It has become a mundane affair to argue that American trust in the Federal government has reached a record low in the 2020s. There has been statistical data compiled in Pew Research polls depicting a steady decline in trust over the past several decades. The loss of trust is indicative of a growing lack of confidence in the ability of the Federal government to govern in the interests of the American people as a Totality. The statistical data in question showed that, since Pew began collecting the relevant polls, trust in the Federal government peaked around the 1960s, neatly coinciding with the Vietnam War. The distrust grew throughout the 1970s and 1990s, with the presidencies of Reagan and Bush 43 being the real outliers.
Those outliers, I should mention, are not the real focus of this post. What I want to address is the implication of what this growing distrust entails. If more Americans are losing trust in the ability of the Federal government to govern, would the extent of their distrust be considered as encompassing the entire Federal government? Or would the distrust be specifically directed toward certain branches and organizations within the Federal government? There is a whole difference between distrusting the Federal government and distrusting a particular branch or organization. To illustrate an example, consider the overall approval ratings of the US Congress, which is still being governed like a Parliament (and not like a Council):
As the above table demonstrates the extent of disapprovals are disproportionately higher than approvals. The general argument from most Americans is that the Democratic-Republican Party governs in its own ideological self-interests, not in the interests of the American people as a Totality. By “self-interests,” I am also including the number of special interests that the Party’s Factions cater to between elections. For comparison purposes, consider the approval ratings of a number of Federal organizations from 2020 and 2019:
There is an interactive graph in Morning Consult, another statistical polling group, that sought to gauge the extent of American trust in prominent facets of everyday life. Under the header, “How Trust in Institutions Has Shifted Over Time,” the graph tracks how trust in various government and corporate institutions have changed from November 2020 to May 2022. Interestingly, the private sector got the least amount of trust from the American people, with Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley (“Big Tech”), Corporate America, and the mainstream media hovering between 26% and 38%. When compared against the Supreme Court and the Municipal, State and Federal governments, only Congress has a trust rating as low as theirs.
Things get even more interesting upon checking the other prominent US institutions, which are the US criminal, educational and healthcare systems, religious leaders, police agencies, the science community and the armed forces. The three most highest-trusted institutions in May 2022 were the police, scientific community and the armed forces. The armed forces have the most trust at 71%. This means that more Americans either have “some trust” or “a lot of trust” in their own military. Recalling the other institutions that I had mentioned, it is a glaring anomaly that deserves a conversation about why this is so.
What sort of conclusions can be drawn from Americans placing a higher than average trust in the US armed forces? It should be recalled that the US military is an all-volunteer force that has not practiced any general or limited conscription since 1973, towards the end of the Vietnam War. The presence of civilian-level positions among the ranks of the armed forces and in the Department of Defense also provide a level of transparency and accountability. The subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not created as much distrust toward the military than Vietnam. It can be argued that this trust strongly reflects an apparent, broad consensus among segments of the US population that the military is an apolitical institution. As an apolitical institution, the military puts the national interests of the Union first before all other considerations, including personal and factional interests.
With that important fact in mind, it does raise the question of why the conscription, military or otherwise, has not yet been reintroduced. Do note that conscription does not necessarily have to be war-related. It can also happen in peacetime in the form of “Work-Conscription,” where the unemployed are drafted into the workforces and not just the armed forces. That would be the metaphorical smoking gun proving the overwhelming trust in the military is motivated by something other than the fact that it is an apolitical institution, independent of the Democrats and Republicans in the Democratic-Republican Party. But because there is no indication of any form of conscription that appears to be on the agenda anytime soon, I have my doubts. My suspicion is that the unusually high level of trust in the military has nothing to do with any genuine interest in serving the Union. After all, the American Union is not the same as the Jeffersonian Empire of Liberty that the Democratic-Republican Party wishes to perpetuate in this century.
Since the call to civil service through the military is not the real reason, other motives should be considered. We have to recall that because the military is not a formal participant in the political process, its apolitical nature is instead catered to by the opposing factions of the Democratic-Republican Party. The apolitical nature may instead be drummed up for the sake of trying to convince the American people that one faction is more patriotic than the other. That patriotism is not reflected by genuine willingness to serve the Union, but to either promote the interests of the Empire of Liberty or by not cutting Federal funding to the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs.
There are genuine limits as to how far this sort of apolitical rhetoric can be tolerated. At some point, it becomes inevitable to envisage the Democratic-Republican Party trying to dictate the practices of the US military toward the agenda of this or that faction. That might entail expressing hostility toward those who advocate for Socialism or those who criticize its Conservative outlook toward relations between men and women among the military’s ranks. But more likely, it may involve the military being forced to make choices that it views as detriment to the Union. There are plenty of possibilities for this to happen, I am sure, but we have yet to figure out what those possibilities are beyond the question of Federal funding toward the armed forces.