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"As lawmakers, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must regain the trust and confidence of the public and our own employees."
These words by Alaska Sen. Berta Gardner on Thursday in response to a circumstance in the Alaska Legislature can and should apply to a broad spectrum of American public officeholders and public servants.
By her statement, Gardner clearly recognizes that trust and confidence in legislators has been diminished, if not actually lost.
There’s also recognition that trust and confidence are vital for good governance. In their absence, the only things that remain are self-interest, fear and coercion.
Much has been said about the current state of our national discourse and the behaviors of many of our elected officeholders and government officials.
In many ways, the national discourse seems to be spiraling downward in a rancid maelstrom of hyperpartisan catchphrase rhetoric. Attack is the order of the day, the middle ground is evaporating, and more and more of our officials’ behaviors suggest that they believe the perceived ends are worth any means necessary.
These aren’t the conditions that inspire trust in public officials, nor confidence that government is operating in the best interests of anybody but whomever controls the levers of power at a given moment.
It will take extraordinary measures to restore that sort of broad-based trust and confidence. It will take officials willing to hold themselves to a higher standard, forgoing the easy, cynical pandering to bases and adhering to conduct worthy of leaders and statesmen. It will take introspection on the part of the public, including the press, to find and accentuate the common interests that we can build upon.
That said, we appreciate the many, many honorable individuals who are serving their constituencies and nation well. We need many more of you, and soon.