This op-ed was originally published by The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission.
The regulatory system, contrary to the claims of its conservative critics, is an indispensable part of the broader civic infrastructure on which our democracy is built. Significantly, the ability to exercise voting rights—the most visible and potent act of civic engagement—necessitates a stronger and more inclusive regulatory system.
Effective civic engagement is a skill that requires practice to develop and maintain, not unlike playing piano or speaking a foreign language. This reality is especially true of voting, which involves more than just turning out for elections. Discerning voters must understand the issues at stake, demand high-quality candidates, and monitor public officials' performance to hold them accountable.
Observers of the United States' constitutional system of governance have long praised the wide variety of social institutions that allow us to hone our civic engagement skills. Nearly 200 years ago, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the vast array of civic associations in the United States, famously calling them our "schools of democracy."
Today, the regulatory system stands as one of the most important of these Tocquevillian schools of democracy, although few might think of it in these terms …
Amid the latest wave of voter suppression laws across the nation, Senate Democrats last week unveiled new voting rights legislation.
This legislation aims to safeguard the voting rights of millions of Americans. Ensuring access to the ballot for all eligible citizens is, of course, crucial to the health and integrity of American democracy. More than that, though, it is an essential precondition for the effective functioning of our regulatory system. Put simply: When voters’ voices are suppressed, lawmakers and agency officials may be less responsive to their needs — and more likely to favor those of corporations and other special interests.
Public support for regulations
Corporations often fight any regulations that threaten to restrict their profits; the general public, however, strongly supports protective regulations across the political spectrum.
This is true even of issues that provoke sharp disagreements among elected officials. When it comes to addressing pollution and …