As another election ends, votes are counted and leaders of our state and nation are determined, some 50-plus percent of us will be happy with the results. The rest will be crestfallen. But for many of us, it’s a time of some relief because the hard campaigning is over.

Thanksgiving and Christmas with family and friends are just ahead. High school football playoffs, college championships and the beginning of basketball season will fill much of our time. The challenges and rewards of everyday life will continue to be first in our lives.

But the end of an election is the beginning of governance. Or it’s supposed to be. The American Revolution gave birth to a bold experiment in self-governance that made the United States a beacon of hope for countless people who yearn to achieve the freedoms, rights and opportunities enshrined in our Constitution.

Yet lately our system of government has failed to live up to the promise of America set forth by the Founders. Powerful factions again spent huge sums of money to influence elections with the hope of manipulating the legislative process for their own narrow advantage. Outside groups spent hundreds of millions of dollars vilifying and denigrating members of the opposite party. Too often in our recent past, undue influence and partisan politics — rather than merit — have dominated and corrupted policymaking.

The nonprofit organization IssueOne.org/FixPoliticsNow is dedicated to renewing the Founders’ promise. It’s supported by the Reformers Caucus, a bipartisan group of more than 200 former governors, cabinet members, ambassadors and members of Congress. Our first effort: Focus on those just elected. We will be confronting the defenders of the status quo in Washington. We will continue to:

  • Champion a new wave of leaders who actually bridge divides and place country above party.
  • Demand Congress remake the relationship between money and influence, incentivizing the participation of everyday citizens and small-dollar donors in our political process.
  • Insist on an honest and transparent political process that defends against foreign interference and allows citizens to hold elected officials to the highest ethical standards.

In a functioning democracy, power resides with the people. So too does the duty to repair, reform and strengthen our system. This rests with each generation and with every citizen.

The Reform Caucus pledges to work together to provide suggestions and support to those leaders who have just been elected as they attempt to renew the Founders’ promise and restore a republic anchored in civility, wisdom and the very principle of “consent of the governed.” It’s through our common efforts that America will re-emerge as a beacon of hope for those in our land and those throughout the world who aspire to the liberty and dignity that only self-government can bring.

Former Texas Congressman Charlie Stenholm is a senior policy adviser at OFW Law, specializing in agriculture and food-assistance programs. He was a lifelong, third-generation farmer till 2006 when he turned the family farm operation over to his son Cary. A native Texan, Stenholm served a 32-county congressional district for 26 years.