what you think you know about fixing American politics might be wrong

March 12, 2015

When it comes to political reform, we might have the most to learn from the skeptics. According to Political Reform Director Mark Schmitt in “Democratic Romanticism and its Critics,” published in the Spring 2015 edition of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, these skeptics are “less interested in an idealized democracy” than they are in hands-on, practical solutions. In Schmitt’s reading, an increasingly diverse chorus of thinkers are calling for reformers to re-evaluate their allegiance to transparency and small donors—or at least contextualize them as more than unchallenged wisdom. While it’s certainly true that a lack of transparency and the deluge of soft money can breed corruption, they can also provide opportunities for backchannel problem-solving and narrowing the reach of ideological extremists in corridors of power. It’s clear, in Schmitt’s reading of the “school of skeptics,” that when it comes to political reform, one size should never fit all.