Hello Everyone,

This is the third of what I anticipate will be about a dozen commentaries on Vice President Biden as we run up to November 3.  I apologize for adding to what I imagine is your already over-flowing inbox resulting from the pandemic.  But, we simply much keep our eyes on the prize.

In my first Brief, I wrote: “More than anything, I believe this is an election about values.  Undergirding the values that commend Vice President Biden is the notion of trust.

Joe’s doubters will point to his “gaffes” or his speaking skills which don’t match Barack Obama’s (whose do?).  I can live with both of those shortcomings because what I desperately need right now is a president I can trust.  Our democracy needs it, too.

Long-time readers know that I often quote David Brooks.  He wrote a piece in the New York Times in 2014 entitled The Evolution of Trust about the “transformation of social trust.”  The glue that binds societies.

I’m one of those people who thought Airbnb would never work. I thought people would never rent out space in their homes to near strangers. But I was clearly wrong…

And Airbnb is only a piece of the peer-to-peer economy. [Uber and Lyft are others]…

In retrospect, I underestimated the power of a few trends that make the peer-to-peer economy possible…

And the big thing I underestimated was the transformation of social trust…

…people often live alone or with short-time roommates, outside big institutional structures, like universities, corporations, or the settled living of family life…

Economically, there are many more people working as freelancers.

The result is a personalistic culture in which people [trust other people but] have actively lost trust in big institutions [like the federal government]…

During the last four years and now exacerbated by the pandemic and racial reckoning, we have seen further erosion of trust in government.  Should we all wear masks?  Will a vaccine be safe when one becomes available?

In May, a poll taken by the Associated Press and UChicago’s National Opinion Research Center (where my wife, Penny, worked in the 1980’s) found that “Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine [shot when it becomes available.]”

Then, there was this opinion piece in the Times last week:

“What worries me most right now is that the distrust we’re seeing today will happen with vaccines,” Dr. [Tom] Frieden [former director of the CDC] told me. “There’s already a huge amount of distrust in vaccines. We’ve got this scarily named Operation Warp Speed program for them… It runs the real risk going forward that whether or not the government cuts any corners on the construction of a vaccine, there will be a perception it has, unless we have very open and transparent communication about it”…

Signs point to a growing anti-vaccine movement …That we’re even worrying about people refusing to get a coronavirus vaccine suggests something horrifying: that Americans’ trust in public health and the institutions of government will be worse off after the pandemic subsides than it was at the start…

You cannot force public trust; you have to earn it by being humble and transparent, and by listening…it’s the grueling and deeply human work of democracy, which is never finished.

“An epidemic is not only technical and medical — they are not cured only by science or vaccines,” Dr. [Cheikh] Niang [a WHO medical anthropologist who worked on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa] told me. His words have haunted me since. “Ebola was beaten back by many things, including building consensus inside communities and restoring dignity and trust. This is what we learned. Hopefully, it is not too late for you over there to learn it, too.”

So, we can see how critical it is that our president and other leaders are capable of restoring trust in our government, our institutions, and our democracy.  Trust is a central reason why we need Joe Biden — now.

Please, as always, pass it along.

Chuck