The good news when it comes to America’s ailing democracy is that there’s so much bad news that the moment is ripe for a comprehensive fix.
At least that’s the thinking that enlivens a new, broad-based campaign to expand voting rights, enforce ethics, and limit money in politics. The push for all three begins the day after so many others campaigns end: On November 7.
“Opportunities for major political reforms do not come along very often,” said Fred Wertheimer, founder and president of Democracy 21, one of 100 national groups cosigning the Declaration for American Democracy.
“We have today a broken political system, a corrupt campaign finance system and a democracy under attack from within,” he said. “The stage is set for major reforms.”
The coalition is focusing on major structural issues. “Only by winning foundational reforms to our politics, can we hope to move forward the substantive policies,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs at Public Citizen. She led a conference call on Tuesday.
The group’s goals are “to rebalance our moneyed political system, empower everyday Americans, ensure equal justice for all, protect the public’s right to know, reduce barriers to participation in our elections, vigorously enforce voting laws, and fix our ethics laws.”
Wertheimer, the dean of campaign finance reform, said there’s never been as large a coalition taking such a holistic approach.
But how do you get heard over the din? With the news cycle being so fast, how to do you get people to focus on long-term structural issues?
“So many folks are recognizing that this is essential,” Gilbert said. “By joining together we will be infinitely louder and able to cut through.”
“There’s no question that the American people are basically disgusted with the way the system works,” Wertheimer said. “That doesn’t get you over the hump. But this coalition has the capacity for grass roots action, which is the key to winning these fights,” he said. “They will not be won in Washington.”
That said, coalition members realize their job will be easier if Democrats take at least one chamber on November 6.
Democrats have said that their top priority if they win the House will be passing a sweeping reform package and coalition members are working on it.
“We’ve had a lot of trouble getting Republicans to join in these reform efforts, so I don’t expect them to join at first,” Wertheimer said. “But over time, that will change.”
The coalition’s goals are not Trump-specific. But, as Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible put it, “A healthy body would have rejected Trump just like a healthy body rejects a virus.”