Thursday, June 25, 2009

Trust and the Right

The recent admission by Mark Sanford of his infidelity was incredibly disappointing to me. As a Republican who believes in limited government, I had watched Governor Sanford govern as such and was inspired by the way he articulated my conservative values. I thought for sure that he would be one of the top tier candidates for the 2012 Republican Party Presidential nomination. No longer.

I find myself incredibly disappointed and I've come to a realization as to why. I had this same feeling back in 2006 when the Republican candidate for Governor of New York that I had supported, Pat Manning, turned out to have been unfaithful to his wife and had done immoral and potentially illegal acts to obtain private information about his opponent when he ran for State Assembly. The reason is simple - because they betrayed our trust.

Why is trust so important to me? As a man who finds his home on the political right, I am a supporter of limited government - a government whereby the people have more freedoms and rights than the government has to over them. This type of a government requires an informed and responsible public; it requires us to trust each person to do what is right for themselves and their family. In order to have a limited government, you have to hold a great deal of trust in the average person. I trust that I know better for myself than my Senator or my President. I feel the same way about my neighbors and my friends. This is part of why I am a conservative. This inherent public trust carries over into our politicians. Ronald Reagan was a big time truster - according to Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson, Reagan would trust those he appointed to do their job according to their ability and where they were the experts, he would trust their knowledge and their judgment. We on the right want to trust our political leaders. We are appalled when politicians prove untrustworthy and in most cases the grassroots will go after our own. Forgiveness for betrayal of trust takes a long time - hence why Newt Gingrich has only begun to regain traction as a viable voice in the mid-2000s.

Perhaps this above anything else is why we on the right are hurt so much when a politician shows an unsavory side. It has been ingrained in our psyche that trust is the foundation for good government - trust in the people and trust in our political leaders to not abuse what little power we have allotted to them. When they fall - when they steal, lie, cheat, or all around violate the public trust conservatives are heartbroken. At least, I know that I am.

We rally towards people who give the appearance of all around trustworthiness. This is why Mitt Romney faltered in 2008, conservatives did not trust that he was honest about his opinions. This is why Mike Huckabee failed to gain traction in 2008, conservatives did not trust him to be fiscally conservative. This is why even Republicans began to have a low opinion of George W. Bush, because he did not follow through on all the limits to our government that he had promised. This is part of why John McCain succeeded - he was trustworthy, always sticking to his opinion and his values even in the face of ridicule.

This is the problem with playing with the politics of trust. "Do as I say, not as I do" will never work for a Republican. It should not for anyone, for that matter - but it becomes especially problematic when you run on a platform of family values and trust in the people.

This has been cross-posted at Newman for Maryland

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