The Governing Crisis: Exploring Solutions

Government dysfunction, in every dimension, has created a system that has failed to find pragmatic solutions or respond to fundamental public needs. Our broken politics now stands as a principal obstacle to economic progress. Further environmental and social challenges loom. To meet them, no task is more urgent than to fix broken government, restore trust, and rebuild the promise of American democracy.  

In February 2014, the Brennan Center convened a conference to address the problems of dysfunction and polarization. The content below explores the issues raised during this event.

A summary of the seven panel discussions addressed during the two-day conference with follow up questions for future study and research. 

Government dysfunction is a problem that is shared across the ideological spectrum. It’s important to realize that, because whether you want government to do more, less, nothing, or something different, you can’t get anything done.

America has become known as the land of opportunity. We need to make sure that it truly is. Our work, and yours, to strengthen voting rights, modernize voting practices, and decrease the impact of campaign finance and lobbying money on the political system goes to the heart of this issue.

The recent govern-ment shutdown was a case study in several dimensions of dysfunction, including the divide between the parties and the pull toward the extremes. Joe Goldman, Jamelle Bouie, Thomas B. Edsall, Norm Ornstein, and Neera Tanden discuss.

How do big donors and the flood of outside money drive polarization? How does the threat of independent spending affect legislative behavior? Mark Schmitt, Michael J. Malbin, Heather C. McGhee, and Ciara Torres-Spelliscy discuss.

After long lines marred the 2012 election, President Barack Obama appointed the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration to improve the voting experience of all Americans. Co-chaired by Robert Bauer and Benjamin Ginsberg, the top lawyers for the Obama and Romney campaigns, the Commission reached broad agreement on reforms to modernize registration, shorten lines, and expand early voting.

Are we as divided as our government? In our long rambunctious history, was it always this way? Nicole Austin-Hillery, Brooke Gladstone, Reihan Salam, Dianne Stewart, and Sean Wilentz discuss.

What are the opportunities for bi-partisan, results -oriented coalition building against government dysfunction? Michael Waldman, David Frum, Trey Grayson, Elaine Kamarck, Richard Kirsch, and Deepak Bhargava.