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Renewing Our Democracy, Restoring Consent
This note was originally sent as email to members of the NDN community on May 12th.
....This week I published an op-ed on the US News website that lays out a three part plan for modernizing and improving how our democracy works in America. I hope you will take a few moments to read it in the coming days. It is one of the more important pieces I’ve written in recent years.
I draw particular attention to this piece because I’ve become convinced that getting more people to meaningful participate in the process of choosing their leaders, restoring the “consent of the governed” imagined by our Founding Fathers, is an essential and necessary step in restoring faith in our institutions and moving our nation successfully into the 21st century.
I and NDN have dabbled in these issues over the years. I was one of the first non-Oregon investors in the Oregon vote by mail experiment in mid-1990s, one that has helped created a voting system with among the highest citizen participation in the nation. I was an early champion of the use of the Internet in US politics as a way of lowering the barrier of entry for every day people into the political system, even putting the first American political party on line (the Democrats) in 1993. I was an architect of the plan that added a southern and southwestern state to the early DNC nominating calendar, allowing voters of colors to play a much greater role in choosing the Democrat’s nominee. And recently, NDN successfully advocated for an improved DNC debate schedule, allowing tens of millions of people to become better informed in their choice for President in 2016.
I also sit on the board of the Tisch College for Civic Life at Tufts University, arguably the leading academic institution in America today looking at citizen engagement and healthy societies. I am honored that I will be teaching a class there this fall on American politics that will be allow me to spend a bit more time looking at these issues.
I write all this to the NDN community today as a way of saying that I and our team will be committing far more time and energy to the basket of issues around political and electoral reform, and restoring “consent.” As I look ahead over the next few years, I have become convinced that the distance many Americans feel from Washington must be addressed head on or progress on so many other issues that we care about will be disappointingly elusive.
And there is urgent international context to this discussion as well. If America is to remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing democracy abroad, our own democracy must be an exemplar, not a laggard or even an embarrassment (5 hour lines to vote!). Acknowledging that even we in the world’s oldest democracy don’t always get things right, and can make improvements, will be an inspiration to other nations and advocates looking to modernize and improve their own political systems.
Thanks for all that you do for us here at NDN and the many other organizations and leaders our community supports each and every day.