Strengthening Our Governing System in Service to the American People
In a time when the American public feels deeply divided and partisan politics undercut effective, representative government, our Governance program promotes the principled leadership and strong institutions our governing system needs to act in the interests of the American people in all of their diversity.
Of, By, and For the People
Representative government is a founding ideal of American democracy. And no other institution has greater responsibility to uphold this standard than the U.S. Congress. To fulfill their duty to the people, the House and Senate must effectively legislate on behalf of America in all of its diversity and serve as a meaningful check on the executive branch to preserve the balance of power.
Yet many American communities are not meaningfully reflected in the chambers of Congress. And in recent decades, declining public trust, diminished operational resources, and winner-take-all politics have led Congress to abdicate much of its power to the executive branch and to aggressive special interests. What’s more, extreme polarization has limited our ability to come together across differences and support shared values and priorities.
The Governance program works to strengthen Congress as a co-equal branch of government, our governing system as a vehicle for the will of the people, and our ability to work together to solve the greatest challenges we face as a nation.
Governance program strategies include efforts to strengthen congressional capacity to legislate and perform oversight, as well as measures to protect the rule of law and check executive power. They also include experiments to mitigate polarization, promote pluralism, and advance shared American priorities and values.
As the first branch of government described in the Constitution, the U.S. Congress bears the greatest responsibility to represent the will of the people in our democracy. But stymied by partisan gridlock and drained of resources, personnel, and expertise, Congress has abdicated power to other branches of government in recent decades and falls short of fulfilling its constitutional duties.See how we can empower Congress to serve Americans better
Heightened polarization shuts down dialogue across political ideologies, ethnicities, and faith communities — and many Americans don’t see themselves in the policies that shape our lives. The Constructive Politics strategy explores what unites us while helping governing institutions become more diverse, inclusive, and better able to serve all Americans.Find out what we have in common
The Constitution designed a system of checks and balances to protect against abuse or tyranny. However, decades of executive overreach, polarization, and lack of oversight have undermined this system, allowing some elected officials to put their own interests above the public’s. The special project on Government Accountability and Oversight pursues practical approaches to restoring the balance — and protecting the rule of law.See how democracy’s fundamentals need support
Through the course of our investigation, we realized that Congress is increasingly unable to function as a legislative body. It neither engages effectively with those it seeks to represent nor makes headway on substantive issues. Our system map, therefore, illustrates a system in a state of dysfunction, with growing dissatisfaction on the part of the public, waning trust in its ability perform, and — most significantly — large-scale disengagement from the system by the public.
Other Areas of Focus
Democracy Fund strengthens and defends democracy through three core programs and a number of term-limited special projects.
Voting is the single most significant way Americans exercise our political power. Every eligible citizen should have an equal opportunity to participate in elections that are free and fair, as well as efficient and secure. Implementing accessible and trustworthy elections is an immense undertaking, but the American election system is also challenged by persistent barriers to voting for historically excluded communities and beset by unprecedented new threats. Our Elections program works toward a strong and modern voting system that increases voter confidence and engagement.Learn more about this work
Just and Inclusive Society is a special project that brings diverse organizations and groups together to work for a common good, create safe and secure communities, decrease polarization, develop a sense of shared identity, and defend Constitutional norms under attack.Learn more about this work
No matter where they live or who they are, Americans should be able to get the news and information they need to engage in civic life and to use their voices without fear of being harassed or silenced. The rapidly evolving media landscape presents new challenges and opportunities for our communities. Our Public Square program responds by supporting trustworthy local news and investigative reporting, more equitable newsrooms, press freedom, community engagement, and digital spaces that advance democracy, not hate.Learn more about this work