With the demise of a public consensus on what constitutes acceptable behavior, we’re left with moral relativism and a growing intrusion of government control into more and more areas of our lives. Little wonder then that trust has become a major issue in contemporary politics. I wrote in 2009 and 2013 about the public’s growing mistrust of President Obama. The authority of the whole government is threatened by Obama’s imperial presidency, the metastasizing, out-of-control bureaucracy, and Obama’s vanishing credibility. While both Pew and Gallup Polls indicate that trust in government is at historic lows, the Democrats are saddled with a notorious untrustworthy leading candidate — Hillary Clinton. This article could have a 3-page bibliography of polls and articles about Hillary’s problems with trust; certainly books will be written examining Hillary’s (and Obama’s) lack of character — in her case going all the way back to rumors about being fired for unethical behavior on the staff of the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate Hearings up to the current informed speculation that the FBI will soon be forwarding a recommendation to the Justice Department that she be indicted for her misconduct as Secretary of State.
Why does trust matter? As far back as the classical rhetoricians, trust was the basic means of persuasion. According to Aristotle, a speaker persuades an audience through ethos (the personal character of the speaker), pathos (the ability to engender positive emotion in an audience), and logos (proof from the content of the speaker’s communication). Hillary fails on all three counts; she has demonstrated her dishonesty over and over again in large and small ways; she has a cold and impersonal persona with difficulty relating to people on a personal or public level; and she is not convincing in articulating her positions, to the point of questions about her ability to understand complex issues and her lack of notable accomplishments in either her Senate or her State Department tenures.
Mark Hetherington in Why Trust Mattersmentions that in the 1960s John F. Kennedy could legitimately promise “A New Frontier” and Lyndon Johnson, a “Great Society” but today’s political climate lacks the trust necessary for such big plans to have persuasive impact with a public that, with good reason, distrusts government and politicians. In contrast, Matthew Dickinson, in No Trust Issues argues that even though Hillary Clinton is a “fundamentally flawed candidate,” with more than half of the public not finding her “honest and trustworthy,” that “issues [are] more important than a candidates’ character when it [comes] to deciding their vote.”
The problem with Dickinson’s analysis is that voters still believe that being honest and trustworthy are top issues for voters. The polling shows increasing distrust of Hillary — the poll numbers are approaching six out of ten (now 57%). Further, Hetherington found that, “low levels of political trust have a particularly negative effect on those who rely most on government programs, specifically the economically disadvantaged and racial minorities.” The recent breakdowns of law and order in Ferguson and Baltimore are vivid illustrations of the societal consequences when trust in government is poisoned.
There are multiple indicators that things may soon get much worse for Hillary in the weeks ahead. The potential FBI charges against her are numerous and serious; the reported 150 agents assigned to the case are said to be considering charges range from improper disclosure or retention of classified information to lying under oath and obstruction of justice. It remains to be seen if FBI director James Comey will have the stomach to actually lodge a case against Hillary, but he has a “reputation for being incorruptible.” More critical is Attorney General Loretta Lynch who — with one eye on the President for a thumbs up or thumbs down — will decide whether the case is a national security concern.
In addition to the threat of criminal accusations, there is increasing concern about Hillary’s role in enabling her husband Bill Clinton’s sexual abuse. There is a peculiar irony that Hillary — “champion of women” in the eyes of feminists, promoter of the idea that conservatives are waging a “War on Women,” prime proponent of abortion on demand as necessary for women’s careers and foremost defender of those who cry sexual abuse — is, in reality, an enabler of sexual abuse of women. There are those who believe that nemesis will only tolerate hubris just so long and is not to be trifled with.
Further, the growing stench of two aging politicos who have survived past their expiration date has many Democratic leaders on edge. Trump has questioned Hillary’s stamina. Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old Socialist who honeymooned in Russia during the heyday of Communism, is outpolling Hillary in Iowa and New Hampshire in several polls. Joe Biden, who Obama pushed into the spotlight just this week by appointing him to direct the new Manhattan-like project to eradicate cancer, is chomping at the bit to jump into the fray; all he is waiting for is the Party’s call and a clear signal that Obama has his thumb on the scale of justice against Hillary.
Worse, the media, who have heretofore always been eager to curry favor with the Clintons by hiding and downplaying their rampant corruption and abuse of power, show faint signs of recognizing the indications of crumbling public support. The growing strength of alternative media is making it increasingly difficult for so-called mainstream media to continue their protection. An example is the widespread disapproval of daughter Chelsea’s personal attacks on Sanders, which the media is describing as an inappropriate and counterproductive role for the candidate’s daughter to play.
The first state primaries are mere weeks away, the time between now and then will show whether the growing view that Hillary cannot be trusted means that her fate this time around will be even more humiliating than it was in 2008.