New America’s Political Reform program starts from the premise that repairing the dysfunction of American democracy and restoring trust in government calls for more than just public outrage, new advocacy coalitions, or smarter messaging. It requires ideas; fresh perspectives; experimentation; and an aspirational yet realistic vision of American democracy, equality, and a robust, innovative public sphere. Launched in 2014, the Political Reform program seeks to develop new strategies and innovations to repair the dysfunction of government, restore citizen trust, and rebuild the promise of American democracy.
Government increasingly fails to play its role in finding pragmatic solutions to known problems on every dimension: in elections, legislation, and in the states, as well as in Washington. Instead of an open, fair democratic process, we have a self-reinforcing oligopoly of power that forecloses innovation: The role of money in elections has increased, lobbyists have broad control of information, and weak regulations grant unmatched clout to certain industries. Democracy must operate within this market for power, even as the changing nature of communication about politics and the use of deep social divisions to exacerbate partisan polarization and obstruct change put our democracy in even more peril.
We aim to develop a more comprehensive vision of a democracy agenda, linking issues of the market for power to reform visions such as instant-runoff voting and proportional representation, nonpartisan primaries, congressional reforms, a constitutional guarantee of the right to vote, experiments in deliberative democracy, and other changes that promise to expand participation or ameliorate polarization. In order to promote these changes, we produce imaginative research, readable and relevant analysis, broad media outreach, and convenings that create new alignments and challenge stale thinking. Led by Mark Schmitt, the program has built a strong presence in the reform community.
Our work involves partnerships with organizations including The Brennan Center for Justice, The Washington Center for Equitable Growth, Every Voice, The Century Foundation, and the R Street Institute. We publish widely, in outlets ranging from specialized but influential journals such as Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Washington Monthly, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and National Review to more widely read outlets such as Washingtonian, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Slate, Salon, Quartz, Pacific Standard, Time, CNN.com, and our own Vox blog, Polyarchy.