“We spend most of our time focused on what’s wrong with our government and talking about the dysfunction or breakdowns in a critical way. With all that attention on what we DON’T want, we spend little time focused on what’s working and what we DO want. #HealthyGov is about shifting our focus to what we want and taking action to make it so.” - Debilyn Molineaux, co-director of Bridge Alliance
Bridge Alliance, a coalition of over 80 civic action organizations, launched the #HealthyGov education campaign in early March. The goal is to raise awareness of not just the problems that contribute to an unhealthy political ecosystem in the US, but the ongoing efforts to fix them.
Creating a #HealthyGov
According to Bridge Alliance, there are 5 key layers that provide the foundation for healthy governance. None of these layers have been immune to infection, and as a result we have a party-controlled, special interest-driven, and largely unrepresentative political system that is failing Americans.
“Part of what we are doing at Bridge Alliance is trying to help people be aware of all of these different layers that need to be worked on simultaneously,” said Bridge Alliance Co-Director Debilyn Molineaux, in an interview for IVN.
Several “member” organizations of Bridge Alliance could not be further apart in their individual goals, but they all work toward solutions that create a more robust government that functions better and is accountable to ALL voters.
For instance, Unite America is trying to elect independents to shift the balance of power away from the Republican and Democratic Parties in state legislatures and Congress. And Represent.us is an anti-corruption organization focused on minimizing the influence of special interests and political corruption.
Together, however, with the help of the Independent Voter Project (a co-publisher of IVN.us) and a grant from Bridge Alliance, these organizations launched a communications campaign to connect with self-identified independents in Colorado via social media, email, and in person.
In the end, they found significant interest among Colorado voters, and put together the first Unrig the System event in Denver, Colorado, on August 5, 2017.
In the months since, Colorado has become the center-point for independent activity and independent candidates. The state has also become the home for Unite America.
“Each of these organizations have their own thread or mosaic tile of people doing really good work,” says Molineaux. “Together they actually make a really healthy, big picture.”
Here is a closer look at some of these organizations:
One of the member organizations, Unite America (formerly the Centrist Project) recently launched with the first national slate of independent candidates for governor and US Senate.
The organization is focused on the “fulcrum strategy,” which identifies legislative bodies where the majority is so narrow for the Republican or Democratic Party that only a handful of independent candidates are needed to shift the balance of power away from either party.
The creation of an independent caucus would ideally leverage its power to decide crucial legislation through breaking gridlock, bringing both sides to the table, and giving a voice back to the people.
Represent.us is a national, nonpartisan anti-corruption organization that focuses on minimizing the influence of special interests on the government and political corruption.
The organization hosted the Unrig the System Summit in New Orleans in February 2018, bringing over 1,500 concerned citizens together who varied in political ideology, but were united under the idea that the US political system is rigged, and it needs broad systemic reform.
Reresent.us leads grassroots campaigns in support of anti-corruption legislation at the local, state, and federal level, and has created a map highlighting over 60 campaigns throughout the US for voters who are interested in getting involved in the anti-corruption movement.
Open Primaries focuses on transforming the electoral system so that it gives ALL voters an equal opportunity and voice, specifically in primary elections, which end up deciding the outcome of over 90 percent of elections in the US, and are controlled by private political parties in most states.
Since the parties control the rules and decide who can and cannot participate in these taxpayer-funded elections, millions of voters end up having no say in who represents them.
Open Primaries has helped lead efforts in multiple states -- like South Dakota and Florida -- in support of nonpartisan open primaries (like the top-two systems in California and Washington state). They even delivered over 50,000 signatures to leaders of the RNC and DNC in support of open primaries during the 2016 presidential election.
FairVote advocates for alternative voting methods that move the US past plurality, “winner-take-all” elections that leave millions of Americans unrepresented.
The organization is leading the charge for ranked choice voting and multi-member legislative districts across the country. One of its most recent victories was in Santa Fe, NM, where city voters participated in the first municipal elections to use ranked choice voting after approving the voting reform a decade ago.
FairVote is also the driving force behind The Fair Representation Act, which would establish multi-member congressional districts to elect more than one representative through ranked choice voting.
Take Back Our Republic
Take Back Our Republic operates within the civic participation layer, with the mission to educate voters on how to transform the US political system from the outside in.
From the organization’s website:
“We believe that a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ is not one beholden to big business and union influence. We believe that once individuals better understand these issues, and understand that there are many more like them who share their disdain for the status quo, the natural outgrowth of this understanding will be a better engaged and more involved citizenry. And then the people – not us, nor any corporation or special interest – with eyes wide open will realize their power to Take Back Our Republic.”
Through their research and education efforts, TBOR has helped push major campaign finance reform.
For example, the group supported the closure of the credit card loophole in New Mexico, which is a gap in campaign finance laws that allows individuals to make unverifiable donations to political campaigns using credit cards. Donors could use this loophole to mask their identify and evade contribution limits.
TBOR also focuses on lobbyist activity, foreign contributions, disclosure levels, special interest influence, and more.
Participatory Budgeting Process
Also operating in the civic participation layer is the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP). PBP wants to strengthen civic participation and the democratic process by giving citizens an equal say in how public money is spent in their communities.
According to the PBP website, the organization has worked with over one hundred elected officials and nearly 600 community partners “to engage over 300,000 people in 22 cities to decide how to spend $238,000,000 on more than 1,532 community projects.”
These organizations may not always be in sync with each other, and they may disagree on what problems and solutions should take priority. But under the umbrella of Bridge Alliance, these six organizations work together in order to fix the US political ecosystem and to create a #HealthyGov.
Another upcoming project of Bridge Alliance is the National Week of Conversation from April 20-28--Stay tuned for more details on #NWOC and more!