Fairvote, a leading proponent of ranked choice voting, has been running a series of events to celebrate its 25th anniversary. It all culminates in the Champions of Democracy Awards Reception, in New York on Monday night.
I think it’s appropriate to send congratulations to Krist Novoselic, who’s been serving as Fairvote’s Chair for nearly a decade.
By taking on such a prominent role in such a venerable organization, he’s become a key figure in the effort to build a 21st century American democracy worthy of the name. From what I’ve learned about his career, it’s a position that fits his longstanding commitments to free speech, civic education, constitutional government, and open collaboration.
Fairvote’s stated mission is to be a trailblazer for bold, nonpartisan election reform. The community attracts people who want to fix our broken democracy. And it empowers people throughout the United States who are dedicated to making repairs that endure.
The organization began to take shape in 1992 using the name Citizens for Proportional Representation. It later rebranded itself as the Center for Voting and Democracy and ultimately as Fairvote. The banner evolved to illuminate the goal.
A quarter century of persistence on behalf of any noble mission is impressive, but achieving fundamental election reform isn’t around the corner. Twenty-five years of accumulated experience means recognizing there will be thirty, forty, fifty and more. And the stakes are higher than ever.
Twenty-five years ago, when FairVote took root, the United States dominated the geopolitical stage. President George H.W. Bush believed he was forging a New World Order that would put the “rule of law” (American-flavored, of course) over the “law of the jungle.” That same year, Krist Novoselic was playing on stages all across the planet. He was in a band that upended the existing musical order by putting honesty, empathy and inclusive morality over superficial and exploitive commercialism.
In 2017 it’s obvious that the superpower hasn’t aged as well as the rock star.
These days it’s not uncommon to hear that this nation’s preeminence has faded, along with respect for the values that once made American culture so vital. We now find ourselves in a world where dictatorships and illiberalism and vicious ethno-nationalism are on the rise. More ominously, we find ourselves in a country led by people who are happy to shrug off those trends, and even welcome them.
That’s why it’s so important to celebrate people who dare to be Champions of Democracy. When we’re thirsty for positive signs, they remind us to look for democracy’s wellsprings in traditional American principles such as free association, fair elections, and responsible self-governance. Those champions point the way with durability and resolution, and demonstrate how to be effective stewards in practice.
We deserve a modern electoral system. Reform is badly overdue. It’s necessary to admit just how badly things are broken in order to appreciate the size of the challenge. But by facing it we can also appreciate the redemptive capacity of America. Because every step toward democracy ever taken in America was badly overdue.
The glory of our history is that so many people keep daring to take those steps. The virtue of groups like FairVote, and activists like Krist Novoselic, is that their footprints are so fresh.