The United States wasn't built as a democracy. The Senate doesn't represent people. Both sides hate gerrymandering and the courts refuse to fix it. Our right to be heard is defeated by voter suppression and an Electoral College system that concentrates power in a handful of states and too often reverses the popular vote. But within our flawed system, we have the tools to tackle our most stubborn election problems by flexing state and local power (no constitutional amendments or courts required).
This should be the last American election that works against the people. Kristin Eberhard, Director of Democracy at Sightline Institute, thoughtfully researched how the U.S. election system is unjust to many by design, and walks us through 10 big but practical ideas for making our elections free, fair, and secure. Now is the time:
- More than half of Americans live in just nine states. That means less than half the population controls 82 percent of the Senate. It doesn't have to be that way. We can hope the Senate eliminates the filibuster. But while we're holding our breath, what if we went further and remade the Senate to represent people?
- Voter suppression justified by trumped up fears of double voting and dead voters – why? There's already a simple, proven solution working in 30 states to keep voter lists secure and accurate.
- Feel stuck with the Electoral College reversing the popular vote? That isn't even in the Constitution! There is a path for states to ensure the candidate with the most votes wins (and we're already on it).
- We could defeat gerrymandering and create a multi-party system where voters have more options, lawmakers get more work done, and extremists are relegated to the fringe, unable to take over a major party.
A field guide to better elections for both sides of the aisle, Becoming a Democracy illuminates the meaningful, concrete actions that can transform our elections and make sure everyone's vote counts (and that they get to vote in the first place).
Author Kristin Eberhard is a researcher, writer, speaker, lawyer and policy analyst. She is known as a leading expert on electoral reform in the Pacific Northwest, and is considered an authority on proportional representation as well as carbon pricing. She will join us for the first half hour of our program to discuss the book and answer your questions.
Publication Date: January 11th, 2021
We are excited to welcome bestselling author, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter and Emmy award-winning producer and correspondent Hedrick Smith to our book club for a discussion of his book Who Stole The American Dream?
In his bestselling The Russians, Smith took millions of readers inside the Soviet Union. In The Power Game, he took us inside Washington’s corridors of power. Now Smith takes us across America to show how seismic changes, sparked by a sequence of landmark political and economic decisions, have transformed America. As only a veteran reporter can, Smith fits the puzzle together, starting with Lewis Powell’s provocative memo that triggered a political rebellion that dramatically altered the landscape of power from then until today.
This is a book full of surprises and revelations—the accidental beginnings of the 401(k) plan, with disastrous economic consequences for many; the major policy changes that began under Jimmy Carter; how the New Economy disrupted America’s engine of shared prosperity, the “virtuous circle” of growth, and how America lost the title of “Land of Opportunity.” Smith documents the transfer of $6 trillion in middle-class wealth from homeowners to banks even before the housing boom went bust, and how the U.S. policy tilt favoring the rich is stunting America’s economic growth.
This book is essential reading for all of us who want to understand America today, or why average Americans are struggling to keep afloat. Smith reveals how pivotal laws and policies were altered while the public wasn’t looking, how Congress often ignores public opinion, why moderate politicians got shoved to the sidelines, and how Wall Street often wins politically by hiring over 1,400 former government officials as lobbyists.
Smith talks to a wide range of people, telling the stories of Americans high and low. From political leaders such as Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to CEOs such as Al Dunlap, Bob Galvin, and Andy Grove, to heartland Middle Americans such as airline mechanic Pat O’Neill, software systems manager Kristine Serrano, small businessman John Terboss, and subcontractor Eliseo Guardado, Smith puts a human face on how middle-class America and the American Dream have been undermined.
This magnificent work of history and reportage is filled with the penetrating insights, provocative discoveries, and the great empathy of a master journalist. Finally, Smith offers ideas for restoring America’s great promise and reclaiming the American Dream.
Hedrick will join us for the first half hour of the meeting to discuss the book and answer your questions.
Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
Publication Date: August 27th, 2013
The selected title for our second Open Democracy Book Club will be One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson.
From the award-winning, NYT bestselling author of White Rage, the startling--and timely--history of voter suppression in America, with a foreword by Senator Dick Durbin, now with a new afterword by the author.
In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.
Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. In a powerful new afterword, she examines the repercussions of the 2018 midterm elections. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans.
About the Author
Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University. She is the author of One Person, No Vote, longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award; White Rage, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; Bourgeois Radicals; and Eyes off the Prize. She was named a Guggenheim Fellow for Constitutional Studies and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: September 17th, 2019