Many Americans feel that our political process has become more than dangerously polarized — that democracy as we know it is in fact broken, and requires concerted efforts to fix it.
But what constitutes “fixing?” Opinions and prescriptives are as varied as the people who vote at the polls. But there are some cornerstones of democracy that are held in high esteem. And in today’s culture of incivility, are the ones most agreed upon to need reform.
- Threats to the freedom to vote
- Excessive money spent in pursuit of elected offices
- The influence of outside parties and special interests
- Lack of representation of our diverse electorate
- Incivility in political discourse
Common Ground Committee examines these in a multi-part blog post series.
Today, there are hundreds of organizations working to foster a more functional, representative, and accountable government. They focus on a variety of strategies. Some stress the importance of changing electoral rules, or smoothing the path for more diverse candidates; some focus on supporting nonpartisan candidates who have a track record of reaching across the aisle to accomplish change. Others like Common Ground Committee strive for bringing leaders and citizens together to find commonality, civility and make progress.
An important step in the right direction was the passage of H.R. 1 a year ago. This historic democracy reform legislation, also known as the For the People Act, kicked off a surge of reform motivation at the local, state, federal, and presidential levels.
What is H.R.1?
H.R. 1 has three pillars of reform, each with policy solutions aimed to strengthen democracy and more fairly represent all people and communities in the U.S.
- Protect and expand the right to vote. Some of the strategies include creating automatic voter registration nationwide, instituting same-day registration, expanding early voting, prohibiting inappropriate purges of voter rolls, and committing to restore the Voting Rights Act. Particularly notable recommendations: establishing independent redistricting commissions to ending partisan gerrymandering, and focusing on blocking infiltration of outside parties and influences trying to undermine legitimate election results.
- Shrink the corrupting influence of special interests that dominate the federal policymaking process. Among the solutions: restructuring the Federal Election Commission, so that the agency can robustly enforce election laws. Especially significant: a new federal matching system for small donations. This will give the American people a stronger voice in politics while making it easier for a diverse range of candidates and candidates without wealthy donor networks to run for public office.
- Restoring ethics and accountability for government officials by breaking the influence economy in Washington. Solutions: expanding conflict of interest laws, requiring top elected and appointed officials to take commonsense steps to divest from their financial holdings, slowing the revolving door between government and the private sector, and mandating presidents to disclose their tax returns. Especially noteworthy reforms include overhauling the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and ensuring that government watchdogs finally have the resources they need to actively enforce the law.
The proclamations of support for these reforms represent significant mile markers on the road to creating a political system that works for everyday Americans instead of only for corporations and special interests. And represent a critical first step in restoring public trust in the U.S. federal political process.
Check back for our upcoming post where we interview Jeremy Garson of the Bridge Alliance Movement.