A m e r i c a n P o s t – G a z e t t e
Distributed by C O M M O N S E N S E , in Arizona
Tuesday, December 10, 2012
A majority of us have concluded the government is broken and full of corruption.
Nobody can meaningfully combat this arrangement because those few who try are singled out and targeted by those who benefit from the status quo.
The following are excerpts of a speech given by Andrew Thomas to the Paradise Valley Republican Women’s Club in November and other groups in Arizona since.
I suppose lawyer jokes have been around for so long because our legal system makes us laugh not to cry, as they say. I’ve experienced my own significant travails in the legal system. And I’ll speak about that later in my remarks.
But that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because my experience is just a small part of a central narrative in American life today.
Americans have fundamentally lost faith in the government. That is a strong statement, but it’s not an overstatement. A majority of us have concluded the government is broken and full of corruption. This sentiment is shared across the political spectrum. My personal story is only a small illustration of why we are experiencing this crisis of faith.
Coming from a Harvard Law graduate who was twice elected to run the fourth largest prosecutor’s office in the nation, the frank observation that the government is broken is, of course, unusual. But to be clear, this is not just my opinion based on my own recent experiences. It is what Americans and Arizonans have figured out on their own.
Few political leaders truly have listened to and absorbed this complaint. Just as the voters were the first to complain about illegal immigration ten years ago, long before political officials would address their concerns, the people once again have spoken out on this issue. The question is whether we have ears to hear them.
Public Opinion Condemns the Government
Consider some recent public-opinion surveys. Public confidence in government and government institutions is at an all-time low. But just how low might surprise you.
We just saw President Obama win reelection with a bare majority of the popular vote. That means almost half of the country rejected him despite all kinds of advantages he enjoyed-including, for starters, a friendly and protective news media.
Other government officials and institutions fare even worse. Both the legislative and judicial branches of the federal government have record-low approval ratings. According to a Gallup poll in 2012, only 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. A 2012 poll by the New York Times and CBS News found that a strong majority disapprove of the job the U.S. Supreme Court is doing-an all-time low for the court. Three out of four believe Supreme Court justices decide cases based on their own personal or political views.
How about public trust in government as a whole? It is just as bad. In 2012, a Pew Research survey found that a majority of Americans, 54 percent, believe the federal government is “mostly corrupt.” Only 31 percent believe it to be “mostly honest.” This means that for those with an opinion, almost two out of three Americans view the federal government as corrupt.
The view of state government is not much better. According to a Gallup poll taken in 2011 of people in the western United States, which of course includes Arizona, a majority lacks trust and confidence that their state government can handle basic problems.
Is this consensus wrong? Are Americans wrong in believing government is broken and full of corruption? Are Americans and Arizonans expecting way too much from government these days? No.
I submit that these beliefs, held by a clear majority of U.S. citizens, are right. A majority views the government that way because that has been our collective experience.
A Government Run by Elites
How did it get this way? Government has become so big, powerful and self-perpetuating that it can do whatever it wants, and can grind down the average person so that he or she is powerless to fight it effectively. Based on their own experiences, people have concluded that government is bloated, arrogant and too often lawless towards its own citizens.
This did not happen overnight. Like the proverbial frog being boiled slowly, before it realizes what has happened, this trend has occurred gradually but steadily. Unelected and unaccountable power brokers have accumulated influence over the years that the voters simply can’t break through. Power is now concentrated in the hands of a few people who are not elected by the people and cannot be effectively curbed or fired by them. Our system of government has evolved into one in which the government is run by people beyond public control, who work hand in hand with special interests to further their agenda for their own benefit.
Who are these unelected elites who make the important decisions for all of us? They are judges, bureaucrats and others who do not answer to the people in any meaningful manner.
Too much arbitrary power in the hands of the courts and giant bureaucracies is a prescription for tyranny. These zones of government power inevitably become a swamp of inefficiency and a breeding ground for graft. Nobody can meaningfully combat this arrangement because those few who try are singled out and targeted by those who benefit from the status quo. This, in fact, is what we have seen lately in Arizona and Maricopa County.
It’s important to remember that this situation is contrary to the vision of the Founders of our country. They did not create or endorse government that operates beyond the effective reach of the voters. What has evolved is a paradigm of power that fosters institutional corruption and undermines public confidence in the government.
. . .
As an example, consider the American legal system. Once the greatest and most respected in the world, it has rotted from within. A significant percentage of criminal cases are never solved, and their victims never given justice, because courts have invented so many rights for criminal defendants. Likewise, court rulings require our prison system to pay for Cadillac health care for inmates. Thanks to yet another activist court ruling, our one symbol of national unity, the American flag, can be burned publicly.
Phony elections reminiscent of those orchestrated in totalitarian countries are held for the top judges in Arizona. The outcome is predetermined. Judges in these so-called retention elections have no opponents. The voters are given no meaningful information about them. Not surprisingly, not one has ever been removed from office, despite egregious misconduct in some cases.
My own recent experience shows that prosecutors who dare to bring charges against judges or friends of the judiciary will be put through a show trial, their basic rights violated, and their law licenses confiscated by that same judiciary.
. . .
Learning from Ron Paul
How do we respond? If we are looking to strengthen the Republican Party, it would serve us well to look at pockets of real enthusiasm in our ranks. During this last presidential primary campaign, the supporters of Ron Paul stood out in this regard. Many are young people. They are demanding tough actions from the federal government, including the elimination of agencies and an audit of the Federal Reserve. They have lost their faith in the government’s ability to provide basic services and preserve programs for their generation. We would do well to heed their energy and activism.
Our elected officials will not address these concerns because these beliefs are, to some degree, an indictment of their leadership. More fundamentally, leaders know they risk severe retaliation for challenging the status quo. It will be left to others to organize and give voice to these concerns. The core principle of this cause should be: making government fully accountable to the people.
For my part, there is an old Roman saying: “Misfortune nobly borne is good fortune.” I can’t say I’ve not complained about what’s happened to me of late. My wife will certainly tell you that I complain quite a bit! But this high standard is certainly one to aim for.
Americans always have made the right decision when we reach the moment of truth. There will be setbacks along the way. But the truth always has a constituency. In time, the truth can command a majority. Until then, it is our duty to speak the truth loudly and often, to stand firm until reform comes, and to remain defiant on those occasions when we confront the face of evil.