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Anti-corruption bill #HR1 can fix the US' broken democracy

Guest contributor



Recently, the House of Representatives passed the most significant democracy reform bill in generations: The For The People Act (HR 1). This omnibus bill tackles virtually all aspects of our broken democracy—from the corrosive influence of money in politics to out-of-control gerrymandering to widespread voter suppression—with practical, proven-to-work solutions such as public financing of elections, automatic and same-day voter registration, and independent redistricting commissions, writes Adam Eichen, the author of Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. He is also an Advisor to EqualCitizens.US.

True to form, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put a damper on the historic occasion by pledging to kill HR 1. His rationale was terrifying in a democracy: “Because I get to decide what we vote on,” he explained.

Advocates now face the task of pressuring McConnell to change his mind—an obviously herculean endeavor despite the senator’s early history as a campaign finance reform advocate. But such an effort is worthwhile no matter the outcome, especially if rank-and-file senators are forced to go on record about HR 1. As the New York Times notes, opposition to such a common-sense reform bill could very well have negative electoral consequences.

If major democracy reform is ever to become law in the near future, though, 2020 Democratic presidential candidates also have to join the fight.

This does not mean reciting platitudes about the rigged system. Our democracy is indeed broken, but the majority of Americans already know this depressing fact. Expounding on the problem without offering solutions will continue to drive Americans into democratic despair. Instead, those who have the bully pulpit—as presidential candidates increasingly do—should use their reach to educate Americans about democracy solutions. Doing so will shift the political landscape towards reform.

Luckily, fixing our democracy, as HR 1 proves, is not rocket science. There are policies—many of which have already worked on the state level—that could be implemented immediately to improve democratic representation. Public financing of elections, for example, has worked extremely well in Maine and Connecticut, and in cities such as New York City and Seattle. Same-day registration, too, has proven effective, greatly increasing voter turnout in states that have adopted it.

Spreading knowledge of solutions will break hopelessness and inspire action—something critically needed, for even if Democrats retake the Senate, HR 1 may remain a pipedream without overwhelming public pressure. The For The People Act is an overhaul of our electoral system, and politicians—even well-meaning ones—are often reticent to change the system from which they have benefited. It will thus take thousands more Americans to advocate for change before HR 1 is signed into law. Public education via presidential candidates is an effective way to build a new, active constituency for reform, and, as a useful side effect, pressure 2020 Senate candidates to support HR 1.

Importantly, presidential campaign educational efforts would also help state-level democracy reformers. Though largely invisible by most media accounts, thousands of Americans are working hard to implement aspects of HR 1 in statehouses across the country. These reformers have achieved major victories, but the biggest hindrance to expanding local and state movements, besides recalcitrant politicians, is little public awareness about the policies being discussed. If presidential candidates could popularize policies such as public financing of elections, benefits would trickle down to these critical fights. Emboldened statewide democracy movements would then intersect and bolster the national movement for reform in a positive feedback loop.

To be clear, candidates would gain from focusing on democracy, too. With democracy reform front and center, voters will have confidence in the sincerity of candidates’ promises, fostering more voter engagement and enthusiasm in the election and beyond. After all, a candidate’s commitment to democracy reform shows seriousness about enacting bold legislation. A climate change prevention plan, for instance, means little unless bolstered with a pledge to break the unfathomably outsized political influence of the polluter industry.

Pressure can and should be directed at Senator McConnell. Right now, he is undoubtedly the biggest single obstacle to comprehensive reform. But a well-rounded presidential platform that prioritizes democracy reform and its intersection with other issues will generate unprecedented momentum for democracy advocates and simultaneously appeal to voters in a crowded primary: a win-win for all.


PESCO: Canada, Norway and the United States will be invited to participate in the project Military Mobility

EU Reporter Correspondent



Following the requests of Canada, Norway and the United States of America to participate in the PESCO project Military Mobility, the Council adopted positive decisions authorizing the co-ordinator of this project – the Netherlands – to invite the three countries. Canada, Norway and the United States of America will be the first third states to be invited to participate in a PESCO project.

High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said: "Today, the Council approved the participation of the US, Canada and Norway in the Military Mobility PESCO project. Their expertise will contribute to the project and, with it, to improving military mobility within and beyond the EU. This is an area of shared priority and common interest in our transatlantic relations. It will make EU defence more efficient and contribute to strengthen our security."

The decisions by the Council confirm that the participation of Canada, Norway and the United States of America in the PESCO project Military Mobility meets the general conditions as established in Decision (CFSP) 2020/1639 of November 2020. Some of these conditions are political in nature; others are focused on the substantive contribution by the third state to the PESCO project, or prescribe certain legal requirements. The PESCO project Military Mobility is a strategic platform enabling the swift and seamless movement of military personnel and assets throughout the EU, whether by rail, road, air or sea.

This is important to EU security and defence, its preparedness and resilience, as well as to EU CSDP missions and operations. On 5 November 2020, the Council adopted decision (CFSP) 2020/1639 establishing the general conditions under which third states could exceptionally be invited to participate in individual PESCO projects.

EU defence cooperation: Council sets conditions for third-state participation in PESCO projects (press release 5 November 2020)
PESCO factsheet, EEASPESCO Military Mobility
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Major General King Assumes Command of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa

Defence Correspondent



Marines, sailors and civilians from US Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa (MARFOREUR/AF) took part in a socially distanced change of command ceremony today to mark the appointment of MARFOREUR/AF’s new commander, Major General Tracy W. King.

Maj. Gen. King received the headquarters’ organizational colors from the outgoing commander, Maj. Gen. Michael E. Langley, at a ceremony on Panzer Kaserne.

“I am humbled by the tremendous impact we’ve made in support of our allies and partners,” said Langley. “Regardless of the challenge, I have witnessed our marines consistently rise to the occasion and represent our command with distinction.”

King, who recently served as the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Director of Expeditionary Warfare, expressed his enthusiasm to join the team and spoke to the future of Marine Corps operations and training in Europe and Africa.

“The Commandant of the Marine Corps has clearly articulated a vision of how our service will confront the security challenges of the 21st century,” said King. “In close partnership with the Navy, we will work to implement that vision here, making us a more lethal and dynamic force, better able to support our allies and partners in this theater.”

For more information, contact the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe and Africa, Communication Strategy and Operations officer at [email protected].

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Le Pen 'is a disturbance to public order' - Goldschmidt

EU Reporter Correspondent



Commenting on the interview with the party leader of the French right-wing populist Rassemblement National (RN) Marine Le Pen (pictured) published in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), has issued the following statement: “It is not the headscarf that is a disturbance to public order, but Ms Le Pen. This is clearly the wrong signal to the Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities living in France. It expresses Ms Le Pen’s fear of foreigners. She is dividing society instead of uniting it, and in doing so, she is deliberately using the Jewish community, which according to her should refrain from wearing the kippah, as collateral damage in her fight against cultures.

“The supporters of the ban are convinced that they are fighting radical Islam. But how do they define radical Islam? I define radical Islam as Islamism that does not tolerate secular Muslims, Christians and Jews and the European society as a whole. This radical Islam can also walk around in jeans and with uncovered hair. It is this that is the real danger, as France has often so bitterly experienced. Instead of attacking political Islam and its supporters, a religious symbol is being attacked.

“Le Pen’s demand is nothing other than an attack on the fundamental and human right of religious freedom, which people in many places in Europe are now repeatedly trying to restrict. This is an alarming trend for all religious minorities.”

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