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The Great American Duty | Three Things Thursday

Honoring Rep. John Lewis, transforming our political system with Ezra Klein, and all eyes of Virginia gerrymandering for this week's three things.

Brett Maney
Sr. Communications Manager
July 23, 2020

It’s easy to think about our political system as stagnant. If it’s worked for the first 244 years, it will work for the next 244. 

But it won’t. And it hasn’t. 

This isn’t an argument between originalists and living constitutionalists; the systems around how elections are run aren’t outlined in the constitution. Instead, it’s left to the states to decide how to run their elections. 

States ultimately determine the mechanisms that elect our leaders. After all, states ratified the 17th Amendment to allow the people, not state legislatures, to elect US Senators; states decided for themselves how the people would be represented and how they would have their voices heard. 

Collectively, we refine our political system to ensure that it continues to function and to be a government of, by, and for the people. It’s our duty as Americans to ensure that our nation embodies the values of the constitution. 

This week’s three things honors that idea. 

  1. We lost a giant last week. 

Representative John Lewis, a Civil Rights icon and fearless voting advocate and warrior, passed away at the age of 80. 

Much has been written about Representative Lewis and his penchant for “good trouble.” He famously marched on Bloody Sunday, and was the only speaker at the March on Washington to see President Obama elected. He helped America take its first steps towards actual equality, actual freedom, and actual justice. 

He helped shape America into the actual promise of our Founding Fathers; a nation in which all men are created equal.  

Here’s to Representative John Lewis, a Founder of our nation.

  1. A revolutionary podcast

A few weeks ago, you might remember reading about the American Academy of Arts and Sciences groundbreaking commission on “Our Common Purpose,” and their subsequent report that breaks down how we can revitalize American democracy for the 21st century. This week, we invite you to hear straight from one of the co-chairs of the project herself, Danielle Allen, who sat down with Vox’s Ezra Klein to discuss the commission, her book on the Declaration of Independence, and how we can heal and transform our political system. 

In line with both the ideas outlined in the Declaration of Independence as well as within the findings of the commission, Allen speaks to the need for Americans and our elected officials to be actively engaged in conversations around, and about, maintaining our system of free governance. Both parties, it seems, are willing to engage on the idea when they’re in the minority, but never when they’re in the majority. 

Instead of simple policy victories, Americans have to be focused on our institutions and our political system. Allen says, “The thing that’s more important than victory is the ongoing viability, sustainability of institutions for self governance, for free and equal citizens to make decisions together.

  1. We should all be watching Virginia

Gerrymandering is a scourge on our democracy; it allows politicians to divvy up the voting population, diluting the voting power of some to amplify the power of others, all so that they can ensure their party is in the majority. When self-interested politicians are left to draw their own district maps, gerrymandering is to be expected. It’s why we support independent redistricting commissions. 

With the census upon us — and redistricting along with it — many states have the opportunity to draw fair maps for their voters. Others may have the chance — if voters and politicians decide to do what’s best. Virginia is one such state; a constitutional amendment to establish a bipartisan redistricting commission passed its first tests in the legislature. Now, the decision goes to the voters who get to decide who is drawing their maps. 

We’re proud to support Fair Maps Virginia in their effort. Check out an opinion piece this week by campaign co-chairs, Democrat Bobby Vassar and former state legislator, Republican Wyatt Durette.