|By Joshua Graham Lynn
RepresentUs CEO & Co-Founder
March 23, 2023
I was honored to write a foreword for Eli Merritt’s new book How to Save Democracy. The book features more than 400 inspiring quotes delivered by leaders of the world’s democracies at the first Summit for Democracy in 2021. As the United States and President Joe Biden prepare to co-host the second Summit for Democracy March 29 and 30, this book couldn’t have come at a better time for the anti-corruption, pro-democracy movement.
Foreword to How to Save Democracy
How to Save Democracy effortlessly captures the historic moment we find ourselves in today. With the rise of corruption, misinformation, and authoritarianism around the world, it serves as a necessary wake-up call that we can’t take freedom for granted. The book also charts an inspiring pathway forward. Reading the words of leaders from all four hemispheres, you’ll find hope that if we unite across political differences, we can move past this perilous moment. We can continue this beautiful yet imperfect American experiment that has given so much to so many, and we can continue to stand as a beacon of freedom to people everywhere.
As the leader of RepresentUs, a fiercely nonpartisan organization dedicated to eradicating the corruption corroding American democracy, I was immediately drawn to this book. At its core, our work is about making sure the American people not only have a voice in our government but the loudest voice. We strive to build an America where our government is truly responsive and accountable to the people. Since the founding of RepresentUs ten years ago, we’ve seen warning signs that our democracy is backsliding, yet also tremendous potential for progress.
Like many democracies, the United States is experiencing a crisis of confidence in government fueled by corruption. Our broken campaign finance and ethics laws mean that politicians spend more time fundraising for themselves and their political party than they do working for the people they’re elected to serve. With partisan gerrymandering, politicians and parties effectively rig their own elections and ensure they hold on to power. And even though nearly half of Americans are not registered with either major party and want better choices, we’re often stuck with a binary vote between two candidates in a game of selecting the “lesser of two evils.”
The result? According to a Princeton University study, it all adds up to the average American having “near-zero impact on public policy.” No wonder Americans across the political spectrum, voters and nonvoters alike, feel powerless. We desperately need to change things.
And we can. Throughout American history, issues facing seemingly insurmountable odds have clenched victory from the jaws of defeat by following a disciplined, strategic approach. For us and our movement, this approach includes:
- Putting country over party. We know voters across the political spectrum want to eliminate corruption and want politicians to be accountable to the people, not special interests. We garner that broad support to break down political barriers, unite unlikely allies, and galvanize a truly cross-partisan movement to make lasting change.
- Building a movement that reaches beyond politics and helps reshape culture. By uniting artists; academics; community, faith, and political leaders; businesses; and more, we create and foster a collective voice calling for change. We empower this movement with a sophisticated political strategy, world-class media and communications, and find and elevate natural leaders.
- Winning transformative new laws in the states to build momentum to national victory. From marriage equality to Prohibition, women’s suffrage to interracial marriage, our history is filled with examples of winning movements that leveraged state-based reforms to build power and set the bar for change. Like each of these movements, we’re not only building momentum; we’re creating tangible change. We’re cleaning up state governments and rebuilding the people’s power with every victory.
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Over the last decade, RepresentUs and the anti-corruption movement have secured more than 170 local and state wins that give political power back to the voters. Each win shows that progress is possible and ushers in real change. When Alaska adopted nonpartisan primaries and Ranked Choice Voting, the 50 percent of registered independents in Alaska got to participate in primaries for the first time in thirty years—and the people of Alaska got better choices on the very next ballot. When Colorado implemented independent redistricting commissions, the entire face of state government changed, and with it the state itself. This is the power of what we can do when we dedicate ourselves to fighting corruption and protecting and strengthening our democracy.
The Summit for Democracy and the many quotations from world leaders in How to Save Democracy give me a tremendous sense of hope. Their inspiring words serve as important reminders that as imperfect as democracy is, it’s our best chance to make progress, promote freedom, and continue advancing human rights around the world. And while democracies vary, they all strive to give ultimate power to the people—where it belongs.
At the end of the day, How to Save Democracy makes one thing clear: Despite the relentless attacks, and despite all its vulnerabilities, democracy is the best leadership structure that humanity knows. The leaders at the summit affirmed their commitment to democracy. The question is: Will we, the people, support them in protecting and strengthening it—and make sure always to hold them accountable? For the sake of future generations, I hope we will.