OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — Joshua Graham Lynn, co-founder of RepresentUs, a non-profit organisation that works to fight political corruption, has no interest in talking about how Donald Trump got elected. He wants to change the landscape that allowed President Trump’s victory to happen. “US politics, I think we all agree, is a mess right now," said Graham Lynn, speaking at VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers hosted in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate. "You’re right or you’re wrong and there’s no in-between.”
He said 40 years of stagnant wages and the 2008 financial crisis contributed to today's polarisation. But the main problem is that lawmakers are not responsive to public opinion. As long as that's the case, they'll have little reason to moderate extreme views or seek out compromise.
Graham Lynn said legislation has roughly the same chance of passing in Congress whether it has little public support, or near-universal support. Because campaigning for office is so expensive, politicians are more beholden to the tiny fraction of their constituents who are big donors.
“Politicians spend up to 70 percent of time raising funds for re-election,” he said. “Lobbyists write our laws... it’s kind of a sad state of affairs.”
Represent Us, an organisation comprised of conservatives and progressives who want to “unrig the system” and fight corruption, is advocating for the American Anti-Corruption Act, a policy seeking to make it illegal to purchase political influence.
Politicians spend up to 70 percent of time raising funds for re-election. Lobbyists write our laws... it’s kind of a sad state of affairs.
The organisation is targeting cities and states, Graham Lynn said. Federal legislation would have a bigger impact, but he said Congress is unlikely to take it up because the system that "got them into power is the one we're asking them to fix."
He cited women voting, interracial marriage and marriage equality as examples of change bubbling up from the local to the national level.
So far, RepresentUs has seen more than 100 state and local victories across the US, including five states that passed anti-corruption acts and resolutions ranging from automatic voter registration to ethics and transparency laws.
On November 6, North Dakota approved Measure 1, the Anti-Corruption Amendment that increases transparency, bans foreign money from elections and restricts lobbyist gifts. Michigan passed an anti-gerrymandering amendment as well a series of voter access reforms.
“As much as the technical act of passing the laws is important… so much is about the belief that we own our government and that we can make a change and actually do something about it,” Graham Lynn said.
To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, visit our VOICES website, where you can find all the details on our invitation-only global gathering, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate.