Our current political system is increasingly described as broken and dysfunctional. Our governing institutions are widely derided and distrusted. Economic inequality continues to rise, and economic dynamism continues to decline. To solve these problems, political reform is necessary. Yet, the current reform vision is often too simple:
In the campaign material of Bernie Sanders, the solution is “return to a government of, by, and for the people – not the billionaires and giant corporations.” In the telling of Ted Cruz, the end of our problems is in the breaking up "The Washington cartel” -- the unholy “alliance of career politicians in Washington, in both parties, and the lobbyists in this town.”
While such straightforward populism speaks the growing angers and anxieties, it has little to offer as a workable roadmap. Too often, reform visions treat politicians and organized groups (aka, “special interests”) as irredeemably venal and corrupt while simultaneously viewing governance as something perfectible and politics as something solvable -- if only it could be taken away from the politicians and the special interests. The implicit assumption is that absent malign influences, rationality and consensus would magically flourish (They won’t).
Reforms work best when they work with the grain of our political system, rather than against it. The answer, in short, is more politics. In his new paper, Lee Drutman makes the case for Political Dynamism as an affirmative vision of politics, and lays out specific reforms that would create the conditions for it. Political dynamism is an attempt to work within the American political system that exists, playing to the strengths of our traditions and institutions. Please join Lee Drutman and the Political Reform program for an engaging conversation moderated by Melinda Henneberger as we ask “What institutional choices create a system that is open and fluid in ways that policy entrepreneurs can thrive and do what they do best?”
Senior Fellow, Political Reform Program
Editor-in-Chief, Roll Call