The most devastating statistics from the recent Washington Post poll on Mayor Vincent C. Gray are these: Sixty-one percent of the people surveyed believe Gray is not honest or trustworthy; 63 percent believe he is not running an ethical administration.
Integrity is the basis of trust. It's probably the most critical element in politics. The faith people have in an elected official provides fuel for implementation of his vision while sealing his collaboration with residents. If citizens' confidence -- the cohesive of the collaboration -- declines, things fall apart. Gray's relationship with District residents is in the ditch.
Most people aren't buying the suggestion that he knew nothing about the corruption that took place in his 2010 campaign, including the more than $653,000 of illegal contributions used for an off-the-books operation. "We know truth when we see it ... as we know when we are awake that we are awake," Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay "The Over-Soul," which nicely summarizes the sentiment of District residents.
"You'd have to be a damn idiot to have that much money coming into your campaign and not know about it," said E. Ethelbert Miller, a civic-cultural activist and chairman of the Institute for Policy Studies.
"You can't run with the word 'integrity' on your campaign materials and then have something like this happen," said Bryan Weaver, a leader in the group advocating a ban on all corporate contributions to political committees.
During the past several weeks, three of Gray's closest 2010 campaign aides have pleaded guilty to various felonies as part of an ongoing, 18-month federal investigation. The most explosive and damaging revelations came from Jeanne Clarke Harris, who confessed she was the bagman for the "shadow campaign," which allegedly coordinated with Gray's official election apparatus. That operation appears to have been financed with illegal contributions primarily from government contractor Jeffrey Thompson.
Some people, including myself, have called for Gray's resignation. Truth be told, it doesn't matter if he complies. Those honesty and trustworthy poll numbers scream this indisputable reality: Gray lacks the moral authority to lead.
He has only himself and his cohorts to blame for the way the 2010 campaign scandal has metastasized, consuming a stellar career and enviable reputation.
Gray's credibility with voters began sliding almost as soon as he was sworn in. The Post poll from May 2011, found that only 42 percent of respondents found him trustworthy, 37 percent believed he couldn't be trusted and 20 percent had no opinion.
This month's numbers indicate only 22 percent find him trustworthy; 16 percent have no opinion. In other words, the more people got to know the mayor, the less faith they had in him.
Gray can continue to cling tenaciously to his office. But a leader operating without the people's trust is on a fool's errand. He can cut ribbons and announce the arrival of sundry tech companies all day long.
But residents already have tuned out. Their only interest is the timing of his departure.
Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonetta Rose Barras' column appears on Tuesday and Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com.