It’s good that Walter Sobchak of Big Lebowski fame is not hanging out in our nation’s capital these days, because you can bet your bowling shoes he’d be running up Pennsylvania Avenue bellowing, “Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a sh*t about the rules?”
The answers, btw, would be 1) yes and 2) apparently.
The D.C. crowd is breaking rules (written and un) faster than the Dude can down a White Russian. Congressional Republicans are firing off letters to Iranian pen pals as if time-honored protocols are drivel. Hillary Clinton is skipping around “private email” questions as nimbly as an Irish step dancer. And President Obama’s attempt to circumvent Congress with executive action on immigration is still being blocked by the courts as possibly improper.
Sure, they all have explanations, and you may be thinking “Rules, schmools, they’re politicians!” But trust in government, which Pew Research says was at 77 percent back in 1964, nose dived under Nixon and aside from a brief blip after 9/11 has not been above 50 percent since. In the past few years it has hovered in the teens and ‘20’s. One recent poll found voters more likely to trust a Pomeranian than their elected reps. Not really, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
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All of this matters because when enough voters don’t trust the people for whom they vote, eventually every election is disputed, every leader is stink-eyed, every law is suspect, and pretty soon Robin Thicke and Pharrell are ripping off Marvin Gaye…or something like that. For all the rancorous rule-breaking in D.C. these days, I don’t think either side wants the situation to deteriorate that badly.
That’s why, as much as partisans may enjoy political victories for their side, even they should object to what we are seeing now. Because when leaders left, right, and middle start cracking the rules with abandon, the only real winners are the cynics who say we cannot trust democracy itself.
And as Walter says, “That rug really tied the room together.”
Tom Foreman is a correspondent for CNN.