Getting from Here to
There in Miniature
Making the Democracy Index a Reality
Most of this book has been devoted to explaining why the Democracy Index should help us get from “here to there” in reforming our election system, changing the terrain on which reform battles are fought. Here I'll talk about getting from here to there in miniature—how to make the Democracy Index a reality. As with any other reform proposal, we cannot just add water and hope a Democracy Index will spring up. Even a modest reform like this one will take work to bring it to life. In this chapter, I'll discuss movement thus far, analyze the key challenges involved in assembling a Democracy Index, and lay out the steps we should take. The first half of the chapter is devoted to what are largely political questions (smoothing the way for data collection, creating an Index that will succeed in this political environment); the second half addresses the methodological challenges (creative strategies for getting the numbers we need, suggested metrics).
At the time of this writing, developments on the Democracy Index suggest grounds for genuine optimism. I first proposed creating a Democracy Index in the Legal Times in early 2002. Within two months, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each put the idea into proposed legislation. Within the year, Congress set aside $10 million to fund the efforts of five states to improve their data-collection processes. During the same period, foundations and think tanks have organized several meetings to discuss the proposal. The idea has attracted keen interest from several foundations, including the Pew Trusts' Center on the States, which has played