Take ownership of political system

More Americans than ever are frustrated with the lack of civility, crippling partisanship and dysfunctional gridlock that is preventing our country from solving our serious problems.

The U.S. Constitution prescribes the organization of our government. Yet despite its magnificence, the Constitution does not fully address the particulars of how the citizenry is to utilize that marvelous blueprint for a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

How can “We the People” make a difference?

The answer is that we, as citizens, must get involved in changing how government works. And with the phenomenal growth of the Internet and social media, millions of Americans are doing just that by forming powerful alliances that can truly make a difference.

There is a rising tide of ordinary Americans — conservatives, liberals and independents, centrists and moderates, educated and working-class — who are looking for something different. They are bridging the divides in our political system, and they are demanding that our leaders work together to solve the great challenges facing our nation.

A group called No Labels, which is dedicated to a new politics of problem-solving, has organized a congressional caucus of Democrats and Republicans who meet regularly to put partisan politics aside and co-sponsor bipartisan legislation.

An organization called Village Square hosts regular town hall meetings that bring people together to talk, become more informed about important issues and even build friendships across political divides.

The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation is a network of thousands of innovators uniting people to talk about today’s toughest challenges, providing gathering places, a resource clearinghouse and trained facilitators for community deliberations.

Yet the encouraging growth of these citizen groups dedicated to deliberation and problem-solving is not enough. We also need broader political reforms, including:

• Changing the primary system so that independent voters are not excluded from the electoral process.

• Addressing the pervasive problem of money in politics with meaningful campaign finance reform.

• Modifying the gerrymandering process that establishes a political advantage for particular parties.

• Changing the rules of Congress that discourage open dialogue and collaboration.

The work of citizens from across the country to change the political process has just begun, and the task will not be easy.

Many of my friends and associates say the system can never change. I say that our founders may have been idealists, but our Constitution has endured for more than 200 years.

We can and must build upon the framework of the founders to restore civil discourse and critical thinking to our governmental processes.