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Civic Ed
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The goal of Hands Across the Hills isn't to change anyone's mind. "We listen to one another, speak about family, struggles and our hopes. We speak face to face as human beings and discover what we have in common," writes Clayton.

Building a bridge across the countryside for talking in polarized times

Clayton, a novelist and short story writer, is among the creators of Hands Across the Hills, a group created to improve civic discourse between progressive and conservative parts of rural America.

Sometimes it seems the only thing blue and red voters share is mutual contempt. Organizations like Better Angels or Bridge the Divide try to promote civility by establishing rules for speaking together respectfully in a "safe" space. Their workshops, led by trained facilitators, resist ugly divisiveness. These organizations support an America in which people can talk to one another, and even debate, without demeaning one another.

Our project is doing something different and deeper. Here's our story.

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Balance of Power
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Allowing President Trump's stonewalling to continue "without the potential of a judicial backstop would gut Congress' ability to effectively check executive overreach and lawbreaking," writes former Rep. Tom Coleman.

A court must decide: Does the law still apply to everyone, the president included?

Coleman was a Republican members of the House from Missouri from 1976 to 1993. He is a retired lobbyist and an advisor to the Protect Democracy Project, an anti-authoritarian watchdog group.

It is a bedrock American principle that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. The president, like all Americans, must pay taxes, must give evidence when sought by a court or Congress, and must follow the law. If this principle is to survive, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals must reverse a ruling that Congress cannot sue to enforce subpoenas of executive branch officials.

In the wake of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller, last April the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed former White House counsel Don McGahn to provide testimony about President Trump's efforts to obstruct the investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. The White House informed the committee that the president ordered McGahn not to appear, asserting that certain presidential aides are "absolutely immune" from being forced to testify — a privilege no other president has ever claimed. As a result, the committee sued to enforce its subpoena.

In February, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit punted on the central question, ruling 2-1 their court does not have the power to settle this dispute between the congressional and executive branches. If that is allowed to stand, Congress' ability to conduct legitimate oversight will be severely limited and Trump will be further emboldened to ignore our constitutional system of checks and balances.

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"What we've seen in Seattle and the state is that there is no quick fix to Citizens United," writes Cindy Black. "Instead, a holistic approach is needed."

With democracy reform stalled on Capitol Hill, local and state solutions needed

Black is executive director of Seattle-based Fix Democracy First, which advocates for campaign finance, election access and voting rights reforms.

While important democratic reforms continue to stall in the Senate, activists in some states and municipalities are showing there's another way.

In Washington state, we've created a blueprint to rein in money in politics that can work elsewhere.

We've shown that a combination of public financing of elections, increasing access to the ballot, requiring nonprofits to disclose their top donors and coming up with creative ways to restrict the flow of corporate cash into politics can go a long way in returning government to the people.

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