On today’s menu: trust in and on our political landscape.
Are you as enamored as I of the notion that the whole of our American experiment is based on the idea that we trust ourselves to govern ourselves? Do any of us really appreciate what a radical idea that was — and is? Trust was baked into our system from the get-go, even if it was only White male landowners trusting other White male landowners, a different subject altogether, which does not alter what we are talking about today. For one way or another, on that notion of trust, our Founding Fathers devised a system of government that empowers we, the people, to elect people we trust to represent our interests at all levels of government.
Once elected to an institution like the U.S. Congress, it is trust that fills the space betwixt and between officeholders and their colleagues that myriad rules, regulations, laws, ethics, standards, and norms don’t reach and never will. If and when trust is not present, the system grinds to a halt and everyone loses. When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, for example, Republican-run states did not expand Medicaid. It was not because it wasn’t a good policy but because (they hated Obama and) “they don’t trust Congress to abide by the law and maintain full federal funding.”
Trust, we have seen and heard for most of 2021, has been in short supply among congressional lawmakers from both parties — and very much from within the Democratic party — as they have endeavored to craft infrastructure policy and legislation since President Biden was inaugurated. Progressives in the House don’t trust the Senate, generally, and they don’t trust Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema, specifically, we’ve been told — and vice-versa. Moderate and progressive Democrats, meanwhile, weren’t trusting one another such that President Biden told the progressives to trust him instead. At any given moment, this one or that one was/wasn’t trusting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and did the speaker lose trust in the president at one point? Good gawd, the permutations go on. All of which is why it was remarkable that the House passed the “hard infrastructure” bill the Senate had passed three months earlier even though the “social” infrastructure bill they’ve demanded was not quite ready. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the House Progressive Caucus, delivering all but six of 95 votes from her caucus declared, “I trust they are going to keep their side of the bargain. We looked each other in the eyes. They told me that they would, and I believe them,” referring to Democratic moderates who wanted to see how the Congressional Budget Office would score the $1.75 trillion package before voting to pass it, perhaps sometime this week. She also said, “Let me tell you, we’re going to trust each other because the Democratic Party is together on this. We are united that it is important for us to get both bills done.” Deep breath.
What somebody might need a lecture about is that during the last ten years, millions of Americans have been deprived of health insurance because governors of one party chose not to trust federal legislators. All Americans today can look forward to seeing “hard” infrastructure built throughout the nation because enough lawmakers chose to trust one another.
In other political news also based on trust (and also coming on November 5), the Israeli parliament passed a budget! That may seem unremarkable to you, but after several elections resulting in cobbled-together coalition governments that repeatedly failed to hold under the weight of governing, this one did — with a one-seat majority. Sixty-one human beings (also known as spiritual beings having human experiences) representing eight disparate parties across the wide Israeli ideological spectrum — and including, for the first time in its history, members who represent Arab Israelis — had to trust one another through some 600 votes while relentless pressure bore down on them every step of the way by the former prime minister and his minions. The breadth and depth of the ideological divides between these Israeli lawmakers makes the divide between the House Progressive Caucus and Sinemanchin look like an imperceptible crack on the bottom of a piece of fake china. But they did it over there, they trusted enough, and their action “moves the country towards political stability after years of crisis.”
As a casual-to-keen observer of machinations on our American political landscape, I feel confident labeling trust as a fluid notion given that, you know, sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not. As a casual-to-keen practitioner of conscious politics, you will note that trust is not even one of the 15 concepts that form our conscious practice lens. It is, however, intrinsically tied to the concept that choices abound for trust is a thing we must choose to do. It requires degrees of risk and vulnerability. It’s what diplomacy is all about. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in May that the immediate priority was to "rebuild some trust" between Israelis and Palestinians. President Reagan chose to trust (and verify) President Gorbachev. It is inherently risky and that’s how it works. As trust builds so, too, does camaraderie, connection, and productivity, though nobody needs a lecture from me today or ever about what trust is or how it works.
What somebody might need a lecture about is that during the last ten years, millions of Americans have been deprived of health insurance because governors of one party chose not to trust federal legislators. Millions of Israelis have a stable government today for the first time in at least six years because the “warring factions” who make up the government’s ruling coalition chose to trust one another to pass their budgets for this year and next. All Americans today can look forward to soon seeing “hard” infrastructure built throughout the nation because enough lawmakers chose to trust one another. Remember what Jayapal said: “Let me tell you, we’re going to trust one another.” They simply decided it. It’s always and forever a choice to trust or not to trust. Everything is possible when it’s chosen; little is possible when it isn’t.
Secretary of Transportation and author Pete Buttigieg’s book, “Trust,” asserts it’s “America’s best chance.” I concur. And all we have to do is choose it.
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