Reclaiming Our Democracy in the 118th Congress
January 6, 2023
One cause for hope is the Congressional Future Caucus, which unites young members across the aisle to forge policy solutions, “breaking the status-quo of hyper-partisanship and proving that America’s next generation leads differently.”
By Bridget Moix | January 6, 2023
Two years after a violent insurrection on the Capitol, Congress is again in disarray. The 118th legislative session convened this week amid historic confusion and division. The new House Republican majority—divided within its own ranks—failed repeatedly to elect a speaker, while Democrats urged their political rivals to deal with “their own mess.” Whenever this Congress does get its business underway, the prospects for collaborative problem-solving on the issues most Americans care about—the economy, climate change, safety for their communities—seem dim.
It’s no wonder many people want to give up on Congress. But giving up on our elected leaders, even those we do not like, would devastate our democracy. If we hope to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world in 2023 and beyond, then we need to reclaim our democracy and the promise it still holds for our country. We need to reassert that our government must be of the people, by the people, and for the people; that we expect our legislators to work together and remind them how to do it.
Building relationships with our elected officials and engaging them on our priorities, especially when we differ, helps our democracy to function. It is also vital to building peace and seeking justice for our communities, country, and world. Every lobby visit, letter, and conversation with our lawmakers, no matter the immediate outcome, is an opportunity to exercise our democracy and to build peace.
Policymaking in Washington still matters, and however messy it can be, it needs us.
We know from experience and research that abusive, fragile, or incompetent governance is often a root cause of violent conflict and civil strife. When government fails to represent and respond to the concerns of the public, and when the public is unable to hold officials accountable, extreme groups can more easily manipulate the system and gain power. An active, educated, engaged civil society that ensures people are connected to policymaking in meaningful ways is critical to building peace and strengthening democracy in societies around the world and here in our own country.
The threats to our democracy today are just as real as when white supremacists stormed the Capitol two years ago. The continuing dysfunction of Congress and the inability of our legislators to compromise within or across parties is a clear and persistent warning sign that our democracy and its promise of a peaceful country are in peril.
But that does not mean we lack hope in the new year or for this new Congress. One cause for hope is the Congressional Future Caucus, which unites young members across the aisle to forge policy solutions, “breaking the status-quo of hyper-partisanship and proving that America’s next generation leads differently.” We look forward to working with members of this caucus, and many others, to advance policy and peacebuilding in the 118th Congress.
Most people in our country want a functioning, representative, collaborative government that works to address the problems our world is facing. The foundational promise of our democracy—that each person should have a voice and government should serve the needs of the people—remains strong across our diverse and often divided country. Our union has always been imperfect and our work to improve it must continue.
The Jan. 6 insurrection shook our nation, but it also prompted calls to bridge our divisions, reject violence, address the root causes of injustice and extremism, and reclaim our democracy. We now have our most diverse Congress ever, and there is a growing recognition that advancing democracy, preventing violence, addressing injustice, and preserving our planet will require working together.
For 80 years, FCNL has helped inform and engage people around the country, connecting them with their members of Congress to move U.S. policy forward toward the world we seek. That has always meant working “uphill for peace,” in the words of FCNL’s first Executive Secretary E. Raymond Wilson. Whatever the challenges, as our second Executive Secretary Ed Snyder advised us, we’ll “keep on keeping on.” Giving up now just isn’t an option.
The only antidote to a failing government is the active engagement of its people. As the 118th Congress begins—no matter how it unfolds in the weeks and months ahead—I hope you’ll join us in reclaiming our democracy and continuing our work together to build the world we seek.
Join 1,800+ BIPARTISAN LEADERS NATIONWIDE
Be a part of a network of lawmakers committed to governing effectively, passing more representative public policy, and increasing public trust in democracy.