Updated June 27, 2023
|By Katherine Hamilton
Digital Content Writing Fellow, RepresentUs
July 4th is all about celebrating America’s unique democracy—and a vital part of that celebration is having conversations about how we can protect it.
Political discussions with friends and family can be tricky, but talking about anti-corruption reform is a great place to start.
Here’s your guide to engaging loved ones in conversations about democracy and encouraging them to take action.
Start with what we agree on: fixing our political system
While it does feel like America is more divided than ever, there are key things the left and the right actually agree on. Politicians should not be able to rig our political system in their favor, we the people should control our government, and billionaires shouldn’t be able to buy our elections.
Stopping corruption is something almost everyone already supports (except maybe billionaires). This point of commonality is a great starting place for conversations with your loved ones.
Only 4% of Americans have confidence in Congress, which means a HUGE majority of people agree our government isn’t working as effectively as we’d like it to. Plus, 94% of Americans agree that we should know who is funding our elections, including shining a light on dark money and donations to super PACs.
So, this Independence Day, start a conversation to encourage action. At the federal level, lawmakers can tackle corruption by passing the ETHICS Act and banning members of Congress from trading stocks while in office. They can also pass greater protections for election workers across the country, who are being pressured and threatened into resigning.
At the state and local level, there’s also a real opportunity to make our democracy stronger. Cities and states can and should pass Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), anti-gerrymandering and campaign finance reforms, as well as protect elections and the workers who run them.
Tips for engaging loved ones in politics
1. Focus on solutions.
Protecting voters, cracking down on lobbyists, and unrigging gerrymandered districts are all critical changes that would help fix our broken political system. These reforms put power in the hands of the voters and make our government do what it’s supposed to do: Represent us.
There are several achievable policies that Congress and the states can implement to make sure that voters’ voices are represented by their elected officials. Ranked Choice Voting is a popular reform that gives voters a real choice at the ballot box, instead of having to vote strategically or vote for the lesser of two evils.
With the once-a-decade redistricting process wrapped up, now is a great time to tackle rampant gerrymandering and implement Independent Redistricting Commissions. The American voters should choose their politicians, not the other way around.
Furthermore, everyone knows that there is too much money in politics. We can fix our broken campaign finance system by passing policies such as public funding for elections, which would help reduce the influence of dark money.
These pro-democracy reforms are not just good ideas, they’re also possible! Recently, Alaska held their first-ever election under a new nonpartisan primary system, and RCV has been expanded to Hawaii, Burlington, Vermont, all of Maine's cities and towns, and now Oregon. We’ve also seen successful efforts to protect and expand ballot access in Rhode Island, North Dakota, and Missouri.
2. Listen and ask clarifying questions.
If your friends or family members still seem unsure about the solutions we’re working on to fix our broken democracy, there are a few ways to make sure your conversations remain positive and productive.
Listen to their opinions before getting into your own ideas. Ask clarifying questions. Try to understand the root of their political beliefs—what led them to think this way?
Think about how you would like your loved one to listen to you, and then try to show them the same courtesies. Repeat back what you heard to make sure you’re understanding their points. Thank them for sharing, especially if they divulge a personal or emotional concern. Once it’s your turn to share your ideas, they will likely be more open if you made a real effort to hear them.
3. Share personal experiences and stories.
Think about how certain policies have personally influenced your own life or the lives of your loved ones. Facts are easy to gloss over, but personal experiences help people relate to you and appreciate why you care.
This is especially helpful if your family members seem uninterested in discussing politics. Talking about corrupt politicians in Washington D.C. might seem irrelevant to them, but corruption is at the root of issues like student debt, immigration, and the healthcare. It’s likely that your loved one is directly impacted by corruption—even if they don’t realize it.
4. Use our video to get the conversation started.
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Corruption is a serious issue, but it can be hard to engage people in a discussion about everything that’s wrong with America.
So, how can you strike up that conversation? This video titled “Unbreaking America” starring Jennifer Lawrence is a great starting point. It taps into people’s values and reminds us all what risks we face if we don’t prioritize democracy. Try showing friends and family this video as a way to get the discussion started from a place of commonality. A Columbia University study shows that when just 3.5% of a population engages in sustained activism, it can create a turning point for the entire nation. Show this video to your family to help spread this message!
5. Engage online.
If you won’t be seeing loved ones for the holiday, or if in-person discussion just isn’t your thing, there are still plenty of ways to get conversations rolling. Posting to social media is a start, and any of the advice above can apply online as well as in person.
Not sure what to post? Share our new video featuring retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni.
6. Encourage involvement.
No matter where you land on the political spectrum, you deserve the right to have your voice heard. A great way to keep your conversation positive is to empower your loved one and remind them how much each person matters in a democracy.
Not only is it our civic duty to vote in every election and put pressure on members of Congress, but it also has a huge impact on policy making. If you notice that your friend or family member seems particularly disheartened by politics, emphasize the importance of every individual in a democracy.
If they’re on board with fixing our broken political system, here are some things they can do:
- Watch and share a message about democracy from General Zinni, former Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command
- Tell Your Legislator: Ban Congressional Stock Trading
- Write a letter to the editor to educate your community about election threats.
- Call your state legislators in support of policies to protect elections.
- Join the RepresentUs Common Wealth by starting a monthly gift today to support the people on the front lines of this movement month after month .
- Join the RepresentUs pro-democracy community on slack to plug in to the latest opportunities to take action.
- Prefer texts? Text “join” to 35565 to sign up for movement alerts.
Now it’s up to you!
Whether your friends and family are politically active or not, discussing anti-corruption on the Fourth of July just makes sense. Celebrating democracy means working hard to protect it.
There are so many ways to get involved in the movement, and by reading this, you’re now ready to educate your community about those many opportunities!
Sign up to stay updated and become part of the pro-democracy movement!
Contributor: Nolan Bush, RepresentUs Writer