In the News
December 21, 2023

American democracy is cracking. These ideas could help repair it.

Dan Balz
Washington Post

The problems with the U.S. political system can, at times, feel overwhelming and intractable. But solutions can become reality when ordinary citizens engage.

On the morning of Nov. 10, 2016, Katie Fahey posted a short message on her Facebook page. It read: “I’d like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan, if you’re interested in doing this as well, please let me know.” She ended it with a smiley face emoji.

Fahey was then 27 years old, with little experience in politics. Her message was born of general frustration that the system wasn’t working for most people, including her. She thought that gerrymandering — the manipulation of legislative and congressional districts for political gain — was a major contributor to the problem of lack of representation.

Fahey wasn’t by any stretch a social media influencer, but by lunchtime, she realized she had struck a nerve. Many people “liked” the posting, others responded with comments, still others sent her personal messages asking how to help. To that question, she had no answer. “Oh, crap,” she thought to herself. And then she Googled, “How do you end gerrymandering?”

Today, because of the grass-roots campaign that Fahey launched, Michigan’s district lines are drawn by an independent commission of citizens.

As an example of the power of an individual to change the system, the movement started by Fahey’s Facebook post stands out at a time when so many Americans distrust politicians and political institutions, feel their voices are not heard and are angry at one another.

This series of Washington Post stories has sought to highlight the imperfections of America’s union — including the architecture created by the founders that in a modern, polarized, two-party system often gives more power to a minority of citizens than to the majority, or that leaves particular groups of people underrepresented.

View full story: Washington Post



Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship

Danielle Allen, Stephen B. Heintz, and Eric P. Liu