Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Where are our followers?

Where are our followers?
Getty Images

Molineaux is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and president/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.

How would you describe the constituency of healthy self-governance? It should be all of us, right? Those of us who are crazy in love with the process of democracy may not be the popular kids we think we should be.

For a democratic republic like ours in the United States to function and survive we need citizens to be involved; and involved means more than just voting. Yet deep into my career in the strengthening democratic values and norms movement, I’ve come to realize far too few citizens are standing up for the practices and principles of democracy; leaning into respectful deliberation for nuanced and best-possible solutions.

Or perhaps there are more of us than we realize, but we don’t recognize them? Are they the exhausted majority? The radical centrists? The moderates? Yes.

Recent polling from Gallup shows 37% of Americans are self-declared moderates. That’s more than self-declared conservatives (36%) or liberals (25%). Citizen Data has done a deeper dive, asking just who these moderates are. Of these self-declared moderates, their research shows that 45% show no preference for the Democrat or Republican parties. Are they the constituents our democracy movement needs?

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

I am pleasantly surprised that as more people have what I light-heartedly refer to as “an awakening,” and become involved, the number of ideas to fix our democratic republic is increasing exponentially. Getting people to take that first step is a critical part of the process. Once they become interested, it’s more likely they will be excited about what they can do. My own “awakening “ was 20 years ago. I found colleagues who welcomed me, encouraged me and helped me grow. It’s my pleasure to welcome and mentor others now.

When these new constituents show up, they are most likely a self-proclaimed leader, or occasionally an executive volunteer. We’ve had very few people approach us who want to be worker bee volunteers, wanting to be part of the movement and willing to do whatever they are asked.

The needs we have from constituents are varied and honestly that’s a great thing. Some people just want to develop relationships with people different from themselves to impact their local neighborhood, some people want to lobby their members of Congress, and some people just want to review legislation and contact elected officials. We’re dedicated to helping Americans find their path, a path that fits into their schedules and their preferences. Anyone can do something but too few sign up. Perhaps they feel they are risking their social capital to do so?

While pondering all of this, I’ve come to realize that none of my friends from 20 years ago are still close friends. I became a different person and we drifted apart. It was emotionally lonely until I found my new friends and support for my new sense of purpose. “Good luck with that” is the common refrain I hear from people who seem unwilling to use their agency as a citizen for positive change.

When citizens fail to become involved, the elites of academic, business, and think tanks begin their work to organize it for us citizens, and with good intentions in service to all. They seek a strategy to determine which ideas are worthy of funding; which organizations will become institutions for democracy. However, by not being involved we citizens are abdicating our voice and placing our power in the hands of a few well-intentioned people who are tasked to spend their dollars as wisely as they can. Often they didn’t ask to make these decisions. But here we are, nonetheless. The solopreneurs who I welcome into the movement will be left to fund their own ideas.

As more and more folks awaken to the risk our nation and world we are in, who will show up to follow the many self-designated leaders?

I’m reminded of Terry Pratchett’s book, “Small Gods.” In his acerbic, satirical way, Pratchett’s Discworld, a fictional world, assigns power to the panoply of gods according to their follower count. Given that this was written in 1992, before social media existed, I find it ironic in a very dark way.

Today, we have many leaders focused on the nation or world at large, missing the pain in their own lives and in their own neighborhoods. Remember the saying “all politics is local?” And if we really want to get local; what if the real work is in our own family? In our own backyard and on our own block? In the dorm? Or at work? I have long held that the solution we each seek will follow a fractal pattern. We are near discovering similar and self-replicating patterns of behavior and activity at small and large scales.

I’m excited by the thought that the fractal pattern we (or just me, the fractal nerd) seek isn’t a new strategic plan, but an act of kindness. AOKMaine is testing this theory out; attempting to shift the underlying tone in the many small and rural towns throughout Maine. What can you do? Hand a coffee to the homeless person you pass on your way to work? Help out a neighbor who needs their lawn mowed?

Crazy idea—some may say a bit idealistic. What if caring about each other is the solution? What if the reality is there will be no single leader in our democratic future. What if we just worked toward a community of equals, where we take turns leading one day and following the next.

Read More

Blurred image of an orchestra
Melpomenem/Getty Images

The ideal democracy: An orchestra in harmony

Frazier is an assistant professor at the Crump College of Law at St. Thomas University. Starting this summer, he will serve as a Tarbell fellow.

In the symphony of our democracy, we can find a compelling analogy with an orchestra. The interplay of musicians trained in different instruments, each contributing to the grand musical tapestry, offers lessons for our democratic system. As we navigate the complexities of governance, let us draw inspiration from the orchestra's structure, dynamics and philosophy.

Keep ReadingShow less
David French

New York Times columnist David French was removed from the agenda of a faith-basd gathering because we was too "divisive."

Macmillan Publishers

Is canceling David French good for civic life?

Harwood is president and founder of The Harwood Institute. This is the latest entry in his series based on the "Enough. Time to Build.” campaign, which calls on community leaders and active citizens to step forward and build together.

On June 10-14, the Presbyterian Church in America held its annual denominational assembly in Richmond, Va. The PCA created considerable national buzz in the lead-up when it abruptly canceled a panel discussion featuring David French, the highly regarded author and New York Times columnist.

The panel carried the innocuous-sounding title, “How to Be Supportive of Your Pastor and Church Leaders in a Polarized Political Year.” The reason for canceling it? French, himself a long-time PCA member, was deemed too “divisive.” This despite being a well-known, self-identified “conservative” and PCA adherent. Ironically, the loudest and most divisive voices won the day.

Keep ReadingShow less
Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer testifies at the Democratic National Convention in 1964.

Bettmann/Getty Images

60 years later, it's time to restart the Freedom Summer

Johnson is a United Methodist pastor, the author of "Holding Up Your Corner: Talking About Race in Your Community" and program director for the Bridge Alliance, which houses The Fulcrum.

Sixty years have passed since Freedom Summer, that pivotal season of 1964 when hundreds of young activists descended upon an unforgiving landscape, driven by a fierce determination to shatter the chains of racial oppression. As our nation teeters on the precipice of another transformative moment, the echoes of that fateful summer reverberate across the years, reminding us that freedom remains an unfinished work.

At the heart of this struggle stood Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper's daughter whose voice thundered like a prophet's in the wilderness, signaling injustice. Her story is one of unyielding defiance, of a spirit that the brutal lash of bigotry could not break. When Hamer testified before the Democratic National Convention in 1964, her words, laced with the pain of beatings and the fire of righteous indignation, laid bare the festering wound of racial terror that had long plagued our nation. Her resilience in the face of such adversity is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

Keep ReadingShow less
Kamala Harris waiving as she exits an airplane

If President Joe Biden steps aside and endorses Vice President Kamala Harris, her position could be strengthened by a ranked-choice vote among convention delegates.

Anadolu/Getty Images

How best to prepare for a brokered convention

Richie is co-founder and senior advisor of FairVote.

As the political world hangs on whether Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign, an obvious question is how the Democratic Party might pick a new nominee. Its options are limited, given the primary season is long past and the Aug. 19 convention is only weeks away. But they are worth getting right for this year and future presidential cycles.

Suppose Biden endorses Vice President Kamala Harris and asks his delegates to follow his lead. She’s vetted, has close relationships across the party, and could inherit the Biden-Harris campaign and its cash reserves without a hitch. As Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) suggested, however, Harris would benefit from a mini-primary among delegates before the convention – either concluding at the virtual roll call that is already planned or at the in-person convention.

Keep ReadingShow less