March 11th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Letters to the President #1147: 'Why we don't trust our leaders, part 3'

Reporter's Note: I’m writing to the president this weekend about why so many voters get queasy when it comes to trusting our elected leaders.

Dear Mr. President,

I am completing my weekend musings on our mistrust of politicians. Like I said, my thoughts have not been exhaustive, but hopefully they’ve been worth some consideration. So here is my last one: We don’t trust our elected officials, because they act as if they... or we... are stupid.

By this, I mean, they promise things that any rational person would know better than to believe. “I’ll save the economy.” “I’ll create energy independence.” “I’ll end the influence of lobbying.” The list goes on and on. Sure, any given leader might start down one of those roads, but a cursory review of the facts and forces at play in our world would convince anyone except the most cockeyed optimist that this leader can not possibly complete the process.

The simple truth is, while once in a great while a politician will find him or herself at the perfect place in time to spur great change, most often that is not the case. Elected leaders can usually only nudge society or the economy in certain directions, often with uncertain results. That’s a bad campaign slogan.

So over and over and over again, we are told by everyone seeking office that he or she will deliver nirvana, or at least the next best thing. Like I said, that implies either a) they believe it, in which case we should doubt their judgment and sanity; or b) they think we believe it, in which case we should be appalled by their opinion of us.

Maybe that is really the key, in the end. The reason we don’t trust our leaders, is that they don’t trust us. They seem to think that voters can’t handle the truth, can’t make smart decisions, and can’t choose good, honest leaders. Perhaps they are right. But we won’t really know, until more of them behave like good, honest leaders... and give us a chance to find out for ourselves.

I hope your weekend was nice. Call if you can.