Donate
News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Big Picture
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The New Center suggests party leaders — not primary voters — should have the biggest role in picking nominees.

More people deciding is bad for democracy, think tank argues

What's one good way to fix dysfunction in American democracy? A centrist think tank has come up with a very counterintuitive answer:

Give the voters even less say over how their presidential candidates get nominated.

A white paper released this week by The New Center argues that the leaders of the political parties — not primary voters — should have the predominant voice in deciding which candidates best represent the ideals, norms and goals of the party.

Keep reading...
Big Picture
True
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"In this state alone, more than 1,000 campaign events have been hosted by the Democratic field, which is down to a dozen now but once numbered more than twice that," writes Kevin Bowe.

On the trail in New Hampshire, Democrats seem caught in the middle on democracy reform

Bowe, a freelance producer in New Hampshire covering the Democratic primary for Public News Service, is working on a documentary series about democracy reform. His last film, "Democracy Through the Looking Glass," examined media coverage of the 2016 campaign.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Given another wave of myopic media coverage of our national conversation that is a presidential campaign, even political news junkies may be forgiven for only being aware of the horse-race poll numbers here and in Iowa.

In this state alone, more than 1,000 campaign events have been hosted by the Democratic field, which is down to a dozen now but once numbered more than twice that. Sure, health care and climate change are dominating the conversations. But after covering about 150 of these events I'm convinced that, when taken together, all the different anxieties about what's made our democracy dysfunctional are rivaling those top two concerns.

But a cacophony has been created by the sheer volume of concerns expressed — about difficulties accessing the ballot box, outright voter suppression, the fairness of the Electoral College, money's influence over politics and partisan gerrymandering, to name a few — along with the dizzying number of candidates and their various positions.

The result: There's no sense of consensus in the field about what should be on a coherent agenda of reform, except that it should start with enactment of HR 1, the comprehensive political process and ethics bill passed by the Democratic House last year and then buried in the Republican Senate.

Keep reading...
Towfiqu Photography/Getty

Broad remake of voting procedures nationwide urged by bipartisan panel

All states should adopt automatic voter registration, expand mail-in voting and implement new auditing practices to assure the accuracy of vote counts, a bipartisan panel of election administrators proposed Thursday.

A 57-page report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which convened a task force of officials to come up with ideas, offers 21 recommendations that cover all aspects of elections, from registration to casting and certifying ballots.

The recommendations, adopted unanimously by the nearly two dozen local and state election administrators from across the country, are intended to provide a roadmap for state legislatures to follow, said Matthew Weil, director of the BPC's effort. Lawmakers are convening in most state capitals this month for their annual sessions, so there is still time for election overhauls to be put in place before the November presidential election.

Keep reading...
Big Picture
True
NBC Handout/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Just like on game shows, candidates are not supposed to question or interrupt each other, and specific moments are intended to humanize and personalize the candidates," argues Michael Socolow.

Think presidential debates are dull? Thank 1950s game shows

Socolow is an associate professor of communication and journalism at the University of Maine.

Televised political debates continue to disappoint viewers and critics. Sometimes they even frustrate the participants themselves.

That's because, since their inception, nobody has been able to come up with a model that rival candidates would accept, and that would be useful and informative for the viewing public. The only debate arrangement everyone agreed to nearly 60 years ago largely remains in place today – the game show format.

The first TV debates were shaped by federal regulations, an enterprising network executive named Frank Stanton, and a series of negotiations that were hampered by a tight schedule and dueling campaigns.

Keep reading...