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I want to talk about what ought to be the central question in election reform, but isn’t: how to get change passed in this country. That’s a tendentious claim given that lots of people devote lots of time to making our election system better. The problem is that they are fighting this battle on hostile terrain, and almost no one is thinking about how to change the terrain itself. We have spent too much time identifying the journey’s end and not enough time figuring out how to smooth the road that leads there.
We have a “here to there” problem in election reform. We spend a great deal of time thinking about what’s wrong with our election system (the “here”) and how to fix it (the “there”). But we spend almost no time thinking about how to get from here to there -- how to create an environment in which reform can actually take root. Reform advocates, of course, work tirelessly to help specific projects blossom. But they lack the time and resources to think about the “here to there” problem writ large.
Rather than continuing to fight the same fight in the vague hope that something will eventually take, we should take a step back and figure out how to create an environment that is more receptive to change generally. It is time to think less about the end game and more about the interim strategies and institutional tweaks that will help us get from here to there.
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