The Hero Who Will Reform Our Democracy Is You
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On one night in San Diego, volunteers were writing postcards to voters and wondering if they would be delivered in time by the U.S. Postal Service. Parents were trying to catch up on unfinished work, knowing that keeping up will be harder when remote school starts at the end of the month. Others worried about the end of the month because that is when rent is due, and there is no relief in sight.
The only group that doesn’t seem burdened by the pressures of our pending elections, uncontrolled pandemic and economic freefall is our “esteemed” U.S. Senate, having proven once again to be impotent in a crisis. In spite of voter outcry, few senators will be hurt in their re-election campaigns.
In any given year, over 90 percent of the incumbent members of Congress are re-elected. While voters retain the power of the vote in determining elections, they have little to no influence over who makes it onto the ballot. Gerrymandered districts make truly competitive districts rare, and even when a good candidate steps forward, they seldom have the money to mount a successful challenge and get on the ballot.
The lack of authentic competition in our elections is a sign that our experiment in democracy is failing. Mired in partisanship, the government has been commandeered for partisan ends instead of serving the American people.
At this point, as in any good story, a hero must emerge. If this was a movie or novel, we’d see the rise of one good leader, a person of moral clarity, slightly imperfect and brave. Someone who, in the critical moment, would stand up to corruption and ensure justice for all. Or at the very, least enable a functioning government.
If you're racking your brain for someone who's currently campaigning who might be that leader, I don’t think you’ll find them. You’re looking in the wrong place. The leaders of a broken system will not be the ones to fix it. The hero in our story must be all of us working together to reform our democracy.
Our heroes will be volunteers spending weekends registering people to vote and training to be election monitors. Parents staying up late into the evening working on ballot measures to end gerrymandering and implement ranked-choice voting. Neighbors collecting signatures for open primaries and voting rights protections. Friends organizing events to drive needed reforms.
These heroes are everyday people like you and me, dealing with the pressures of the day but refusing to be complicit in the fall of our democracy. If our democracy is to survive and work for the good of us all, we must join in this effort and be heroes together. We may have inherited a broken democracy, but together we can save it.