I started working on Citizens Uniting almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court released its decision in Citizens United v. FEC in January of 2010. How a book so conceived came to take just over a decade to make its way into print is still rather a mystery to me, but now that it has safely eluded the reach of my restless red pen, it is finally going to appear in print. Details about Citizens Uniting can be found here.
Meanwhile, thanks for taking a look at the first in what will become a series of blog posts intended both to preview the book and to invite conversation about how some of its major themes might shed some light on the stream of events that will keep occurring after the publication of the book itself. Which is where you come in, if you are so inclined.
The book is just a book, and while of course I hope that some of those reading this post might decide to acquire a copy, the real point is what the title suggests: the possibility of citizens uniting to restore our democracy to a satisfactory — perhaps even thriving — state of health. The book obviously has something to say about that, but the real action is going to take place out here in real time, in what Thomas Jefferson so memorably called “the course of human events.”
Those events have kept coursing along throughout the book’s gestation, sometimes rather placidly, sometimes threateningly (as when the effects of Citizens United drenched our elections in unprecedented floods of money in the years following the decision), then seeming to turn our political world upside down with the surprising Electoral College victory of Donald Trump in 2016, and finally inundating the entire world and all our lives under the global pandemic of 2020.
Perhaps an unplanned benefit of taking so long to write the book was that, as history continued to unfold around and through it, I became steadily more determined to build into the book’s analysis a long-term perspective that might retain its relevance through the most tumultuous of times. The harder I looked at the worst of the diseases afflicting our body politic, the clearer it became that few of them had arisen overnight – indeed that most of them had been in full view before the election of 2016, and that the work of healing those wounds would have to continue far beyond the election of 2020.
You can judge for yourself how well the book meets that standard, but the real question is how well we are going to meet it as a democratic people. Of all the daunting challenges we now face as a self-governing people – the challenge of finally beginning to turn the corner on racial justice; the fearful challenges of an ongoing pandemic; the existential threat of climate change; the deepening disease of income disparity – these and other threats to our species’ well-being would test the capacity of the most vibrant of democracies, but in fact they confront us at a time when our self-governing institutions are themselves in desperate shape.
Healing our democracy must therefore become, at least for many of us, Job One. By its nature, restoring the vitality of our democracy is something that can only be done democratically, which means that no one of us, no single organization, no book, no website is going to provide anything like the answer. But we can each do what we can do, and above all, we can keep searching for the best of what we can do together. To that modest end, we have launched this Citizens Uniting website as one among many resources through which we can gather for the work we share. I hope you might take a few minutes to tour the site and send us any suggestions about how to make it a more effective instrument for restoring our democracy.