POTUS, Underminer in Chief

POTUS, Underminer in Chief

Politicians in the United States - including the President - are deliberately undermining trust in government to gin up partisan spirits.  This short-term thinking seriously endangers our civil society.  If we can't trust our government, why should we allow it to exist?

You know there is a problem when even the President of the United States is deliberately undermining people's confidence in government.  Today President Biden claimed a new Supreme Court ruling contradicts the Constitution.  He said: "I'm deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. This ruling contradicts common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all."  Clearly this is meant to undermine people's confidence in the Supreme Court.  And rightfully so, if it's true.  But is it true?

The ruling was about New York's "proper cause" requirement for carrying a weapon in the state.  Here's the summary:

When an applicant seeks a license to carry a handgun for self-defense purposes, New York courts have interpreted Section 400.00 to require the applicant to demonstrate some unique, heightened need for self-protection relative to the general population.  Licensing officers’ have discretion in defining proper cause whenever determining whether an applicant’s need is sufficiently heightened."

Basically, New York said only special people could carry a gun, and government officials would arbitrarily decide if you were special.  That seems to clearly overstep the language of the Constitution.

The constitution says: "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."  In the context of this ruling, we might paraphrase it: "The right of people to carry guns shall not require special cause."

New York's law required special cause to carry a gun.  The Constitution prohibits such restrictions (although it does not prohibit others - gun rights are "not unlimited").  The Supreme Court overturned the law.  Although this is not the ruling some people wanted, legally speaking there is nothing "troubling" about it.

Yet President Biden and other elected officials, including New York City Council members, are claiming the Supreme Court decision's contradicts the Constitution.  (Regarding another ruling the same day, Biden claimed similarly and AOC even called the ruling "illegitimate".)  Obviously anyone who believes these politicians is going to have less trust in government.  And that seems to be the goal.

People who have less trust in current government officials are more likely to vote for different people to run the government.  It seems politicians are deliberately leveraging that tendency.  But undermining trust in government for the sake of votes is wildly counter-productive.  When people lose their trust in government, elections are less likely to happen peacefully.  For that matter, elections are less likely to happen at all.  And people in the United States are running out of trust.

A fresh poll from Gallup finds: "Confidence in Supreme Court is at lowest level in 50-year recorded history".  This mimics similar polls about trust in Congress, and trust in government in general, all of which are at or near all-time lows.  Americans do not have faith in their government.  And politicians keeps deliberately making that problem worse for the sake of a few votes in the next election.

Government is sacred.  It is only institution we grant the authority to use violence to accomplish its goals.  It is an institution people must be able to trust, otherwise they will use violence against it, to abolish it.  And they will be justified in doing so.  A government that cannot be trusted is a government that deserves to be abolished.

When politicians undermine trust in government, they are not only undermining their own institution, they are fraying the fabric of our civil society.  What could be more troubling than that?

President Biden and the New York City Council members may be Democrats, but this problem is not limited to the Democrat Party.  In fact, it might be worse with the Republican Party, with its tradition of government skepticism.  President Trump was practically Underminer in Chief, constantly suggesting the government could not even be trusted to operate rationally, must less with integrity.  Yet after all the Democrat Party's criticism of President Trump, they are practicing one of his most insidious tactics: sapping trust in government, trading the long-term peace and stability of their nation for short-term political gain.  President Biden has simply become the latest Underminer in Chief.

The real irony is that pointing out how politicians are undermining trust in government further undermines trust in government.  It begs the question: Is this a solvable problem?  Or should we take the politicians at their word?

Update 2022-06-30: Biden's undermining of the Supreme Court is increasingly extreme.  When asked how to explain why "85% of the US public thinks the country is going in the wrong direction," Biden responded: "The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court".