StreetTalk – On trusting the Government

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By Greg B. Macabenta 

Newly-minted President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris have to confront a major challenge early in their tenure.  In the wake of Donald Trump’s divisive four years in the White House,  Biden and Harris have to rebuild the trust of a large percentage of the American citizenry.

In this regard, here’s a bit of trivia that I found in a news item online:

“According to public opinion surveys conducted by NGO Levada Center, Putin’s approval rating was 60% in July 2020, and the highest of any leader in the world, Putin’s popularity rose from 31% in August 1999 to 80% in November 1999, never dropping below 65% during his first presidency.”

Of course, not everyone in Russia is impressed with Putin – one of them is opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Recently, there was an attempt to assassinate Navalny. Not surprisingly, the prime suspects were Putin and the KGB. Also not surprisingly, Putin denied any involvement.

At any rate, Navalny is now behind bars in Russia. Does it make you wonder?

It should be pointed out that the Levada Center is “an independent nongovernmental polling and sociological research organization” in Russia. Due to lack of information on how “independent” Levada’s public opinion polls are, we have to assume that the polls are “objective and unbiased.”

Here’s some more trivia that I found online:

Putin’s high approval rating is overshadowed by that of another member of the President-for-Life Club –  China’s Xi Jingping and the ruling Communist Party.

It turns out that the Chinese government has one of the highest  approval ratings among countries in the world. It’s an impressive 84%.

But what is even more impressive is the approval rating of President Rodrigo Duterte. According to the Pulse Asia survey of October 2020, Duterte hit a stratospheric 91% approval and trust rating, from 87% and 83%, respectively in December 2019

I guess, unless anyone has verifiable proof to the contrary, we should also regard Duterte’s high approval ratings as “objective and unbiased” like Russia’s poll numbers.

But wait! If we think the poll ratings of Duetrte, Putin  and Xi Jingping are fantastic, take a look at the news dispatch about North Korea’s Dear Leader, Kim Jong-un.

He beats them all.

According to a news dispatch,  “Mr Kim’s 100% approval from his Mount Paektu constituency reflects the ‘absolute support’ of people in the country.”

The report was filed by the  Korean Central News Agency, the official “information” arm  of the North Korean government.

The news story added:”The elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly on Sunday had just one name on the ballot for each district. It was the first time such a poll had been held since Mr Kim assumed power.”

Now, how do the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the world’s great democracies, compare with Russia, China, North Korea and the Philippines?

Here’s what one Western media commentary put it:

“With Brexit dividing the United Kingdom more than at any other time in modern history, only 36 percent of… respondents said they trust the government. That is also unchanged from last year. The United States sinks even lower in the ranking with only one third of people saying they have faith in the government, a 14 percentage-point drop on 2017.”

Now, we can understand the envy and frustration of Trump. All he wanted was  a second four-year term (in some speeches, Trump broadly hinted that he wouldn’t mind remaining in the White House for a dozen years – but he always stopped short of suggesting becoming President-for-Life).

Small wonder, Trump felt such an affinity for Putin and even the “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un. And we suspect that Trump really had a love-hate attitude towards China’s Xi Jingping.

Tough luck, though. Over 85  million American voters decided to elect Joe Biden instead, breaking past records in a US presidential election.  However, Trump also got a very impressive 74 million plus votes, the second highest in election history. Even more significantly, over 70% or close to 52 million Trump supporters are convinced that he should  have won.

Of course, it was Trump who concocted the conspiracy theory – the tall tale that he was cheated – out of whole cloth. Like Hitler, Trump knew that if he repeated his lie often enough, it would be taken for the truth.

Trump and a team of lawyers claimed that they could prove that Biden and the Democrats cheated. But in more than 60 filings with the federal courts (including two with the Supreme Court), they could produce nothing more than conspiracy theories with no verifiable evidence.

Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, even admitted in court that his team was not alleging fraud. However, Giuliani insisted that the conspiracy theories deserved to be taken seriously.

This virtual  fishing expedition was what Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, wanted the joint session of Congress to do. The two chambers had been convened to confirm the election of Biden and Harris as President and Vice-President.

It may be recalled that during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Cruz and Trump both fought for the nomination.

To weaken Cruz, Trump spread the utterly ridiculous rumor that Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Of course, this was another one of Trump’s bald-faced lies, no different from the doubts he raised about the US citizenship of Barack Obama.

Cruz, quite rightly, refused to bite Trump’s tsismis. And yet Cruz and Hawley expected the US Senate and House to investigate Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud?

Of course, Cruz and Hawley were deservedly ignored by the Senate. But millions of Trump supporters have taken the lies seriously. The January 6 storming of the Capitol Building may have only been the beginning of serious problems.

Without the trust and approval  of the citizenry, a new government will have difficulty functioning.

This brings me to the charter change – or cha-cha – being aggressively pushed by the Duterte-controlled Congress.

The proponents insist that the proposed changes will be on foreign trade policies. But there are suspicions that Duterte and the Congress will do a “bait-and-switch” that will extend Duterte’s term of office beyond the six-year limit set by the Constitution, and that the legislators will also gift themselves with extended tenures.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, in a media interview,  insisted that the proposed charter changes will be vetted by the Filipino people in a plebiscite.

Said Garbin, “In the final analysis, it is the people who truly own the Constitution because whatever we approve in the committee and in the plenary remains a proposal until it is ratified by the Filipino people and the plebiscite called for that purpose.”

To this, we can only wonder if the approval and trust ratings of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Xi Jingping truly reflect the feelings of their respective citizenry.

Perhaps the reason why the trust ratings of the UK and US governments are low is because citizens are free to speak their mind – something unheard of in Russia, China and North Korea.

Oh, yes. We could wonder as much about Duterte’s high approval and trust ratings.

(gregmacabenta@hotmailcom)

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