Friends of mine at Protect Democracy devoted a lot of thought to their new manifesto, Roadmap for Renewal: A Legislative Blueprint for Protecting Our Democracy, which went live July 4th. And while I don’t agree with every word of it, it strikes me as the most serious effort to put forth a coherent agenda for people claiming to stand for “democracy” against some disturbing trends emanating from both the left on the right. (Daniel Semelsberger and I have written about them here.)
The fundamental problem I’ve long seen with many groups claiming to stand for “democracy” is that they define everything they like as “democratic” and everything they dislike as “a threat.” This leads to a big part of the #resist crowd peddling absurd conspiracy theories, treating actions that would have been undertaken by any other Republican president as constitutional crises and sometimes just making stuff up. People on the Right, I should say, were probably worse during the Obama administration in comparing conventional expansions of the welfare state as threats to the economic order and believing that ordinary foreign policy moves were sinister plots.
This Roadmap document, whatever its flaws, doesn’t do any of that. It’s a series of worthy, well-considered suggestions that add up to a unified vision for protecting democratic institutions. Insofar as the Roadmap helps Congress stand up for itself and increase its own resources–which it does by explicitly endorsing R Street’s Kevin Kosar and Phil Wallach’s call for a Congressional regulation office–I’m enthusiastic. I also think we should protect independent investigations and retain a fearless, independent judiciary. The Roadmap tries to do these things and, again, I’m for it. Same with proposals to improve the security of elections and provide the public with clear, accurate information.
But let me be clear that I wouldn’t personally endorse the roadmap and that a fair number of issues it deals with are beyond R Street’s purview and my own expertise. In a few cases, I think the roadmap makes specific proposals that would move in the wrong direction. For example, I think it’s far too hard to fire civil servants now and, best as I can tell, the proposals in the platform would make it harder. Likewise, I’m not at all sure that I want any real government involvement with the media, even on media education. I’m also personally against almost all campaign finance laws that exist…much less new ones. And there are more places where I disagree. But even here, the Roadmap has worthy ideas that belong in the debate.
My own views, however, aren’t that important to the national debate. A reasonable group has finally put together a coherent, thoughtful agenda for the democracy movement in the United States. Protect Democracy has left a place for feedback on the form and genuinely wants it. So there’s plenty of room for debate. And that’s just what we need.
Image credit: sevenMaps7