the public has had a gloomy view of his national stewardship since the turn of the century, but Mr. Biden has done little to bring it out of the basement.
The answers to questions related unbroken dissatisfaction with the national leadership. Just 6% think the federal government is careful with taxpayers’ money, reflecting decades of complaints about Washington’s taste for pork. In doling out nearly $6 trillion in coronavirus relief, President Biden seemingly forgot that he had described corruption as “a cancer that eats away at citizens’ faith in democracy.” At least $100 billion of this money has been embezzled by fraudsters.
Pew also measures at just 8% the proportion who credit the government with meeting the needs of ordinary Americans. As they witness the unchecked flood of illegal immigration sweeping through their communities, Americans can be forgiven for believing that the Biden administration is insensitive to their needs.
Contrary to the overwhelming resentment Americans have toward their federal overlords, 65% of those polled said they were happy with the way things are going in their own communities, and only 34% disagreed. It might be slightly cheeky to suggest using all the unassembled fences on the southern border to isolate George Washington’s namesake city from the rest of America.
Effective government provides jurisdictional components with a reasonable balance between dependence and autonomy. In the words of former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “one courageous state can, if its citizens so choose, serve as a laboratory; and try new social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country. Unconcerned about the “right to choose” of states, Mr. Biden is clearly moving towards mistrust.
With apologies to Thoreau, “This government is the best that governs the least – of Washington.”