OPINION: Looking Forward to 2018: Improving the U.S. through reform
In a few days it will be 2018: the year I turn 50 and unequivocally leave my youth. As I reflect on years passed, I think back to the late 1980s when, living in Europe, I was surprised by the admiration America inspired in the rest of the world. This was when I became aware of how truly remarkable our nation was.
In the ensuing decades, I watched our standing in the world decline by a slew of metrics: disastrous foreign interventions; gun homicide rates 25 times higher than other nations; one in five children living in poverty; the most expensive health care in the world; the highest prison population per capita; lagging academic achievement … the list goes on.
This 30-year slide was deeply unsettling. As I looked for answers, I concluded that our broken political system — and the skewed incentives and dynamics it has created — is the root of our nation’s troubles. Our only hope, I realized, is to fix that system: by changing how we vote to incentivize bipartisan reform and civility; by ending the auctioning of politicians and policies; and by enabling great people of diverse backgrounds to run for — and win — public office.
In 2012, we launched Represent.Us with the goal of doing just that. We made plenty of mistakes in the beginning, but we assembled an amazing staff and board of directors, both committed to innovation. We built a new kind of advocacy organization and campaign: post-partisan, with strong leadership from the right and left. We found a new way to talk about the problem and solution, and adopted the state-and-local strategy employed by the suffragettes and the most successful movements in modern history.
Fast forward to 2018. This year, we will lead or actively support more than a dozen campaigns on the front lines of the fight to reclaim our democracy. Sweeping ethics and campaign finance reforms are heading to the ballot in South Dakota and New Mexico, with the possibility of campaigns in Alaska and North Dakota. The South Dakota amendment would both pass last year’s repealed Anti-Corruption Act for good and prevent the Legislature from overturning a ballot initiative without referring it back to the voters for approval.
Reforms that address gerrymandering, automatic voter registration and national popular vote are moving forward in other cities and states. We’ve helped ensure that nearly every one of these efforts features “strange bedfellow” coalitions of conservatives and progressives. Where we are not the lead organization, we are helping our partners by lending our popular right/left brand and using our formidable grassroots organizing and digital media assets to their advantage.
This flood of activity is a reminder that we must be dedicated to supporting long-term structural reform while simultaneously tending to short-term political issues and candidate campaigns. As we approach the New Year, my biggest hope is that everyone embraces this idea. The future of nearly every issue hinges on it: child poverty, incarceration, education, government efficiency, taxation, climate, health care…
With that in mind, if you haven’t supported us financially this year, please do so now. There are new ways of joining our community of supporters. One is the Founding Family. Our goal is for the Founding Family to cover our operational overhead and enable 100 percent of small donations to go directly to state and local campaigns. Those small donations come through our new community called The Common Wealth: a group of monthly donors who give at any level. We already have 400 members of The Common Wealth, and we’re hoping to reach 500 in the next four days.
Finally, don’t forget to register for our groundbreaking “Unrig The System Summit” in New Orleans, Feb. 2, 3 and 4. It’s on track to be the largest democracy reform conference ever, with over 1,000 people. Leaders of nearly every reform group, alongside academics, comedians, celebrities, philanthropists, journalists and grassroots activists — all laser focused on concrete solutions to unrig American politics. Please join us.
Martin Luther King said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable … Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
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