The push for the joint statement was spearheaded by David Kramer, executive director of the George W. Bush Institute. Kramer said the former president “did see and signed off on this statement.”
He said the effort was intended to send “a positive message reminding us of who we are and also reminding us that when we are in disarray, when we’re at loggerheads, people overseas are also looking at us and wondering what’s going on.” He also said it was necessary to remind Americans that their democracy cannot be taken for granted.
He said the Bush Institute has hosted several events on elections, including one as part of a joint initiative with the other groups called More Perfect that featured Bill Gates, a member of the board of supervisors in Arizona’s Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. The county, its supervisors and its elections staff have been targeted repeatedly by election conspiracy theorists in recent years.
Gates and his family have been threatened by people who believe false allegations of election fraud.
“We wanted to remind people that those who oversee our elections are our fellow citizens,” Kramer said. “Some of them told stories that are almost heartbreaking about the threats they faced.”
He said he hoped the joint statement would generate wide support, but he added: “It’s hard to say whether it will or not in these polarized times.”
Melissa Giller, chief marketing officer at the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Institute, said the decision to sign on was a quick one. The foundation was approached shortly after it launched a new effort, its Center on Public Civility in Washington, D.C. She said the statement represents “everything our center will stand for.”
“We need to help put an end to the serious discord and division in our society,” Giller said in an emailed response. “America is experiencing a decline in trust, social cohesion, and personal interaction.”
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama who is now CEO of the Obama Foundation, said the former president supported the statement.
“This is a moment where we could all come together and show that democracy is not about partisan politics,” she said. “It’s about making our country strong, making our country more decent, more kind, more humane.”
Jarrett said one of the foundation’s priorities is trying to restore faith in the institutions that are the pillars of society. To do that has meant taking on disinformation and creating opportunity where “people believe that our democracy is on the up-and-up.”
She said Obama has led a democracy forum and is planning another later this year in Chicago.
“I think part of it is recognizing that we are very fragile right now,” Jarrett said, citing the fact that “we didn’t have a smooth orderly transition of power in the last election” along with people’s mistrust of the court system and elected officials.
“The wheels on our democracy bus,” she said, “feel a little wobbly right now.”- AP
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