To restore trust, fight pandemic, American government needs new leadership
We should all be proud of the fact that our nation’s federal government is jam-packed with the world’s foremost experts in their fields — American patriots who swore an oath to uphold our Constitution and who come to work every day to serve our country and carry out the mission of their agency. These rank-and-file government employees represented by my union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), are the best of America.
They are the doctors, nurses, and other staff who make sure our veterans get the care they’ve earned. They are the law enforcement, correctional, and safety officers who protect the American public from danger. And they are the scientists and researchers who give our nation a competitive edge in addressing the world’s toughest problems.
Yet, despite all this talent, according to the Pew Research Center, Americans’ trust in government is stuck in a ditch. Looking back at the last four years, it’s not hard to see why.
Because under President Trump, routine tasks like forecasting the weather have become the subject of political drama. Agencies doing basic research to help American farmers have been relocated and gutted for producing scientific results the president chooses not to believe. And the tragic stories of federal workers on the front lines of the pandemic have been repeatedly denied by top agency officials.
The results? Three government shutdowns in just four years, including the longest in our nation’s history. Scientific authorities undermined in the midst of a global pandemic. The worst elements of our politics and culture empowered, spreading hate like the wildfires engulfing our west coast. Earth’s leading superpower, our own nation, saddled with one of the world’s highest mortality rates from COVID-19 and lagging embarrassingly behind other countries in dealing with the pandemic. President Trump, supposedly renowned for his deal-making skills, spinning his wheels and unable to bring his own party to the table on relief talks as he recovers from an outbreak at the White House.
In the context of this near total calamity, with this kind of unreliable leadership at the top, it’s no wonder Americans don’t see their government as very trustworthy.
But I want to assure my fellow citizens that what’s missing from our government right now isn’t skill and expertise in the ranks. It’s not know-how and can-do spirit. We have a federal government that mirrors our country — full of proud Americans ready to overcome the biggest challenges of this generation and the next. We can tackle this pandemic and beat it, together. The only thing that’s missing is leadership.
This pandemic has shown us all the importance of leadership — of having a government we can rely on, that’s led by people we can trust, who will give us the facts and tell us the truth so we can make informed decisions in our own lives. This president hasn’t lived up to that obligation, but Joe Biden will.
President Trump told reporter Bob Woodward that he purposefully downplayed the threat of the novel coronavirus to the American people, keeping important information from our citizens. Likewise, while telling the American people the virus was under control, President Trump’s top advisors were secretly delivering a very different picture to wealthy investors. This president wasn’t straight with us, and now more than 217,000 Americans are dead.
To defeat this pandemic, we have to first restore Americans’ confidence and trust in government and the public health advice being given by our government officials. There’s only one candidate on the ballot this election who can do that — Joe Biden.
Everett Kelley is national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, which is the largest union representing federal and D.C. government employees.