A new report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship offers strategies and recommendations designed to help the country emerge from this current moment with a more resilient democracy.
Based on nearly fifty listening sessions held over the last two years, the report, Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century (HTML or PDF, 84 pages), outlines six strategies for "the essential reinvention of American constitutional democracy": achieve equality of voice and representation, empower voters, ensure the responsiveness of political institutions, dramatically expand civic bridging capacity, build civic information architecture that supports common purpose, and inspire a culture of commitment to American constitutional democracy and each other.
Funded in part by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, and Alan and Lauren Dachs, the report offers action steps for each strategy, including substantially enlarging the House of Representatives to make it and the Electoral College more representative of the nation's increasingly diverse population; limiting Supreme Court justices' terms to eighteen years, with appointments staggered so that only one nomination comes up during any given term of Congress; establishing same-day registration and universal automatic voter registration as well as restoring voting rights to those with felony convictions upon their release from prison; expanding opportunities for participatory decision-making, budgeting, and other policy-making processes at the municipal and state levels; creating a National Trust for Civic Infrastructure to provide private enterprise and philanthropic seed funding to scale social, civic, and democratic infrastructure; establishing a public-interest mandate for for-profit social media platforms; and establishing an expectation of a year of national service for young people and increasing funding for paid service opportunities.
"We have worked for two years across divides, across disciplines, and across the country," said AAAS president David Oxtoby. "These comprehensive reforms are necessary to make America more representative, more responsive, and more united."
"This is an ambitious plan because it has to be," said Danielle Allen, the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, who co-chaired the commission with RBF president and CEO Stephen Heintz and Citizen University co-founder and CEO Eric Liu. "The nation is suffering from a crisis of legitimacy that cannot be addressed by any single reform. Our political institutions, civil society, and political culture need interacting reforms and investment to launch a virtuous circle of empowerment and responsiveness. Our Common Purpose is designed to establish a stronger foundation for self-government as the best route to safety and opportunity for all Americans."