The Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, put together by the Academy of Arts & Sciences, released the results of its two-year project to find ways to “respond to the weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our political and civic life and to enable more Americans to participate as effective citizens in a diverse 21st-century democracy.” After 50 listening sessions around the country, the commission — made up of academics, media figures, business leaders and philanthropists from a wide ideological spectrum — came up with 31 recommendations.
The recommendations fit into six broad strategies (e.g., “achieve equality of voice and representation,” “ensure the responsiveness of our political institutions”) that incorporate many of the good ideas circulating for years. This includes ranked choice voting, expanding the size of the House of Representatives, instituting independent redistricting commissions, making voting easier (e.g., expand early voting and vote by mail), restoring voting rights to ex-felons who have paid their debt to society, enhancing civic education and expanding national service.
Others are new and intriguing, such as subsidizing and supporting the creation of a “civic one million” — a group of people who can “lead the community organizations that are vital avenues for the practice of democratic citizenship. They are the catalysts of bottom-up change and renewal. By supporting them, we support the communities they serve.” Likewise, the commission seeks to persuade foundations and other philanthropic groups to reallocate their funding. “Currently, philanthropic foundations spend only 1.5 percent of their collective grantmaking dollars on efforts to improve and reform democracy, and they allocate only a sliver of that meager slice of their money to supporting civic leaders. Foundations can and must do better to foster the civic one million and ensure that it is a cohort that captures the full breadth of American social diversity.” . . .