Restore trust in politics, public life

By Tom Campbell
Posted 10/31/19

If asked to identify our biggest problem today in one word, how would you answer? My word would be trust.

Republicans don’t trust Democrats; Democrats don’t trust Republicans and the public …

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Restore trust in politics, public life

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If asked to identify our biggest problem today in one word, how would you answer? My word would be trust.

Republicans don’t trust Democrats; Democrats don’t trust Republicans and the public doesn’t trust either group. Used car salesmen are more trusted than those in the media and lawyers. Many distrust doctors, hospitals, church leaders or business people. Neighbors distrust one another and we won’t get into trust issues within families. Ours is a culture where few are trusted.

Here’s a North Carolina example. This week, a three-judge panel ruled we could not hold 2020 congressional elections without drawing new congressional districts because the current ones are unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

Leaders of both parties agree we need a better way of drawing districts and, with the computer-driven modeling available today, we could feed in the desired parameters and have new and fairer districts generated within an hour. So why don’t we?

Nobody has a plan most can trust. Some want the legislative staff to draw districts; others question who hires the staff, to whom those employees report and whether we can trust them to be impartial.

Another plan would establish an independent commission of four Republicans, four Democrats and three unaffiliated voters to draw maps. Again, who appoints those members?

A third group has us change our state constitution to ensure future legislatures don’t fall back into gerrymandering habits. We don’t trust our elected lawmakers to fix the problems, so endless protests and court actions continue.

How did we get here? Was it just an illusion, or was there a time not long ago we accepted that if someone in authority told us something, we could believe it was true and trust they acted for the common good?

Was it Vietnam and Watergate that destroyed our trust? It isn’t uncommon to suspect dishonesty, partiality, greed and immorality from those in power.

Who do you really trust deep down? It doesn’t feel good not to trust others.

Here are three things we can do. For starters, put down your devices — phones, tablets and computers. Some research says the average adult spends almost three hours daily with his or her smartphone; children spend up to six hours. These devices result in our being more isolated and disconnected, and while social media may have been intended to bring us closer together, the opposite has been the result.

Second, get involved. Before hundreds of channels of cable TV and our “modern” electronics, we belonged to churches and faith groups, civic clubs and community groups. We sat on porches and visited with friends and neighbors. We got to know one another, worked together and built relationships.

Most organizations have some credo or belief statement similar to the Rotary Four-Way Test, which asks: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

In short, does it build trust? When you recite these principles every week, they become part of you.

Most importantly, you must be a trustworthy person. When I know I can trust you, I want to act the same toward you. Not everyone will be trustworthy, but wouldn’t it be nice to return to a day when we believed we could trust most people?

Tom Campbell is former assistant North Carolina state treasurer and is creator/host of “N.C. Spin,” a weekly statewide television discussion that airs on the UNC-TV main channel at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 12:30 p.m. Sundays and the UNC North Carolina Channel at 10 p.m. Fridays, 4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. Sundays. Contact him at www.ncspin.com.