The Ripon Forum

Volume 48, No. 4

December 2014

In this edition

By on December 10, 2014

According to the latest polls, trust in government is at an all-time low. Depending on who you talk to, this may either be a good thing or a bad thing.

For some on the right, it may be a good thing because it is consistent with their core belief that government has gotten too big and is trying to do too many things. For some on the left, it may be a bad thing because it contradicts their core belief that government can be a source of good and should be doing even more.

Lost in this debate are those in between – the Americans who view government not in ideological terms, but in practical terms. These are the Americans who simply want to know their money is being well-spent – who want value out of the tax dollars they send to Washington, DC. For these Americans, restoring trust in government is not a liberal or conservative issue. It’s a pocketbook issue.

It’s also an issue that the new Republican majority in Congress must confront in the coming year, and one that we look at in this latest edition of THE RIPON FORUM. We do so with essays from four of Capitol Hill’s brightest stars: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who Chairs the House Republican Conference; Charlie Dent, who Co-Chairs the House Tuesday Group; Bill Flores, who Chairs the Republican Study Committee; and, Shelley Moore Capito, who has represented West Virginia’s 2nd District since 2001 and was just elected as the first woman Senator from the state.

The latest edition of the FORUM also features an interview with Pew Research President Michael Dimock , who discusses the low level of trust in government and how it compares to previous years, and a pair of essays by veteran strategist John Feehery and Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet, who examine and propose ways in which Members of Congress can end the era of dysfunction on Capitol Hill. With immigration continuing to be in the news these days, we also hear from Governor Rick Snyder about the effort he is leading to address the issue in the State of Michigan. And in our latest Ripon Profile, newly-elected Utah Representative Mia Love discusses why she ran for Congress in the first place, and what she hopes to accomplish in the coming year.

We close this edition of the FORUM with a tribute to Bill Frenzel, who served as Chairman of our Editorial Board and who passed away on November 17th. It’s fitting that the last edition of the FORUM with his name on the masthead is devoted to trust in government, for if there was ever a leader who embodied the qualities that inspire trust among the American people, it was Bill. Among these qualities was Bill’s strong belief that good ideas can come from anywhere on the political spectrum – be it the left, right or center. He tried to instill this belief here at the FORUM. When we strayed, he let us know about it in his pleasant but direct way. After Republicans won back the House in 2010, for example, I wrote a column that Bill believed was a bit too strident in tone. He sent me a note about it in which he reaffirmed not only his vision for this journal, but his political philosophy, as well:

“Those who do not agree with us are the opposition, not the enemy,” he wrote. “They may be wrong-headed, but they are not (usually) evil. Their principles ought to be given the same respect we would want them to give to ours. We should be able to debate the opposition aggressively, but only fight after the opposing bully has thrown the first punch. I believe that we also have to be careful not to overdo our newly discovered aggressiveness. The convert often becomes the most rabid zealot. If we get rabid, we will have to be awfully sure of ourselves.”

Like so much of what he wrote and said, these words are timeless and are one of the many reasons he will be missed. They are also why – as we look for ways to restore trust in government – we would be wise to look at the example set by Bill Frenzel over the course of his long and distinguished career.

Lou Zickar
Editor of THE RIPON FORUM
louzickar@riponsociety.org

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