“Today we are here to defend democracy.” So declared Nancy Pelosi last week as she opened the House debate on impeaching Donald Trump. The proceedings have encompassed many subjects: the president inviting foreign interference in our elections; his stonewalling of Congress; his threat to refuse aid to a fledgling ally fighting Russia if it didn’t help him win an election. The list goes on. But at the end of the day, impeachment is, as Pelosi remarked, about protecting a free and open political system. It is a tool for protecting American democracy.
It’s not clear to what extent this tool will succeed. Barring something truly extraordinary, Trump will be acquitted in a Senate trial (if he is tried at all). Public opinion on impeachment has, more or less, hewed relatively closely to the president’s approval ratings. The main outcome of this process—other than putting Republican senators up for reelection in purple states in a lose-lose situation—may simply be hardened partisan battle lines.
That means it’s increasingly important we deploy other mechanisms that can safeguard our system of democratic government. At the Washington Monthly, one of our main projects is identifying and evaluating these tools. In the last year, my colleagues and I have written about the importance of letting Americans vote from home; identified new constituencies that, once activated, can help defeat illiberal candidates and make government work for more people; and chronicled how one Texas university managed to dramatically increase its turnout rate even as the state made it more difficult for students to cast ballots.
Elections and Congress aren’t the only instruments needed in these trying times. We need a vibrant and independent press. Unfortunately, the last year has not been kind to news organizations. Pacific Standard, one of the country’s best magazines, shuttered in August after its donations and revenue dried up. So did Governing. It is increasingly difficult for outlets that provide new information and outside-the-box insights to stay alive.
But there’s something you can do to help. If you value our work, please make a donation during this month’s fundraising drive. Better yet, do it now. Thanks to a generous grant from NewsMatch, a national organization dedicated to helping sustain nonprofit journalism, your tax-deductible donation will be matched, dollar for dollar, for a limited time only.
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