It’s easy to look at Washington and conclude that nothing ever gets done. Trust in government has steadily deteriorated over the past several decades and continues to do so. Questioning the aims and efforts of government is a foundation of American citizenship. It’s how the nation was born. The colonists didn’t trust King George III, and they carefully laid out their reasons for breaking away from his rule in the Declaration of Independence.
But some of the recent decline may have less to do with how the government has disappointed people and more to do with an increasing knowledge of how the government works.
Confidence in the government to do the right thing is central to elections and accountability. Many people, for example, agree on what government should accomplish, like peace, security and economic growth. But they disagree on the steps to get there, like cutting taxes, enacting the draft or increasing airport security. Mainly, people disagree over the means, while still agreeing that the goal is desirable. These disagreements are at the heart of much of partisan politics.