According to a Pew poll released Sunday night, trust in the federal government to do the "right thing" most of the time has fallen to a near all-time low of 22%. According to the LA Times report, "The current level of public skepticism was matched previously only...from 1992 to 1995 (reaching a low of 17% trusting in government in the summer of 1994) and from 1978 to 1980 (bottoming out at 25% in 1980)."
Interestingly, trust in the federal government now -- in the era of "hope and change" -- is lower than at any point in the presidency of George W. Bush (or Richard Nixon for that matter). Also notable is that, according to the LAT, "When the National Election Study first asked the question in 1958 [when Eisenhower was President], 73% of Americans said they trusted the government to do what was right most of the time."
From 73% to 22%. Yikes.
The implications for criminal law are dire. The prosecution of criminals is exclusively a government function, and its overall success depends in part -- perhaps in large part -- on public confidence in the judgment, honesty and good faith of prosecutors. It also depends on confidence that prosecutorial decisions will not be political. When public confidence is this low, sooner or later that is going to be reflected in skepticism and raised eyebrows in the jury pool and on the bench.
I would like to say this dim view of the federal government is unjustified, but I can't. I'm not going to get into the reckless spending, the debt and weakness abroad, since they are not the subjects of this blog. But distrust is what we have to expect when the Administration (1) supports giving Constitutional rights, civilian trials and Miranda warnings to alien terrorists; (2) nominates a radical to the already far-left Ninth Circuit; (3) endorses passage of the Crack Dealers Relief Act (i.e., lowering sentences for crack cocaine, as envisioned in legislation currently before the House); (4) nominates yet another radical to head the pivotal OLC; and (5) dismisses a voting rights case against Black Panthers in mufti, and carrying billy clubs, "patrolling" a polling station in Philadelphia.
Is that a government you would trust?
UPDATE: This entry has been picked up by the blog Powerline, http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2010/04/026111.php
FURTHER UPDATE: The Powerline blog that picked up this entry has itself been picked up in the "Best of the Blogs" section of the widely read "RealClearPolitics," http://www.realclearpolitics.com/best_of_the_blogs/.