In their new book “Democracy in America?” political science professors Benjamin Page (of Northwestern) and Martin Gilens (of Princeton) survey the national landscape and the picture – as anyone who has read a newspaper lately knows – is not a cheery one. Stagnant wages, high healthcare costs, neglected schools, and deteriorating public services are some of the disheartening specifics they catalogue.
After laying out the causes (polarization, income inequality, the political clout of the rich), the authors use their book's third act to offer a prescription for change. Their solutions emphasize building a social movement for democracy and encouraging electoral reforms that overcome partisan gridlock and provide an equal voice for all citizens.
Central to the effort are many of the reforms FairVote has long advocated, including ranked choice voting, proportional representation, multi-member districts. In fact, without actually mentioning the bill by name, much of the crucial changes Page and Gilens endorse are included in The Fair Representation Act (H.R. 3057), a multi-pronged approach at making elections more open to more voices and more fair representation in Congress from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).
Perhaps the most interesting takeaway from the book is how ranked choice voting, et al, is truly becoming part of the national political discussion. It’s encouraging to see Page and Gilens joining Thomas Friedman, Norm Ornstein, E.J. Dionne, Thomas Mann and others, who believe the best way to fix our broken democracy is with more democracy.