This week’s question is: “What change would most quickly strengthen or restore your faith in our democratic system of governance?” This was timed to sync with the Biden administration hosting the Summit for Democracy.
Activists in the reform community were generally united around four changes.
- Overcome the Supreme Court’sCitizens United ruling (or engage in other forms of campaign finance reform).
- End gerrymandering (or other forms of redistricting to reduce partisanship).
- Open the primary system to more voters.
- Pass voting protections in Congress.
Outside of electoral reform, we had varied responses:
- Ending the filibuster.
- Canceling student debt and easing other fiscal pressures for everyday Americans.
- Increasing accountability for elected officials.
- Addressing and minimizing toxic polarization.
- Shoring up our information integrity.
Still others mentioned the need for ongoing and quality civic education so we can fulfill our responsibilities as citizens. There are many nuances and good ideas to explore.
A sampling of responses:
I think the U.S. has a lot of nerve hosting a “summit on democracy.” America has lost her way. We no longer even have a functioning democracy. We can’t even choose our representatives to the U.S. House. They’ve already been chosen for us by gerrymandered redistributing maps. That is not how a democracy works.
- Dwight Willis
If Congress were to support a constitutional amendment to adopt, establishing for presidential elections: nonpartisan primaries nationwide, final-five ranked-choice voting and eliminate the Electoral College.
- Mike O
I think a geographic approach should be required in the redistricting process. Redistricting should be required to encompass entire communities when their population does not exceed the requirements. Representative democracy becomes meaningless if no single representative is responsible and accountable to a community. The current system destroys lines of accountability when two, three or four legislators represent pieces of a neighborhood or municipality.
- Steve Yaffe
Term limits. Federal legislation to overrule Citizens United.
- Amelia Bland Waller
Preclearance on gerrymandering and voting laws. Eliminate state laws providing partisans the authority to overturn elections
- Jon Thomas
There are so many things that it is hard to choose one! It seems that the beginning of the end of our democracy was the Citizens United decision that truly opened the floodgates to big money ruling politics and guiding legislation. Long live democracy!
- Eileen Henderson
The important election innovations must be implemented at the state level --- the "laboratories of democracy" that write most election laws and administer our elections. I agree with those who call for a healthy, robust "New Federalism" as one antidote for the unnecessary nationalization and polarization of every single political issue (and election). After all, isn't it okay if, within constitutional limits, Tennessee decides to do things differently from California? Onward!
- Eric H. Bronner
Restoring faith in our failing democracy: 1.Preventing party gerrymandering: District boundaries should be agreed upon by representatives from Republican, Democratic and independent voters, not just the party in power in the state in question. Representatives should not be picking their voters using gerrymandered districts. 2. Allow open primaries. Closed ones tend to choose the far left or far right. We need the far middle (check out this video for that concept as it applies to the climate issue).
- Peter Garrett
Our democracy is at the edge of a Grand Canyon precipice of authoritarians who just want office to control the majority of Americans. If there is something we must do now, it is abolishing the filibuster and immediately pass voting rights legislation at the federal level.
- Fernando F Seisdedos
The only thing that would restore my faith in a democratic system of governance is if the "red" states would stop passing voting laws that prohibit people of color from voting and reverse the laws that have already been passed. Barring that, Congress needs to pass all three voting rights acts.
- Nancy Ray
Voter suppression and disenfranchisement are raging across the country. Our house (aka democracy) built by Democrats, Republicans and independents is on fire -- and the fire brigade doesn't go on recess to watch the building burn down!
- David Goodman
Securing the integrity of our voting system such that every eligible voter gets one vote, and the preference of an independently verified majority cannot be superseded by elected officials. We can tackle campaign finance reform and ending gerrymandering at the same time, or as a separate, next priority action.
- Morris Effron
Easing economic burden
Literally the only thing the Democrats or Biden could do at this point to restore my faith in “democracy” is cancel student loan debt effective immediately.
- Jennifer Stefanow
Pass support for youth and children including Romney’s permanent child credit legislation. Suspend filibuster for voting rights now. Expand Medicare to older employees with company premiums for revenue. Reclaim market negotiation for Medicare pharmaceuticals. Need I go on?
- Tom C
I'd like to see our elected government officials working together instead of feeding the division in our country. I'd also like to see free trade, fewer restrictions on companies large and small, more conservative spending focused on encouraging self-sufficiency. Many of the big-spending bills are full of "pet projects" that really have nothing to do with helping the country as a whole.
- Cathy Pfeifer
Civic education and being better citizens
Giving the next generation of citizens - today's public school students - the skills to talk to people with different perspectives, and to work towards finding common ground in order to address issues that affect them directly.
- David K. Hutchinson
The system of democracy is fine. The problem is in the thinking of the people who are currently speaking out within/from the system that protects their freedom of speech. A democracy works when the individuals comprising that democracy are educated/trained in how to support the system that protects their democratic rights. It requires democratic individuals who are competent to sustain their democratic rights.
Seeing people who represent “the system” invite people with no faith in it into conversations about improving the system. That’s why I’m attracted to bridging work. As an individual, I see “the system” as having an elasticity that many do not observe. But, I see why it isn’t readily observable for many folks.
Effectively addressing our intractable differences.
The president needs to set forth a plan to do what he said on Inauguration Day: Unite our divided, polarized country. This could begin with a White House meeting of Pelosi, McCarthy, Schumer, and McConnell. He must ask them to give "A Pledge to Put America before Party," focusing on reforming Congress to operate in a bipartisan way going forward. This might include a bipartisan committee to make specific reforms of procedures and policies that incentivize bipartisanship to find common ground.
- Al Smith
The celebrating and showcasing of bipartisanship initiatives and policies -- I'm interested in how they came to be and were implemented/achieved, who was involved, timeline, really the nitty gritty -- and plans to make space for more of this plus expanding grantmaking in bridge-building work.
- Justine Lee
Since I'm not sure how to prevent disinformation or to stop threats of violence (and actual violence) against public officials, which may be the most acute problems.
- Riley Hart
Accountability of elected officials
When Trump and his minions still holding public office, appointed or elected, are arrested and held accountable for treason, including Sen. Mitch McConnell.
- Barb Rogers
What change?? How about taking care of Americans? What about not forcing people to take medicine or allowing rioting, looting? Biden? So far in the past 12 months, this man has changed our country for the worse. Why hasn't this Marxist takeover stopped? Who is profiting from this? Stop placating We have all had enough Shame on all of you.
- Gloria Graham
I would lose the filibuster.
- Terry Shoemaker
The thing that would restore my faith in the system is the abolish of all political parties and restore the federal government to its Constitutional role by removing non federal duties such as education. Also, remove the Federal Reserve from the Treasury.
- Jack Closson
I'd also like to see the Electoral College and the Senate tweaked so that they come closer to proportional representation while still allocating some power to each state regardless of its population. This seems quite unlikely, though (at least until a new Constitution is created as democracy is re-established after the period of de facto autocracy that seems likely to start within a few years).
- Riley Hart
A balanced Supreme Court and a program/promotion/guidelines for scientific studies that are independently funded. Or barring that, independent reviews of studies.
- Leah Spitzer
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