It is hard to look at events of the past few years without concluding that democracy in America is in trouble. Surveys routinely find that most Americans think poorly of the federal government and, in particular, of Congress. Such frustration and mistrust do not bode well for our system of government.
Against this backdrop, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation announced today [8 July] that it is launching a new initiative to help alleviate the problem of polarization, with a special focus on the problem in Congress. The foundation will invest $50 million over the next three years in what it is calling the Madison Initiative. It will use this initial phase of grantmaking to assess whether and how it can help strengthen the nation’s representative institutions so that they are better able to address the major issues facing the country—and do so in ways that work for the American people.
The new initative has met with some criticism. ‘Critics, like Niki Jagpal, director of research and policy at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, called the effort “problematic”,’ reports Alex Daniels, writing for the Chronicle of Philanthropy on 15 July. ‘Instead of supporting groups across the political spectrum, Ms. Jagpal said it would make more sense to dedicate more resources to current Hewlett grantees that work to alleviate poverty, attain social justice, and secure women’s reproductive health.’
While David Callahan, writing for Inside Philanthropy on 14 July, asks: