Beautiful, messy ole’ democracy

Winston Churchill once quipped that “democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”

Like many Americans, I celebrated the Fourth of July this year with extra gusto and renewed faith in our democracy. The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guaranties the right to same-sex marriage, upheld subsidies that enable low-income people to get health care under the Affordable Care Act, held that housing discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional to be illegal, and supported independent redistricting commissions to avoid partisanship.
What lessons can we learn from these successes, as we work to overcome other formidable barriers to equality and opportunity here in Texas?

First, let’s not give the black robes or the lawyers all the credit. Having had the privilege of arguing before the Supreme Court, I know these rulings were the culmination of years of collective, impassioned advocacy and organizing in all three branches of government, from local marches to national campaigns. Americans got involved, took to the streets, argued all sides, told stories. Movements coalesced and groups strategized. Artists imagined a better future and citizens petitioned Congress.

And just as the framers envisioned, each branch of government serves as an important check against the other. If the President exceeds his authority, Congress may step in. When states violate our rights, the Supreme Court can set them straight. So dogged persistence in every possible forum is critical. Great leaps forward usually come after many losses.

Perhaps most importantly, justice emerges from the human potential – always there, but not always easy to tap – to recognize our shared humanity. We all want to cherish our loved ones, be healthy and happy, find shelter for our families, and make our voice heard.

We have much work to do to ensure that all Texans can reach their full potential. We need to reform our school finance system so all Texas kids have a quality education, get health coverage for over a million uninsured Texans, and raise the minimum wage so hard-working people can support their families.

Despite our warts and imperfections, I thank my lucky stars to be living in America. Let’s use all the tools of our democracy to work towards a better future. Let’s summon the energy to fight another day rather than wallowing in our set-backs. And let’s imagine ourselves in the dreams of our fellow Texans.

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