When it comes to democracy, sometimes Americans believe they not only invented the idea, they perfected it.
But two respected annual report cards out this week — one looking at democracy and the other at its anathema, governmental corruption — offer some sobering context for those who might instinctively believe that the United States is going to be naturally at the top of the heap.
The latest corruption study, by the venerable global watchdog group Transparency International, finds trust in the United States' political system at an all-time low and that government corruption has become a major concern for most Americans. The newest report on the state of global democracy by the Economist finds the United States dropping steadily in the last decade when compared with other countries.
Hear from powerful speakers in the democracy reform movement, learn how the corruption of our government affects the lives of real people, and be presented with different ways to get involved.
Location: U.S. Capitol steps, First St SE, Washington, DC
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.
It's no surprise that Democrats in Congress rank better on democracy reform than their Republican counterparts, especially when progressive groups are keeping score. Over the last year, GOP members were largely opposed to Democratic efforts to get big money out of politics and expand access to the ballot box.
So the bipartisan chasm comes off as enormous in the first congressional scorecard produced by End Citizens United, a liberal political action committee that's focused mainly on shrinking money's influence over politics. And the report, released this week, suggests only rare and subtle degrees of disapproval for the blue team on Capitol Hill in 2019 — and only a few areas for faint praise of the red team.
All members were rated on whether they accepted contributions from corporate PACs. The 432 current House members were also scored on how they voted on the floor four times — including of course on HR 1, the comprehensive political process overhaul passed in March — and how many of five measures important to the group they cosponsored. Since the Senate took no votes on legislation connected to democracy reform, the senators in office last year were rated only on a quartet of co-sponsorships.