Chris Gates: Catalyzing state-based political reform across the country

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(Photo Credit: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr)

We live in a political moment when the emotions of frustration and anger dominate the political debate on both sides of the aisle, and when voters in both parties regularly voice their distaste for politics as usual. In a highly polarized political atmosphere, it is this collectively shared frustration with the political process that seems to provide a rare opportunity for bipartisan action.

As California has become the epicenter for political reforms that appear to be reducing partisan gridlock, enabling bipartisan policy compromises and encouraging leaders to think long term, CA Fwd plans to catalyze a national and explicitly bipartisan conversation to better understand and communicate these reforms, build networks that connect actors who are working on interconnected issues, reinforce the momentum with additional reforms, and build a public case for reforms should they be attacked by opponents.

CA Fwd will engage state-based and city-based reform-minded leaders, Democrats, Republicans and independents alike, to develop a better understanding of promising reforms and political strategies, and identify ways that shared knowledge and collective action can improve overall impact.

The overarching purpose of this effort is to energize and inform the cause of political reform in the United States. The partisan gridlock that is strangling Washington has made it impossible to imagine any progress at the national level in the near to medium term. This means that it is up to states and municipalities to be the modern “laboratories of democracy” and they are clearly stepping up and embracing this role all across the country. States and cities are all experimenting with new approaches to voter registration, campaign contribution disclosure, the act of voting itself, the process of redistricting, how primaries are run and much more.

We will both document the wide experimentation that is happening and connect those working on different issues in different locations. There is no table around which all of these players currently sit and we believe that there is value in creating a shared space where reform activists can meet and learn from each other, and contemplate joint and shared efforts. And we believe that it is important, as the founder of Common Cause John Gardner would say, for some of us to worry about what is best for our democracy no matter who is in charge.

Stay tuned for more news as this process moves forward!

Chris Gates is Senior Fellow at California Forward.


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