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Yes, We Can DO SOMETHING To Save Democracy

Yesterday, former Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper appeared on Morning Joe to talk about the followup to his highly successful “Laboratories of Autocracy,” titled “Saving Democracy.” (You may remember we did a C&L book chat with the author.) The new book offers a user’s manual of how every American can play their part.

His previous book shows how with America fixated on Washington—the opening months of the Biden Administration, January 6th and its aftermath—Pepper warned in Laboratories that the attack on democracy was actually accelerating. But the front line of that attack was not in Washington. It was in the long-ignored statehouses across the country. “Saving Democracy” continues that work, showing how state houses like in Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Ohio and more continue to pass measures far out of the mainstream.

Shockingly, Pepper shows how much of these policies are because people are simply not running in local elections.

Pepper writes that the pro-democracy side’s battle plan can and must be reframed into a wider battle for democracy at all levels in order to succeed. He explains how to go on offense for democracy: by running everywhere and at all levels, engaging voters everywhere, winning the messaging war, fighting censorship, bringing accountability, and scaling up pro-democracy efforts all across the country, including how officials at all levels, non-profits, community organizations, and businesses can get involved.

Pepper uses case studies and individual stories of success to show Americans to get in the fight wherever they live. This is essential, he argues, because only widespread popular engagement across states can match the immense scale of the “Laboratories of Autocracy” strategy that has been attacking democracy for decades.

He also urges donors to stop concentrating on high-profile Senate races and give some of that money to state races, where it makes a much bigger difference.

Finally, Pepper explains that 2023 and 24 offers an enormous opportunity in the battle for democracy if the battle is framed and waged correctly. Trump, DeSantis and the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene are exposing just how extreme (and in the deep minority) Republicans have become. And effective grassroots infrastructure that is growing in states taught lessons of how to succeed in 2022—offering something to build on. If Americans at all levels and across all 50 states get engaged and seize the opportunity left by the extremism of the other side, the coming years could see a much-needed rebirth of American democracy.