From 2019-2019, R Street’s American Institutions Network (AIN) focused on the protection of democratic norms and American institutions by fostering discussions, partnerships and action. A collaborative discussion group, AIN aimed to shift today’s policy discussions away from politically-charged headlines to focus on the underlying institutional and cultural shifts that are threatening America’s form of government. Our points of focus were:

Congress as the First Branch: Congress must provide a real check of power to the executive branch and assert its place as the “first branch”, ensuring that the executive operates within legal, ethical and statutory bounds. Congress must retain its ability to legislate through normal, established, and traditional legislative procedure and channels.

Professional, Honest Government Institutions: Government agencies must not be used to monitor, attack, or punish political opponents. Regulatory structures must be appropriate, unilateral, and long-term. Information that is being used to inform decision making must be reliable and accurate. Information provided by government officials should be honest and grounded in empirical fact.

An Independent Judiciary: America’s judicial branch must be respected as apolitical, including, but not limited to, rejecting outcome-based views of justice and politicization.

A Free Press: The press must be identified and seen as a viable check on political power rather than a political propaganda tool itself. It must be re-established as an institution of our republic.

Civil, Loyal Opposition: Political dialogue and debate are essential to America’s form of government. As such, mutual tolerance, the understanding that competing parties accept one another as legitimate, should be consistently practiced. Information that is released to the public and used in public discourse by our political leaders must be trusted as true and accurate. Additionally, forbearance, or the idea that election-winners exercise respectful and appropriate restraint when wielding power rather than treating politics as winner-take-all, is necessary for the continuation of national stability.