Washington, Nov.19 : Before tackling any of their party's broad, long-term legislative priorities, President-elect Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress should focus on rebuilding Americans' basic trust in government, according to a new report by the centrist Democratic group Third Way.
"In recent years anti-government ire has cooled, but that does not mean that there has been a huge surge in support for its opposite," said William Galston, a former Clinton administration official and University of Maryland professor who co-authored the report.
While Democrats are right to interpret their electoral victories as a mandate for change, Galston said: "The obvious question from this is, how broad is that authorization?"
Galston and his co-author, Harvard professor and fellow Clinton White House alum Elaine Kamarck, argue that the Bush administration undermined the public's faith in government because of its bumbling response to Hurricane Katrina and its overly optimistic assessments of early progress in Iraq.
They suggest that Obama begin restoring confidence by taking on a few projects aimed at reforming government and demonstrating the competence of his administration.
In the latest CBS/New York Times poll measuring trust in government, the Third Way report noted, only 17 percent of Americans said they trust the federal government "just about always" or "most of the time" - an all-time low.
The two political scientists are centrist Democrats who have been at the forefront of their party's internal debates for over two decades.
Kamarck and Galston's latest report comes at a moment when Democrats are split over how best to approach the task of governing as a powerful majority.
While some want party leaders to tackle urgent, easily achievable goals first to accumulate political capital, others argue for a "big bang" approach to governance, whereby one or two major legislative successes could quickly cement Democratic dominance.
"Trust shapes the limits of political possibility. Trust is not the same thing as election results," Politico quoted Kamarck, as saying.