New bipartisan poll confirms urgency to fix our democracy

Posted by on September 13, 2018 at 4:45 PM

By Nick Penniman, Issue One. Reposted from Issue One.

Poll after poll confirms: Americans think our democracy is broken. And they are right.

But this new, bipartisan poll, called the “Democracy Project Report,” should really turn heads because it shows just how broad that sentiment is — and why now is the time to support real solutions to the crisis facing our democracy.

The new poll is the joint effort of the George W. Bush CenterThe Penn Biden Centerand Freedom House that engaged both Republican and Democratic pollsters before reaching their conclusions.

What did they find? That this “crisis of confidence” in American democracy is shared by the right and left. Although Americans still want to live in a democracy, 55 percent see ours as weak, and 68 percent see it as getting weaker.

Why? Many reasons, but at the very top (in this poll and others) is the role of money in our political system. Last election cycle, supporters of both candidate Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were looking for a leader to “drain the swamp” and fix the broken political system in Washington.

Today, a majority of people in both parties still feel they do not have a voice, with 77 percent agreeing that “the laws enacted by our national government these days mostly reflect what powerful special interests and their lobbyists want.” Eight in 10 say the influence of money in our system is getting worse.

And while most Americans said something similar a decade ago, I think we all recognize that now, more than ever, is a time for action. This is an inflection point, and we must seize it.

The report does touch on possible paths forward to restore voters’ confidence in our system. But there are additional, viable, bipartisan models that could actually win support in Congress. In fact, a few years ago, we co-authored a report with the Campaign Legal Center, called Blueprints for Democracy, to lay out great examples of functional models at the state and local levels.

Minnesota, for instance, has a system that incentivizes small donors through tax credits and rebates. In South Carolina, registered lobbyists are prohibited from making contributions to  candidates if they engage in lobbying the public office for which the candidate is seeking election. Even better, this law has been upheld by the state’s conservative Supreme Court as essential to limiting corruption — either actual corruption, or the appearance of it (which undermines trust in the system).

At the federal level, there’s a new bipartisan group of members of Congress — half Democrats and half Republicans — focused exclusively on political reform. The group is called the Congressional Reformers Caucus (CRC), and is modeled on Issue One’s own ReFormers Caucus —  200 former members of Congress, governors and Cabinet officials from both parties united for solutions to fix our democracy.

The CRC runs the gamut from ardent conservatives to committed progressives, and many shades in between, but they share a common conviction that they must put country over party to attack the roots of dysfunction.

Members of Congress who are part of the CRC have already shown leadership by supporting bills like the bipartisan Honest Ads Act to keep our elections safe from meddling by foreign powers, as well as  legislation to overhaul the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission, so our nation’s top election watchdog actually works to restore voters’ faith in our democratic system again. Issue One continues to support their important work on these measures.

The George W. Bush Center, The Penn Biden Center and Freedom House are to be applauded for this important bipartisan wake up call to Congress.

Our nation is fast approaching an inflection point — a time when every American must rededicate themselves to the values that we share as a people and a nation. Now is the time for change.

We at Issue One are working every day to build a movement, working within and outside of Congress and with Independents, Democrats and Republicans, to match this moment.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post and these essays are strictly those of the author and do not represent the views of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, the Bridge Alliance, or the Bridge Alliance’s member organizations. Additionally, the Bridge Alliance Education Fund makes no representations as to the accuracy of this post’s contents.