THE VISTA: November 2023

This fall was a busy month of convenings for the Horizons’ team, making us particularly aware of the need to make time for building deep community when we are in these spaces together; and, we are reminded of our commitment to relational organizing. One of the amazing events we had the pleasure to help plan and participate in was the Othering & Belonging Institute’s Conference in Berlin in October. You can watch all the sessions on their YouTube Channel, and we would recommend this lovely blog, taking inspiration from one of the conference speakers, Turkish writer Ece Temelkuran, who discussed how we can practically bring love into politics using the example of Ekrem İmamoğlu’s successful Radical Love campaign for Mayor of Istanbul in 2019.

We have spent time participating in convenings of conservatives who are reflecting on their movement’s commitment to democracy, and we found inspiration during a recent gathering with a group of futurists, academics and non-profit leaders who are at the forefront of reimagining democracy and governance. The alarming increase in political violence continues to be the focus of many convenings and discussions, and we are pleased to be partnering with the newly-launched Bedrock, a new nonpartisan organization committed to supporting institutions and leaders reversing the alarming increase in hate-fueled violence in the US. You can watch Maria Stephan’s recent keynote, The Power and Promise of Nonviolent Action, sponsored by the Interfaith Peace Working Group and the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Center for Interfaith Dialogue.

In every space where we gather, we have felt the shared pain of the ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel. Horizons continues to reflect on the need for nuance and care for our interpersonal relationships and the role for a stronger peace and justice movement.

Finally, during this season of gratitude in the US, we honor the legacy of Rosalynn Carter and also appreciate this creative video with curator Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche) from the National Museum of the American Indian discussing the creation of Thanksgiving as a holiday. At Horizons, we continue to be extremely grateful for your partnership(s) and all you’re doing to make the world a better place.

Here are some additional materials we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to:


Cycles of Trauma and Journeys to Wellbeing

by the Wellbeing Project and Georgetown University

Prior to this report, trauma, wellbeing, and social change were examined as related but distinct subjects. The authors and their large group of collaborators from across the world and across disciplines used a systems level analysis to reveal and address the gaps in this paradigm. The resulting “framework is intended to offer a holistic view of trauma and wellbeing that can aid the ongoing global quest for social justice and equity.” And this more complete outlook is needed “to shift vicious cycles of intergenerational trauma toward virtuous cycles of intergenerational wellbeing, we need context and culture-specific strategies for transformation that operate on individual, communal, and systemic levels of relation.”

The military’s secret weapon is … humor

by Theodore R. Johnson, The Washington Post

Theodore Johnson’s recent Veterans Day piece explored the importance of humor in the military and highlighted a recent comedy show featuring veterans hosted by the Armed Services Arts Partnership. (Enjoy the video clips embedded in the article.) This was more than just a comedy show, it served as a jumping off point for the comics and the audience to have conversations about difficult topics which came up in the comics’ sets. “Lots of advice was given, but it boiled down to this, as true for comedians as it is for military men and women telling stories during all the waiting — and for a nation not very good at dialogue lately: You have to know your audience to humor them.”

Workplace Political Polarization

by Ethical Systems, NYU Stern Business and Society Program

We know that workplace polarization is a big concern for business leaders, and one of the entry points for engaging businesses in a pro-democracy agenda to address the root causes of our increasing polarization. This recent report reviews “the factors leading to the current state of extreme polarization and the resulting effects on the workplace, and it explores various potential solutions. Every effort has been made to avoid judgments about the right-left paradigm and to focus on consistent social and psychological factors that are applicable in understanding and responding to political polarization.”

Faith in Elections Playbook

by Interfaith America and Protect Democracy

“The Faith in Elections Playbook supports faith-based, civic and campus communities with accessible, actionable resources to support the 2024 election. This playbook is designed to make it easier for faith and community leaders to join work that is already happening across America to help the 2024 elections run smoothly, so that all eligible voters can access a ballot and every valid vote is counted. [The] purpose in compiling and curating this information, is to enable organizations to focus on taking actions that best align with their interests, their skills, and the needs of their communities.”


2023 Keseb Virtual Global Democracy Champions Summit – Highlights Video

If you missed Keseb’s three-day virtual Summit, you can re-watch all the sessions online. “Keseb engaged in salient conversations around fighting authoritarianism, safeguarding civil liberties, protecting our information ecosystems, and building towards a pluralistic democracy in 15+ sessions with speakers who are democracy entrepreneurs, activists, academics, journalists, philanthropists, and policymakers.”

Multiracial White Supremacy? The Shifting Grounds of Race

Daniel HoSang for Leadership for Democracy and Social Justice’s Public Programming

As part of its commitment to fostering meaningful dialogue and analyzing the context of critical movements, Leadership for Democracy and Social Justice launched this Lecture Series to give social justice leaders the opportunity to delve into topics relevant to movement building. This year’s series focuses on the threat posed by authoritarian populism and how to better organize against it. You don’t want to miss this recent conversation between Scot Nakagawa from 22nd Century Initiative and Daniel HoSang on the changing demographics of white supremacy movements.

The Truth About Civility

The Hopeful Majority with Manu Meel

In this episode of The Hopeful Majority, Manu sits down with author Alexandra Hudson to discuss her new book, The Soul of Civility. They reflect on what civility is, whether it’s even necessary, and have a wide-reaching conversation about Dr. King’s legacy, the difference between civility and politeness, the 2024 election, and much more.

RISE Action Guide Launch Symposium: Opening Plenary

United States Institute of Peace (USIP)

You can re-watch USIP’s recent launch event for the Rehabilitation and (Re)integration through Individual, Social and Structural Engagement (RISE) Action Guide. “[The Guide] provides… a peacebuilding framework to support the rehabilitation of people disengaging from extremist violence as well as their reintegration into, and reconciliation with, local communities. The RISE Action Guide’s overarching goal is to encourage behavioral changes that facilitate disengagement from, and the rejection of, violence by lowering barriers and opening spaces for sustained, positive, inclusive engagement between people disengaging from extremist violence and local community members and institutions.”


Dunking On Trump’s Lawyers Might Not Be The Win You Think It Is

Amicus With Dahlia Lithwick podcast

“What role will the former President’s many many legal woes play in the coming months? A clearer picture is emerging after testimony for the prosecution wrapped in the civil fraud trial against Trump and his adult sons in their roles at the helm of the Trump Organization in New York City [recently]. That picture is of a political candidate claiming to be the victim of an unprecedented legal witch hunt. In other words, as the trials proceed within the courts, a political trial is underway on the courtroom steps, at campaign stops, and in the media. On this podcast episode, Professor Eric Posner, of the University of Chicago Law School, author of The Demagogue’s Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy from the Founders to Trump, [discusses] political trials – their history and their risks.”

How Do We Remain Bridgebuilders During Times of War?

Interfaith America with Eboo Patel podcast

“Amanda Ripley is a New York Times bestselling author, journalist, and co-founder of Good Conflict, a media and training company that helps people reimagine conflict. As the violence abroad and at home escalates, Ripley and Patel discuss “high conflict” – what it is, how it impacts individuals and society, and ways to resolve high-conflict situations.”

Interview with Bjørn Ihler

Did Nothing Wrong podcast

You don’t want to miss the conversation with a global leader in the fight against hate and violent extremism, Bjørn Ihler from Glitterpill and the Khalifa-Ihler Institute. In this interview, he discusses how to promote peace and inclusivity in our communities, and how to reach people with an alternative to hate.


Amplifier recently released a new collaboration with Shepard Fairey, including a limited print series to “Defend Democracy.” They have been collaborating with Fairey for over a decade on some of the most important movements of our time, and now consider that “there are few greater than protecting our democracy.” The sales of these prints will fund photographers and photo-based artists to build projects exposing threats to democracy in the run-up to the 2024 elections.

Check out Agents of Influence, a game to teach middle and high school students to combat misinformation and reduce polarization. The game has won several awards including the Aspen Competition on Information Disorder.

THE VISTA: October 2023

This has been an emotionally heightened month worldwide as we confront the violence in Israel and Palestine and a rise of hate speech and violence in the US and globally. If you are not familiar with the history of the region, this short video from Jewish Voices for Peace is instructive.

More than ever, how we talk about violence and this conflict matters, as described by our close colleague Rachel Brown from Over Zero. Please take the time to read this important perspective from a life-long peacebuilder and friend of Horizons’ Lisa Schirch, Scaling the Wall of Grief in Israel and Palestine as well as Masha Gessen’s The Tangled Grief of Israel’s Anti-Occupation Activists. There is an alarming surge of antisemitism around the world, as well as growing anti-Muslim actions that we should all be standing in solidarity against. This month, the Greater Good Science Center provided a list of resources for peace and conflict that explores the roots of peace, war, and reconciliation; offers resources for well-being and activism; and reminds us of human goodness.

At Horizons, we believe that our global struggles for justice, democratic values and civic freedoms are deeply intertwined, so we celebrate the recent pro-democracy electoral win in Poland; grieve with the recent defeats in Australia for indigenous rights and in India for LGBTQ+ rights; and will continue to learn from the mobilization efforts in Latin America and beyond.

And finally, as part of our Pillars of Support project our colleague, Sama Shah, recently published an article entitled Faith in Democracy: Mobilizing Religious Communities for Democratic Change.

Here are some additional resources that we have been reading, watching, and listening to this month:


Why Anti-LGBTQ Attacks Matter for Democracy

by Ari Shaw, Council on Foreign Relations

Ari Shaw shares the findings from their recent report on the linkages between anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and democratic backsliding across 175 countries. They find that, “Anti-LGBTQI+ attacks create a wedge that defines sexual and gender minorities as outsiders and threats to a core national identity. This fissure can then be used to justify subsequent antidemocratic behavior in the name of protecting ‘the nation.’” Additionally, they highlight that supporting the LGBTQIA+ community can be a bulwark against democratic backsliding.

Conditions to Flourish: Understanding the Ecosystem for Narrative Power

by Abi Knipe, The Global Narrative Hive

As a part of the Global Narrative Hive’s launch, a new report was released: Conditions to Flourish: Understanding the Ecosystem for Narrative Power (available in French, Portuguese, and Spanish). Based on hundreds of conversations the report, “paints a picture of the ecosystem of actors who are working to build narrative power in movements, as well as of the movements themselves. The picture shows different groupings — or kinds of actors — within this ecosystem, the interconnections between them and what they need to succeed.”

Launching the Reparations Narrative Lab

by Trevor Smith, LinkedIn

Liberation Ventures recently launched their first narrative program, The Reparations Narrative Lab (RNL), which in turn published the report There Are New Suns: Building A Transformative Narrative For The Black Reparations Movement and the schema the Narrative House. There’s a lot to dig into with these resources that “can help us collectively strengthen our language and understanding of repairing the pervasive ills of colonialism, imperialism, war, xenophobia, anti-Blackness, and all of the other harmful systems we’ve socially constructed.”

Finally, Moderate Republicans Will Have a Say

by Daniel Stid, Democracy

In this piece Daniel Stid explores what could happen if the House of Representatives was elected through a system of proportional representation and how that could support more moderate Republicans. Building off of the work that More In Common has done on political tribes, he lays out a compelling vision of a better functioning House of Representatives which could have knock-on effects on the Senate and the rest of the political system.


Interview: Countering Authoritarianism with Maria J. Stephan and V Fixmer-Oraiz

Brad Rourke’s Blog

Following a panel presentation at the recent National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) conference in Atlanta, Horizons’ Chief Organizer Maria Stephan explains the authoritarian playbook and especially how authoritarians use the tactics of divide and rule to pit groups against each other and engage in or encourage political violence. The second interviewee V Fixmer-Oraiz, a member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in Iowa and leader of the Iowa City Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission, then describes how this playbook impacts local elected officials. They leave us all with the chilling question that V’s wife asked, “What should I do if . . . there’s an active shooter, do I take care of the children or do I take care of you?”

Creating New American Stories of Us: Can Storytellers Save America?

Bridging Entertainment Lab

Bridge Entertainment Labs (BEL) believes that “Storytellers can be the heroes America needs right now, dismantling the destructive ‘us versus them’ dynamics that are fueling our current political crisis and isolating Americans from one another. Storytellers can act as societal norm-shifters for how we engage across our differences, helping us imagine a shared democracy for an ideologically diverse, multiracial America.” Check out the launch of BEL’s “event series that explores entertainment’s potential to strengthen America’s social fabric and create a shared sense of ‘us’ as Americans.”

Living In the Metacrisis with Jonathan Rowson

In the Making Films

In this short video, Jonathan Rowson gives an insightful view of our current experience of “living in the metacrisis.” Rather than muddling through this era and passively observing the world around us, Jonathan sees this era as a natural process of renewal and a time where we can use our imaginations and where we have agency to form this next epoch in human life on Earth.


Baratunde Thurston — How to Be a Social Creative

On Being with Krista Tippett

“Baratunde Thurston is a comedian, writer, and media entrepreneur. He has eyes open to the contradictions, strangeness, and beauty of being human. He looks for learning happening even amidst our hardest cultural tangles. And he intertwines all of this, innovatively and searchingly, with his lifelong joy in the natural world. The kaleidoscopic view of life and love and the world that is Baratunde’s builds and builds in this conversation Krista had with him … towards an exuberant glimpse of how we can all be more fully human and socially creative.”

Rethinking Life: The Myth of the Hierarchal Value of Human Lives

Red Letter Christians Podcast

“Shane Claiborne continues his special series based on his newest book, Rethinking Life. In this episode, he talks about what it means when we say Black Lives Matter, what the value of life is, who determines it, and examines racism in Christianity.”

Democracy 2076: Shaping a Resilient Future for the United States

Revolutionary Optimism Podcast

Dr. Paul Zeitz interviews Aditi Juneja “as she shares her inspiring journey from the granddaughter of refugees to a leading democracy reformer. Discover how she’s dedicated her life to strengthening the United States’ democracy and transforming it for the better. Explore her visionary initiative, Democracy 2076, which aims to reshape the foundations of democracy, reimagine political storytelling in Hollywood, and prepare for the political realignment of the future. Get insights into the critical work of creating pro-democracy political parties that will shape the future of American politics. Don’t miss this thought-provoking discussion on the path to a resilient and inclusive democracy for 2076!”


Are you inspired to work for democracy and social justice? Check out these 2024 Fellowship opportunities. Whether you are an experienced social justice professional, an emerging leader, or a curious student, these fellowship programs offer tools and support to make a lasting impact on your community and beyond. Deadlines are fast approaching so check it out!

Faith in Democracy: Mobilizing Religious Communities for Democratic Change

Promoting Democracy, Protecting Faith

The importance of a robust democracy in safeguarding the rights and fostering the civic participation of the religious cannot be overstated. Throughout history, it has become evident that nations that veer off the democratic path, or that never developed strong democratic institutions, often exhibit the troubling dominance of a single faith community over marginalized others, or the systematic suppression of religious belief altogether. In India, for example, the erosion of democratic values under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been characterized by the oppression of religious minorities, particularly Muslims, who have been the subject of hijab bans, victims of vigilante violence, and scapegoated for the spread of COVID-19, in addition to having their very citizenship rights threatened following the passage of the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has adopted the notion of “Christian democracy” as a cover for what has been a steady process of undermining civil liberties and weakening the country’s democratic institutions, including the formerly independent judiciary and free press. Stoking fears regarding the Islamization of Europe, Orbán erected a border fence amid the 2015 European migrant crisis to keep Syrians and other asylum seekers from entering the country. And, whereas Muslim refugees and migrants have been constructed as an external threat to Christian Hungary, internally, Orbán and his allies have appealed to bigoted notions of wealthy Jews conspiring to destroy Western Christian civilization to solidify Hungarian nationalism.

Taking a page from Orbán’s playbook, in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has successfully portrayed the non-Muslim West as a foreign enemy and existential threat which seeks to “bring [Turkey] to heel.” Calling on the general public to be patient with respect to the government’s domestic failures, given this looming existential crisis, Erdoğan has steadily infused Turkish politics with ethnoreligious references and attempts to unify the country under a singular Turkish Muslim identity, consequently marginalizing and portraying non-Sunni Muslim and non-ethnically Turkish minorities as potential insider threats. In the end, Erdoğan’s unification of ethnic and Islamic nationalism has empowered Islamist and far-right parties to further erode Turkey’s democracy, resulting in a weakened parliament, limited press freedoms, and a society polarized along religious-conservative and progressive-secular lines.

In these cases, it becomes evident that the erosion of democracy often leads to the targeting of both minority faith communities and members of majoritarian faith communities who hold unorthodox or non-mainstream views, as in the case of progressive Christians in Hungary or non-Sunni and liberal Muslims in Turkey. However, this should not signal to religious groups that security lies in disengaging from the political or public sphere as a means of avoiding state attention; rather, for faith-based communities, strength lies in actively participating in and defending democratic life, which can ensure that protections for diverse and minority religious groups remain in place.

American Religious History

American religious communities have played a complex role in the formation of the country’s democracy, with the history of these communities also telling the history of both right- and left-wing social and political movements, the fight for civil rights, and the ever-evolving landscape of religious freedom. From the early days of Colonial America, when religious persecution in England led Puritans to seek refuge across the Atlantic, to the transformative accomplishments of the Civil Rights Era to the current challenges presented by a rising White Christian Nationalist movement, faith communities have emerged as powerful and controversial agents in shaping the trajectory of American democracy.

As early as its settlement by the English, America has struggled to remain steadfast to the very ideals of religious liberty that motivated the first Puritans to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony. A theocratic state, Massachusetts Bay Colony and its Puritan government did not tolerate people of other faiths, persecuting and banishing religious outsiders who attempted to settle and worship in Puritan towns. In spite of the hostility with which religious others were met, members of the recently formed Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, began arriving in Boston in 1656, demanding the right to live and practice their religion. Yet, despite the Puritans’ own experiences with religious persecution, they met the Quakers with severe violence, often imprisoning and beating them before forcing them onto ships leaving the colony.

Still, Quakers continued to arrive in Boston by ship and foot, becoming bolder in their protests against Puritan oppression. They began rising to speak following Puritan sermons and during the trials of other Quakers arrested for preaching and practicing their faith. They held unlawful meetings, published pamphlets, and spurned authorities by leaving fines unpaid and refusing to work in jails, even when punished with food deprivation. Ultimately, the years of torture, imprisonment, deportation, and execution, and the Quakers’ commitment to their faith despite it all, deeply impacted many in Puritan society, some of whom came to support their Quaker community members by bribing jailers into feeding starving Quaker inmates and even converting to Quakerism themselves. Eventually, by 1675, after two decades of protest, the arrival of diverse groups of settlers, and the intervention of King Charles II at the plea of a Quaker messenger, Quakers and other religious communities were freely living and practicing in Massachusetts.

That it was, from the very outset, a minority faith group that ultimately forced the Puritan government to extend the principle of religious liberty to all is a testament to the important role that religious actors play as checks on faith-based extremism, as well as the inaccuracy of characterizing the struggle for tolerant, open societies as exclusively at odds with the political and personal aims of the religious. However, even as ideas of community and belonging stretched to accommodate different groups of white Christian settlers, one group was consistently excluded not only in the realm of religious liberties, but all human rights – enslaved Africans.

Yet, even as they grounded their pro-slavery positions in readings of the Bible that ostensibly sanctioned the practice of slavery, American slaveholders ultimately and unintentionally introduced the very people they enslaved to what would become a powerful force in driving abolitionist movements. These slaveholders, who had correctly assumed that portions of the Bible may inspire slave rebellions, going as far as to print special “slave Bibles” with sections, including the Exodus story, removed, ultimately could not prevent early Black churches from raising and shaping preachers whose fight for freedom did not eschew scripture but rather embraced it. From Sojourner Truth to Federick Douglass to Harriet Tubman, many icons of the abolition era were raised within Black churches that, particularly in the North, offered a space free from the white gaze. In these churches, Black people not only found solace and meaning through worship, but also planned slave rebellions, supported the Underground Railroad, and nurtured their talents as future spokespeople of the abolitionist movement. In the end, it is these liberation-oriented re-readings that have achieved broad acceptance, with the notion of a Biblical justification for slavery relegated to America’s past.

Nearly a century later, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Black churches and faith leaders would again serve as pivotal institutions and actors in the fight against racial injustice. These churches not only served as spiritual safe havens for Black Americans, but also became centers of community organizing and empowerment. They provided spaces for activists to strategize, learn the tactics of nonviolent resistance, and coordinate grassroots movements. When school boards refused to desegregate, they opened their doors to Black and white students, running freedom schools that taught Black history and civil rights. They were responsible for the spiritual and moral training and often offered the first platforms and leadership positions held by iconic Black religious leaders and activists, including but not nearly limited to Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young, Fred Shuttlesworth, Joseph Lowery, Wyatt T. Walker, Jesse Jackson, and John Lewis.

Moreover, during a time in which women lacked positions of authority in religious institutions, they continued to take inspiration from church teachings to create leadership opportunities for themselves elsewhere. One such woman was Fannie Lou Hammer, a devout Baptist known for infusing her political rhetoric with spiritual hymns and Biblical references. One of the women leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Hammer organized extensively with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also co-founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus, both organizations aimed at increasing Black and female voices in government, with Hammer herself running for Senate seat in 1964. Other faith-driven Black women during this time also leveraged their skills outside the church to support the movement for civil rights, like Mahalia Jackson, whose wealth and influence, a significant portion of which she used to back various civil rights causes, came from her highly successful career as a gospel singer.

Faith Communities and Right-wing Nationalism

Yet, despite the enduring ties between faith, democracy, and justice, present-day American religious communities, and specifically Christian communities, must also confront the lasting connection between faith and right-wing nationalism. While the term White Christian Nationalism (WCN) has seen an increase in use, particularly from the 2016 elections and onwards, the phenomenon itself is nothing new. According to sociologists Philip Gorski and Samuel Perry, authors of The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy, WCN in the U.S. can be traced back to the late 1600s, when the first American colonies, alongside their institutions and laws, were being shaped around Protestant ideals and calls to spread the faith among non-whites and non-Christians. Emerging in this era, according to Gorski and Perry, WCN would remain an important force in American politics, gaining influence in moments when white Christians feel threatened by forces outside their control, such as war, increased immigration, and economic depression.

Given that recent years have involved heated national and political debates on these very conditions, it is not surprising that WCN has once again emerged as an appealing answer to the various challenges of modernity, including the rising cost of living, rapid technological and societal change, and the increasing alienation many Americans feel from their communities. WCN, with its emphasis on a return to a past of triumphant Christianity, in which the term ‘Christianity’ denotes a particularly hierarchical and exclusive societal structure designed to benefit the present-day downtrodden white Christian family, then offers a solution reassuring to many white Christians who have experienced a loss of power due to America’s shifting demographics and decline in Church membership.

As witnessed in 2016, WCN is not a movement restricted to American churches; rather, as detailed in a recent report commissioned by the Kairos Center and MoveOn Education Fund, All of U.S.: Organizing to Counter White Christian Nationalism and Build a Pro-Democracy Society, white Christian nationalists have embarked on a “visionary, organized, well-funded, and multi-generational effort to secure white, Christian, minority rule.” Ultimately, this movement has successfully captured key political leaders; influential churches, including many evangelical and, increasingly, Catholic churches; and large voting bases within the Republican Party. This rightward shift among a faction of America’s religious institutions has inspired various acts of political violence and rollbacks of civil rights, making it critical that religious actors concerned about growing polarization within their communities work to target the roots of this fanaticism as first-responders.

Fortunately, to the benefit of the pro-democracy movement and to religious actors seeking ways to get involved in countering WCN in their communities, many religious groups have long identified the problems of polarization and democratic erosion in the U.S., searching for solutions that encourage the co-existence of healthy Christian identities and commitment to democracy. One such group is the American Values Coalition (AVC), which organizes small group courses, conferences, and other meetings to educate conservative Christian communities on the dangers of political polarization and consistent exposure to disinformation. What makes AVC’s programming so powerful is that their course instructors and event speakers are often other conservative Christians, particularly pastors, who are able to effectively challenge WCN using moral and theological frameworks familiar to their audiences. After successfully drawing away the communities they work with from extremist ideologies, participants in AVC programming are able to embody a more inclusive Christianity, forming communities that continue to provide a sense of belonging and purpose, while rejecting religious radicalism.

Similarly working to reduce polarization and, in particular, interreligious conflict, the organization Peace Catalyst International (PCI) trains Christian and other faith leaders in conflict resolution and peacebuilding strategies so they are better equipped to manage both intra and intercommunity conflicts. PCI and PCI-trained peacemakers have worked extensively with Muslim communities both in the U.S. and abroad, hosting social events, collaborating on service projects, and engaging in dialogues on a variety of political, social, and faith-related issues. From the U.S. to Bosnia, PCI’s work demonstrates the potential of faith groups to create understanding and mitigate conflicts via shared religious commitments.

Faith-based organizations have also played an important role in get-out-the-vote (GOTV) initiatives, particularly in the lead up to the 2020 presidential election. The Faithful Democracy coalition, for example, coordinated a multifaith GOTV campaign by providing religious organizations with GOTV messaging, resources, and social media strategies to increase political participation among the religious. Similarly, the groups Faith in Public Life and Bend the Arc have organized various faith organizations to support the Count Every Vote campaign, a nonpartisan effort that was aimed at protecting the integrity of the 2020 election. And, before the 2020 election results were announced, another faith organization, Faith Leaders United to Support Free and Fair Elections, released a statement encouraging acceptance of the election results and a peaceful transfer of power.

However, when calls for peace following the announcement of the election results were met with an attack on the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, it was actually many faith leaders that took the lead in identifying and condemning the WCN ideology that motivated the attackers. In fact, following the insurrection, a group of Christian leaders, including the heads of major denominations, sent a letter to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, in which they specifically asked lawmakers to investigate WCN’s role as a motivator of the insurrection.

Following the turbulent 2020 election cycle, and in response to complaints lodged by members of low-income and communities of color around intimidation and violence at polling locations, faith communities acted to improve democratic norms and procedures during the 2022 midterm elections. One woman, Reverend Barbara Williams-Skinner of Faiths United to Save Democracy, recruited faith leaders across religious traditions to serve as a poll chaplains, whose roles were to keep the peace at polling locations frequented by marginalized communities. Ultimately, as prominent as ethno-religious and Christian nationalist language has been in far-right spaces, leaders within this same faith community have also been at the forefront of efforts to preserve democratic norms by working within and outside of their churches.

Call to Action

At their best, faith communities promote values of compassion, tolerance, and justice, which are essential to a flourishing democracy. Their contributions extend far beyond places of worship; they act as catalysts for positive change, building strong, happy communities and promoting civic engagement. Religious practice is also consistently the behavioral variable most associated with charitable giving, with the religious being more likely to give to religious and secular causes than the less or non-religious.

Religious communities often also embody diversity, embracing individuals from various backgrounds and beliefs, providing the physical space and spiritual guidance needed for both intra-faith and interfaith dialogue and understanding. In doing so, they are well-positioned to bridge divides and foster a shared commitment to democratic ideals. Conversely, the faltering of democracy often results in the loss of the rights and freedoms of people of faith, or the distortion of diverse religious traditions and scriptural interpretations in service of authoritarian agendas, making it all the more critical that faith communities are actively included in the work of protecting and promoting democracy.

However, the work of challenging WCN and other forms of faith-based radicalism and violence in service of broader pro-democracy goals cannot be the duty of religious actors and organizations alone. Many secular activists and organizations possess key resources, connections, and organizing experience from which religious groups may benefit when working within their communities. Concurrently, many religious leaders have a wealth of experience in spiritual (and general emotional) care, community building, deradicalization, and political organizing, all of which secular groups can learn from and leverage in broader pro-democracy activism.

Given the importance of building a broad-based movement to counter rising authoritarianism, which has always been integrally linked to racism and white supremacy in the United States, here are a few recommendations for advancing that goal.

Strengthen the connective tissue between faith organizations, democracy coalitions, and social justice movements: Faith leaders are powerful sources of moral guidance and have the ability to inspire their followers toward change. They can and have led movements within their congregations to promote positive civic engagement and deradicalize fringe members. By getting involved in the efforts of secular organizations to create democratic change, faith leaders can use their theological training, particularly in ethics, community care, and community building, to bring together diverse groups and contribute to shaping movements that reflect the principles of justice and human dignity.

However, secular activists should exercise some caution in their outreach to faith groups, particularly with regards to speaker requests and other event invitations. Referred to by some faith leaders as “rent-a-collar” requests – in which religious officials are asked to participate in actions to provide a moral cover for whatever position an activist group may hold – this form of outreach may be perceived as insincere. Rather, secular activists should remain open to learning from what faith leaders have already achieved within their congregations and take seriously the desire of the religious to translate their religious beliefs into action, including in volunteer, community organizing, and planning roles. Not only does this work grant faith actors a new level of investment and ownership of pro-democracy spaces and causes, but it also addresses the problems of alienation that lead many vulnerable communities toward religious and political radicalization.

Address the crisis of loneliness by creating spaces that allow both political organizing and human connection to flourish: As political philosophers have long posited, and recent scholarship has come to affirm, social exclusion and isolation are leading forces behind radicalization. A powerful strategy for preventing religious and political extremism from taking root in white Christian communities, then, is creating non-partisan, non-denominational forums through which people can gather and find community. Organizing in low-income small towns in Southern Indiana, a region under the influence of aggressive right-wing ideologies, the community organization Hoosier Action has already identified the power of this strategy in driving down allegiance to extremist and exclusionary political movements. By providing these communities a forum to connect around issues and activities that do not give into partisan ideologies, such as ritual prayers, gardening, sharing meals, physical movement, and storytelling, Hoosier Action members create social connections that they may have otherwise sought out in more exclusionary groups. In this way, the spiritual and social needs of participants are met without WCN being presented as an answer to the difficulties faced by white Christian communities. The group United Vision for Idaho uses a similar approach grounded in dialogue and deep listening to build community with those who are vulnerable to being recruited by white nationalist groups.

Taking lessons from this work, pro-democracy groups can similarly aim to move beyond strict political organizing to address deeper human needs, perhaps by incorporating multifaith prayers, spiritual writings, and/or discussion of potential faith-based motivators bringing people to organizing work. By being open to collaborating with faith-based groups and acknowledging the values of the religious as legitimate motivators for pro-democracy activism, and not simply nationalist bigotry, secular groups can begin the work of countering polarization within their own movements, as an example to broader society.

Strengthen intra-faith dialogue on religious extremism and democratic erosion: As demonstrated by the work of the American Values Coalition, white Christians have an important role to play in combatting polarization and authoritarianism. White Christian pastors and faith leaders often have direct experience and relationships with white Christians at the point of or on the journey toward radicalization. They also possess the theological sophistication necessary to help congregations distinguish between positive and reactionary manifestations of Christian identity. Here, pro-democracy groups are well-suited to support the work of priests, pastors, and other religious leaders in dismantling WCN as these secular coalitions can offer their organizing experience, technical assistance, and educational resources on authoritarianism. Going beyond the provision of resources, secular activists themselves can meet with faith leaders to learn the language and methods they use to pull their members away from far right and nationalist ideologies. In this way, secular activists can expose themselves to models of healthy Christian identities, ones that they may disagree with on certain foundational principles or on specific policy positions, but that still hold the belief that democracy and the freedoms it offers are in the interest of all to preserve.

*This article was written by former Research Assistant Sama Shah.

THE VISTA: September 2023

September is a busy month for those working at the intersection of democracy and peacebuilding, as several important days of commemoration are celebrated while the United Nations gathers for its annual General Assembly. With shared challenges of democratic backsliding around the world (such as in India) and painful historic reckonings to be addressed (such as in Chile), the International Day of Democracy provided an important moment to reflect on how US democratic erosion is accelerating compared to other countries. Don’t miss this framing document commissioned by Action Aid Denmark on the need for people-powered movements both in the US and globally, and the initial recommendations for funders and allies from around the world.

Later in the month, as we celebrate the International Day of Peace, we reflect that “peace” appears to resonate with the US public, even if we use different language for goals related to justice, security and safety. And, Horizons is particularly inspired by the “critical constellations of arts and culture in peacebuilding that helps us weave together our past and chart collective futures.

Also this month, we observed the 60-year anniversary of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four girls. U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was the keynote speaker at the commemoration and spoke about the beauty of Alabama in the fight for civil rights: “If we are going to continue to move forward as a nation, we cannot allow concerns about discomfort to displace knowledge, truth or history. It is certainly the case that parts of this country’s story can be hard to think about,” Jackson said. Artists also stepped up to contribute to the commemoration. Don’t miss this monthly poster series led by veteran graphic artist, Marcus Watts. 

Finally, we are excited to share the beta version of the Democracy Resource Hub. The Hub was established to compile a wide range of tools and resources for anti-authoritarian and pro-democracy organizing in an easily accessible manner for trainers, facilitators, researchers, and practitioners. This effort is the product of a collaboration between the 22nd Century Initiative, United Vision Idaho, the Shift Action Lab and The Horizons Project, and is hosted on The Commons Library for Social Change. Let us know what you think! Please submit any resources you would like to be included in the hub here. And enjoy some of the things we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to this month:


The Problem with Anti-Anti-Christian Nationalism

by Paul D. Miller, Christianity Today

Paul Miller, the author of the recently published The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism, writes in Christianity Today about the danger posed by “anti-anti-Christian nationalists”, who “busy themselves with warning of the dangers not of Christian nationalism itself but of warning against Christian nationalism.” He finds that in doing so, “the anti-anti-Christian nationalist position overlooks the relationship between extremists and mainstream movements and the responsibility of the latter to police the former.”

How Deep Canvass Conversations Can Transform America

by Sulma Arias and Eboni Taggart, Our Future

People’s Action Institute explains how deep canvassing works and provides examples of groups using this approach in a variety of contexts to advance policy objectives within their communities. They do note that, “deep canvassing is not a magic bullet for social justice – nothing really is. Real social change takes rigor, discipline, and the full set of tools every organizer needs.” Consider joining their one-hour Introduction to Deep Canvassing on October 24, to discover what deep canvassing is and how it works. 

Nurturing Patriotic Civic Engagement: Five Ways Parents Can Teach Civics to their Children

We The Veterans

Horizons believes that Veterans have an important role to play in helping to protect and preserve democracy. We the Veterans provides a helpful resource for its community – and beyond – of five simple and concrete activities that parents can use to teach their children about civics and to encourage them to grow up to be active citizens. They also include a list of outside resources for parents.


Emerging Issues Conference 2023

The Kettering Foundation

“On September 19, 2023, in Washington, DC, the Kettering Foundation held its first Emerging Issues Conference, focused on connections and creative tensions among major themes in the pro-democracy space… Expert panelists and audience participants explored the dimensions of authoritarian moves taking place both globally and in the United States, responses and the tensions between potential solutions, and potential ways forward.” Don’t miss seeing Horizons’ Director for Applied Research Jarvis Williams ask the first question during the event!

Today Is Democracy Day!

via UnderTheDeskNews

“Scores of news organizations across the country came together on September 15th to collectively publish, broadcast, share and highlight pro-democracy journalism as part of U.S. Democracy Day 2023.” Local and national news outlets coordinated their coverage which allowed the stories to have larger impact by placing them squarely in the broader fight for our democracy. You can learn more about the collective impact here.

How Can American Democracy Work Better For Busy People?

Preserving Democracy

In this interview, Kevin Elliott, the author of Democracy for Busy People, lays out changes we can make to our system of elections and governance to make it easier for everyday citizens to participate more fully in our democracy. The disjointed system that we currently have in places puts up unnecessary barriers to participation, makes it harder for busy people to stay abreast of the issues, and can make participation seem overwhelming. The result is a democracy that works best for those with the time and resources to influence outcomes. He ends with the “very important message that everyone who does see politics as part of their calling, does see politics as an important part of their life… remember the people who weren’t there, they also matter, their voice matters, their interests matter.”


Designing an Investigation of Power: Series Introduction

Convergence Magazine

“Convergence is happy to announce the launch of our new podcast, Hegemonicon. In this first episode, host William Lawrence introduces himself with his story of working to build a youth-led climate movement as co-founder of the Sunrise Movement… Upon reminiscing the perceived successes and failures of that movement and the wilderness the past decade-plus has led [organizers] into, he lays out the foundation for the Hegemonicon’s exploration of power and how the show will go about investigating it through a series of interviews with organizers, activists, theorists, and more.”

Doing Democracy: Pride, Reckoning and Reimagining Our Nearly 250 Year Old System of Democracy

KQED Doing Democracy Series

Ted Johnson is leading the US@250 Project which is urging us to approach the [250th] anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, starting in 2026, by reimagining the American narrative with pride, reckoning and aspiration. “What parts of our democracy should we protect, what should we change, and what do we hope to become in the next 250 years?”

Our Sizzling Summer of Focus Groups

The Focus Group with Sarah Longwell podcast

While on summer hiatus, The Focus Group re-upped an old episode from March 2023 that is worth a listen with Jane Coaston of The New York Times about our never-ending culture wars. Sarah Longwell is the publisher of The Bulwark and this podcast takes a deep dive into what conservative voters think about politics, policy, and current events from the hundreds of hours of focus groups conducted around the country.


Bridge-building Innovation Showcase

The Listen First Project

Sign up to watch the Bridgebuilding Innovation Showcase in October! “In today’s polarized climate, working across our differences to solve problems can feel hopeless. The Bridge-Building Innovation Showcase will celebrate Americans who are navigating generational, political, racial, and other differences to effect meaningful change in their own communities. The showcase has two parts: an in-person gathering in Kansas City on Oct 14, 2023 and a virtual webinar on Oct 19, 2023. Come for the celebration, stay for the inspiration!”

Today When I Could Do Nothing

by Jane Hirshfield

Acclaimed poet Jane Hirshfield is releasing her tenth book of poetry this fall, The Asking: New and Selected Poems where she shares sentiments of not-knowing, renewal, and awe of the natural world. Enjoy this specific poem “Today When I Could Do Nothing” included in her new collection.

THE VISTA: August 2023

As summer ends and we kick off the academic year here in the US, Horizons continues to grapple with the inherent tensions of different approaches taken within the broad ecosystem of social change. One clear fault line lies along a time horizons of gradual versus radical change. This is especially evident in the conversations unfolding about the linkages between capitalism and democracy. For example, this recent podcast with the Secretary-General of International IDEA and the chief economics commentator at the Financial Times was a fascinating discussion on needed reforms included in a new book about the Crisis of Democratic Capitalism. Whereas other conversations are unfolding about: radical new ways that humans might govern themselves that are less technocratic; totally new ways of envisioning our economic systems; and, how we might redefine concepts of security and perceptions of insecurity.

Another fault line is how we grapple with the ways that progressives should bridge across difference within social movements, while also appreciating what it will take to achieve a multi-racial, inclusive democracy in the US; and, the cultural and political change that can be achieved over time by movements like Black Lives Matter that is turning 10 this year.

We bring up these tensions not to seek definitive solutions, but rather to acknowledge that there are many entry points to this work, and what’s important is to be in conversation with each other, while looking for signals of the change we want to see in the world. This is why the practice of sensemaking is so important to the Horizons’ team, both internally and together with colleagues. We plan to share more of our own sensemaking practices externally, such as this short video amongst some of the Horizons team discussing the recent “Alabama brawl” and implications for how we think about incorporating a racial justice lens into our pro-democracy organizing.

Appreciation and respect to all our wonderful partners who engage in all this sensemaking with us! Enjoy these additional resources we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to this month:


When Democracy Breaks: Studies in Democratic Erosion and Collapse, From Ancient Athens to the Present Day

Edited by Archon Fung, David Moss, & Odd Arne Westad

Harvard’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation and The Tobin Project recently released this free online compendium analyzing the factors that make democracy resilient or fragile. “The volume’s collaborators…explore eleven episodes of democratic breakdown, ranging from ancient Athens to Weimar Germany to present-day Turkey, Russia, and Venezuela. Strikingly, in every case, various forms of democratic erosion long preceded the final democratic breakdown. Although no single causal factor emerges as decisive… some important commonalities (including extreme political polarization, explicitly anti-democratic political actors, and significant political violence) stand out across the cases. Moreover, the notion of democratic culture, while admittedly difficult to define and even more difficult to measure, may play a role in all of them.”

Down the Rabbit Hole: Demystifying QAnon Narratives and Networks

This is Signals

Reframe, alongside the Women’s March and Political Research Associates embarked on an 18-month journey “to unravel the connections between QAnon and Q-adjacent networks, their values, narratives, and the disinformation that surrounds it all. In an era where misinformation and conspiracy theories thrive, it’s imperative to understand the terrain so we can organize our communities to be better equipped to fight for a democratic future rooted in justice, equity, and liberation. By critically examining the values, messages, and narratives that emerge from these networks, we hope to encourage a nuanced understanding of their impact on our communities and shifting societal expectations of governance and democracy as a whole.”

15 College Presidents Unite to Advance Civic Preparedness Across the Country

by Rajiv Vinnakota, The Institute for Citizens & Scholars

A new consortium recently launched, the College Presidents for Civic Preparedness, made up of 15 college presidents with diverse perspectives across the political spectrum, but who agree that civic preparedness is essential to the academic experience and campus life. The consortium is also spearheading the Campus Call for Free Expression, a project to promote free expression on individual campuses, such as presidential speeches, training sessions, guest speakers, courses, and artistic endeavors. “The Campus Call embraces different viewpoints, focusing on upholding and advancing the principles of free expression and critical inquiry that are crucial in preparing young people to become empowered citizens.”

Populism Thrives Because People Are Mad, and Also Because They’re Sad

by Charles Lane, Washington Post Opinion

This article summarizes a recent study of social scientists: “Does Anger Drive Populism?” – answering in the affirmative, but with a major caveat. “Anger alone cannot account for recent US vote shifts in favor of populist candidates (of both the left and right). Rather, the trends reflect a wider mix of negative emotions such as sadness, stress, and worry… It’s a portrait of populism as an expression of dismay and disenchantment, not just resentment.”


Next Frontiers – Unlocking Resources in This Time of Crisis and Possibility

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation in the UK has uploaded all the videos from their second annual conference, Next Frontiers. We would especially recommend the recording of this short presentation by Vanessa Andreotti discussing her new book Hospicing Modernity, where she explores four socially sanctioned forms of denial that our world is changing irrevocably. She describes the change using a metaphor of the House that Modernity Built and extols the need to go beyond reform because “more modernity is not an option, given the violence required to keep modernity in place.”

Belonging Design Principles with Ashley Gallegos

Othering & Belonging Institute

Check out this short, fun video with Ashley Gallegos, Belonging Coordinator at the Othering & Belonging Institute as she introduces their newly released Belonging Design Principles. “This distinct belonging framework includes a set of principles and practices that can root out structural inequality and exclusion of all kinds while helping us turn toward, rather than against, each other. Beyond a call for inclusion into pre-existing structures built to serve only some of us, belonging asks each of us to commit to co-creating new structures built for everyone.

Check My Ads with Claire Atkin

Fission’s DWeb Social

You can watch this short presentation about the AdTech watchdog Check My Ads Institute who are seeking to cut disinformation off at the source, acknowledging that bigotry and hate are fueled and funded around the world by the digital advertising industry. Co-founder, Claire Atkin recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review highlighting the proactive role businesses can play in protecting against democratic decline: Are Your Ads Funding Disinformation? “Propaganda thrives on money, ads, and data. Ad revenue helps propagandists multiply their efforts across networks of content across the web. Data enables propagandists to develop detailed user profiles that help them target people who are susceptible to lies and bigotry. Finally, the ads themselves — particularly those from blue-chip advertisers — lend signals of legitimacy to visitors to disinformation websites.”


What the World Will Become

Podcast Series from The Inclusive Global Leadership Initiative

Check out all the podcasts in Season One in this series about humans from around the world who are dedicating their lives to building a more free and just world. We especially recommend Episode 6, The Making of a Democratic Community in an Authoritarian Landscape with Isabella Picón from Labo Ciudadano in Venezuela. The title of the series comes from abolitionist scholar Ruth Wilson Gilmore: “What the world will become already exists in fragments and pieces, experiments and possibilities.”

Leveraging Networks for Democracy with the Leadership Now Project

Podcast from System Catalysts

Daniella Ballou-Aares, the CEO of the Leadership Now Project and her colleague, Anoop Prakash, the Wisconsin Chapter Lead, discuss the formation of a group of concerned businesses to launch the Leadership Now Project and the power of leveraging networks to protect and renew democracy in the US. The actions that businesses collectively took in Wisconsin during the 2020 election cycle, on a bipartisan basis offer a particularly important example of the proactive role the business community can and should play to uphold democratic norms and values.

Building Bridges Amid Division: Understanding America’s Conflict Dynamics

Peace: We Build It! Podcast from the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP)

In this podcast AfP Executive Director Liz Hume “discusses identity-based grievances, polarization, and social cohesion in the US. While conflict is inevitable, violent conflict is not, but it takes correct analysis of conflict drivers, resources, political will at all levels, and everyday people and communities working to prevent conflict and build sustainable peace. Liz welcomes three experts from across the political spectrum to discuss peacebuilding and conflict in the US” including Peter Coleman from Columbia University, Lisa Sharon Haper from, and Charles Lieske from Mediation West in Nebraska.


A Strategic Analysis of Barbie: The Ideological Hegemony and Failed Revolution of Barbieland

by Lawrence Freedman, The New Statesman

“I want to be a part of the people that make meaning, not the thing that is made.” Barbie

This emeritus professor of war studies at Kings College writes, “all accounts of relationships between characters resembling humans raise issues of power and strategy, and Barbie is no exception. After all, to want to be part of “the people making meaning” could be a strategist’s creed.” So, Prof. Freedman delves into a wide-ranging strategic analysis of the movie Barbie. Spoiler alert – this article “may make little sense even if you have watched the movie but will make none at all if you have not and may contain sufficient information to spoil it if you intend to.”

SENSEMAKING WITH HORIZONS: The Alabama Brawl, August 2023

Jarvis Williams, the Director of Applied Research and Julia Roig, the Chief Network Weaver at Horizons come together in this short video interview to reflect on the “Alabama Brawl” that occurred in August of 2023 and its implications for how we incorporate a racial justice lens into our pro-democracy organizing.

We look forward to sharing more of our sensemaking practices in this format. Let us know what you think!

What do we mean by “sensemaking”?

The following is taken from a previous Horizons’ blog that you can read here.

One of the three lines of work of The Horizons Project is “sensemaking.” As organizers who believe in the power of emergent strategy, the practice of sensemaking is something that we are continually reflecting upon: What is sensemaking? What is its purpose? How do we do it better? How can it drive our adaptation? How can we share what we’re learning and doing with diverse communities?

So, what exactly is “sensemaking” and why is it important to organizers? First and foremost, we acknowledge that we are operating in a world filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). Even if we weren’t such a small team, we could never hope to fully wrap our minds (and arms) around this VUCA world. If our goal at The Horizons Project is to provide value and help connect actors within the social change ecosystem, we must find ways to constantly scan and interpret what’s going on within the system to then strategize, act and adjust as needed. Sensemaking is one of those practices. While there are many methodologies and definitions of sensemaking, we are drawn to the approach of Brenda Dervin that is based on asking good questions to fill in gaps in understanding, to connect with others to jointly reflect on our context and then take action.

For additional resources on sensemaking practices, check out:

Horizons Presents (Our podcast, Season One focuses on sensemaking)

Sensemaking in the New Normal

Facilitating Sensemaking in Uncertain Times

There is no Elephant

Thirteen Dilemmas and Paradoxes in Complexity

Energy System Science for Network Weavers

THE VISTA: July 2023

The summer lull is in full swing in the US as July comes to a close, while we grapple with rising temperatures and guard our energies for the 2024 electoral cycle. We’re all going to need that energy, as we are faced with polls that describe the rising acceptance of political violence, and that “gut-level hatred” is consuming our political lives. Horizons is committed to continuing to work with those who are actively trying to prevent violence and acts of hate being fueled by a clear political agenda. And we find inspiration and hope from the myriad organizing efforts throughout the country.  

The global nature of the authoritarian threat continues to animate our work. Check out, Chief Organizer Maria Stephan’s article in Ha’aretz about pro-democracy protests in Israel and the relationship between Israeli democracy and Palestinian self-determination. Also, registration is now open for the next Othering & Belonging Conference, taking place in Berlin in October. Please join Horizons and others as we reflect on global strategies for countering the far-right and bolstering democracy. 

As you go into August, we hope you find a space for deep rest, and reflect on the role that conflict transformation and listening skills play in all our relational organizing. There are several resources to help, such as this summer survival kit of conflict hacks from Amanda Ripley; and, this summer reading list and overview of the listening arts. If you haven’t checked out our friend Brett Davidson’s writings on how deep narrative work also requires deep listening, don’t miss his recent missive on the meanings of listening.  

It’s an exciting month for Horizons as we welcome a new member of the team, Jarvis Williams who just joined us as Director for Applied Research. Read more about Jarvis and hear directly from him why he agrees with the power of listening for transforming relations and building deep partnerships. Welcome Jarvis!  We also have openings for Research Assistants to work with Jarvis and the team, as we partner with the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University on research related to the pillars of support for authoritarianism and democracy. Please help us forward the announcement to any students you know who may be interested.  

We hope you enjoy the additional resources we’ve been reading, watching and listening to this month: 


Doing the Work While Doing The Work 

by Samhita Mukhopadhyay, The Nation 

“How can social justice organizations prioritize mental health issues while finding ways for their staff and members to stay in solidarity with each other? As we work to undo the legacies of racism and oppression, we are often facing a history of unresolved trauma—our own, and the histories of those we work with… Incorporating trauma-informed perspectives and general mental health awareness has sprouted up in many different places in an effort to counter narratives that we should ignore or override these feelings… But connecting the dots between social justice work and trauma history doesn’t automatically confer the necessary tools to deal with it.” This article is full of wisdom and resources from many leaders showing that prioritizing mental health while also finding ways to remain in solidarity with each other are not necessarily in opposition. 

Is Tennessee a Democracy? 

by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic 

Anne Applebaum explores the current context in Tennessee from her perspective of reporting on the decade-long democratic decline and rise of one-party rule in Poland and Hungary. “…the cascade of tiny legal and procedural changes designed to create an unlevel playing field, the ruling party’s inexplicable sense of grievance, the displaced moderates with nowhere to go—this [does] seem familiar from other places. So [is] the sense that institutional politics has become performative, somehow separated from real life…Today, Tennessee is a model of one-party rule… Nor will the situation be easy to change, because gerrymandering is something of a blood sport in the state… [And] Getting people to vote is not so easy, either, because Tennessee has some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws.”  

Why We Shouldn’t Give Up on Organized Religion 

by Tish Harrison Warren, New York Times Opinion 

Check out this interview with Eboo Patel, an American Muslim and founder and president of Interfaith America, a nonprofit that aims to promote cooperation across religious differences. Patel discusses his latest book, “We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracyand speaks about religious identity, diversity and institutions in America.  

More than Red and Blue: Political Parties and American Democracy 

The American Political Science Association (APSA) & Protect Democracy 

APSA and Protect Democracy partnered to support the APSA Presidential Task Force on Political Parties to synthesize decades of research on political parties and what they do in democracies. Key insights include: (1) the current campaign environment, from campaign finance regulations to changes in media, have made it harder for political parties to fulfill their roles; (2) American political parties are easy to join, opening them to new voices and interests but also leaving them vulnerable to capture by those with authoritarian objectives; (3) Racial realignment between the major parties has been growing for decades, changing the way the parties see the political landscape and their incentives for action; and (4) political parties are vital to modern democracy and reform efforts should take their essential roles seriously. 


Can We Transform Our Politics? 

Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Braver Angels Convention 

Governor Cox is well known for the public service announcement with his rival candidate, Democratic candidate Chris Peterson during the 2020 race for governor. Research has shown that watching the “One Nation” ad reduced viewers support for undemocratic practices, such as forgoing democratic principles for partisan gain or using violence against members of another party. Check out Governor Cox’s keynote address at the recent Braver Angels Convention in Gettysburg.  

Why Did “Woke” Go from Black to Bad? 

The Legal Defense Fund 

To some, the word “woke” is now a derisive stand-in for diversity, inclusion, empathy and Blackness. When legislators pass a law to “stop woke” in light of the word’s true history as well as its commonly understood meaning, what are they really saying? Check out this recent article by Keecee DeVenny on American Redefined, How Language is Weaponized. “Make no mistake, the linking of discussions of systemic oppression, race, gender expression, and sexual orientation with “anti-American” sentiments is intentional. It’s an attempt to redefine and reclassify who gets to call themselves American, regardless of their relationship to the country.” 

The Resurgence of the ‘Oldest Hatred’: The Effort to Combat Antisemitism 

Aspen Ideas Festival 

“Antisemitic incidents are on the rise in the United States, leaving Jewish communities feeling vulnerable — a sentiment both new and sadly familiar. Among the responses is the first ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, released by the White House, advocating a whole-of-society approach because all of us are affected by hate and it takes all of us to fight it.” Moderated by Katie Couric, this Aspen Ideas Festival panel features Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Eric Ward from Race Forward and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall from Harvard’s Belfer Center. 


Advancing Just, Multiracial Democracy with john a. powell 

Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast 

“On this episode, Julie Nelson, Senior Vice President of Programs at Race Forward and john a. powell, Director, Othering and Belonging Institute, come together in a conversation inspired by the recent essay they co-authored, “Advancing Just, Multiracial Democracy.”  They explore the role local municipalities can play in not only defending against “democratic backsliding,” but also in expanding the very nature of democracy, which is critical with the global rise of authoritarianism and nationalism. Julie and john’s work rests on the idea that local governments are uniquely situated to turn grim situations built on “othering” into a global movement grounded in racial justice and belonging.”  

Are ESG Investors Actually Helping the Environment? 

Freakonomics Podcast 

Economist Kelly Shue argues that ESG investing gives more money to firms that are already green while depriving polluting firms of financing that they need to get greener. But she offers a solution, which is to take an engagement strategy with corporations and build power from the inside for change. As the debate about ESG continues to rage, we found this a nuanced conversation in line with our approach to the business pillar within a pro-democracy movement that requires both strategic engagement and pressure tactics. 

Making Reparations a Reality: Blazing a Trail to Racial Repair with Trevor Smith 

Let’s Hear It Podcast! 

Check out this thought-provoking episode with Trevor Smith, the Director of Narrative Change at Liberation Ventures. Trevor is a writer, researcher, and editor of the newsletter – Reparations Daily (ish). During the interview Trevor discusses the growing movement calling for reparations as a catalyst for true racial repair. He invites reflection on how we can all work toward a new narrative of reparations, and how we can create a democracy that is inclusive, empathetic, and centered on principles of justice. 


This is Real! Premiere Performance at the 22CI Conference: Forging a People Powered Democracy 

The 22CI conference came to a close earlier this month with a joyful performance of a brand new song crafted during one of the sessions, “Developing a Collective Poetic Voice to Address Authoritarianism Thru Songwriting,” under the direction of Jane Sapp, a musician and cultural worker at Let’s Make a Better World and Cindy Cohen, Emerita of Brandeis University and former Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Special thanks to the members of the “This is Real Ensemble” – Destiny Williams, Jeralyn Cave, Penny Rosenwasser, and Molly O’Connor. You guys rocked it.  

Welcome to Jarvis Williams, New Director of Applied Research at The Horizons Project!

Enjoy this short interview between our Chief Network Weaver Julia Roig and our new Director of Applied Research Jarvis Williams as he describes his excitement and motivation about joining the Horizons’ team.

Julia: Hi everyone, Julia Roig, the Chief Network Weaver at the Horizons Project, celebrating on this hot summer day, that we have a new team member who has joined us at Horizons, Jarvis Williams.

We just wanted to have a chance for you to be able to say hi to everybody because of course, since we’re so into working within a broad ecosystem of a lot of different partners, we wanted to give you a chance to tell us something about yourself.

Jarvis: Well, first of all, thank you. It’s so exciting to be with the team. I enjoyed the interview process, I think I told a friend of mine I held you captive for several hours when we were supposed to be talking for a short amount of time, but it’s just great conversations.

But I think that probably explains part of who I am. I really enjoy trying to be in community with people.

I think three things that would probably define who I am now is that I’m highly sensitive to the power of relationships to change people’s lives and that’s important to me.

It started growing up in a small community in Mississippi and watching my father be in relationship with patients, watching people in the church be in relationship. So I care about that and my work culture matters to the extent that I’m in relationship with great people.

I guess the other two things that really matter to me that I guess define who I am is that I have attempted to try to be attendant to what people believe.

Why their beliefs matter to them, not simply just to change their beliefs, but to appreciate how they have come to see the world the way they do.

And then I’ve really committed myself to trying to be a part of helping us to get better information about what we believe so we can actually act better. And that’s where scholarship and academia comes into play, trying to learn about the world we live in, in a reliable way.

Julia: Yeah, that’s great. And, you know, I failed to even describe the fact that you’re taking on the role of the Director of Applied Research.

So I’m really glad that you mentioned the power of, academic rigor and your experience with research. And so I’m really curious for you to share what you’re the most excited about with regards to this job, and the Horizons mission and what you’re going to be doing in this role?

Jarvis: Oh, absolutely. I think for me, the wording that really just fascinated me was this idea of connective tissue. What do we need to know to help us connect better? Or what beliefs do we have that may be prohibiting us from connecting? And so I know that to confront the moment I think we find ourselves in with all kinds of threats, we don’t have to just connect, but we have to have a certain depth to those connections. And in order to explain some of that, it requires… interrogation to those deep beliefs that complicate how we act. And so in Horizons Project, religion, the role of Christianity in democracy, I think it’s a deep conversation that we need to think about.

The challenge of race, I think those are deep conversations. There are moments where you have to try to have a polite conversation to move on, but to build great relationships, there needs to be great understanding. And sometimes it takes a kind of depth of understanding to get there.

And then this mystery we call democracy. What beliefs are essential to be able to hold on to what we have and what beliefs have complicated it? So Horizons gives me an opportunity to, think about not just, what we know about those beliefs, but how people are actually living out those beliefs currently, and to be in relationship with them and to push and to probe and to learn and I think I’m excited about being in a space where we’re not trying to pretend we don’t disagree, but we are curious how we can believe better about each other.

Julia: Yeah, that’s beautifully put, and folks are going to very quickly realize, why you were the right choice to join our team and all this “connective tissue-ing” that we’re trying to do.

So Jarvis, just to end, you are going to interact with a lot of different folks, it’s the joy of this work of being ecosystem organizers.

So for those partners or those collaborators who are going to have the opportunity to work with you, what would be something that you’d want them to know about you as you’re getting started?

Jarvis: Yeah, I think two things for me. One, I will absolutely listen to them. I will care to hear and to see the world through their eyes. And I think that is connected to the other thing, that they will absolutely be respected. And for me, if you know that you will be heard and that you will be treated with respect, I think that’s what I would want to offer.

And in the words of John Lewis, whatever good trouble we get into, we’ll be fine. As long as we respect each other and listen.

Julia: Well, wise words to end on. And you know, Jarvis, we really are just thrilled on behalf of Maria and Tabitha and Nilanka and the whole team, just we want to give you a big warm welcome .

We’ll look forward to a lot of good trouble coming next.

Well, I so appreciate it. And I’m so happy to be a part of this team.

Julia: Thanks Jarvis.

THE VISTA: June 2023

The month of June is a busy one with the celebration of Juneteenth (check out this great reading list.) Also, the kick off of Civic Season – with hundreds of activities between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July – that is a new tradition started by Made by Us, together with museums, historic sites, libraries and archives around the country to help transform the way history is learned and “to remind us of the struggles and hard-won victories in our ongoing journey to form a ‘more perfect union.’” Our friends at Veterans for Political Innovation are also using the Fourth of July as an opportunity to recruit more veterans into their movement. We agree that veterans have an important role to play in upholding our democracy.

And of course, June is Pride month, with beautiful celebrations and visibility for the LGBTQI+ community. This year, Pride has also served as a poignant call for increased solidarity with a community that is increasingly under attack, intimately tied to the attacks on democracy playing out at the state level. You can find out more in this recent TikTok video by the Human Rights Campaign who have declared a state of emergency for the LGBTQI+ community in the United States.

Unfortunately, these trends of increasingly extreme anti-LGBTQI+ laws are global, so our solidarity must also extend across borders. This month, Uganda passed one of the most extreme laws in the world that drastically restricts the rights of LGBTQI+ Ugandans to engage in public life or advocacy. As we know, autocrats around the world are learning from each other, and therefore the pro-democracy response must also be actively sharing and learning across borders.

Hot off the press, Horizons’ Chief Organizer Maria J. Stephan published this article with Just Security focused on the specific ways that far-right authoritarian leaders in the US and globally are sharing lessons and collaborating – and how pro-democracy movement(s) can strategically out-maneuver them. She flags the 22nd Century Initiative’s conference, Forging a People-Powered Democracy where we hope to see many of you from July 6th to the 9th in Minneapolis, MN. Registration is open until the 5th!

At Horizons, we are committed to sharing experiences and lessons from other countries with our US colleagues, helping to connect the dots amongst shared threats and to find inspiration in how we are rising to the shared challenges we face. There are several important innovations captured by the Journal of Democracy from the recent opposition efforts to unseat Erdoğan in Turkey that we highly recommend, even though the campaign was ultimately unsuccessful. And, as Horizons focuses on a pillars approach to combatting authoritarianism, we also want to highlight the role that different sectors have to play in pro-democracy movements. For example, there are some lessons for the private sector in how Israeli businesses joined in the recent fight for an independent judiciary is Israel. And to help make this case, Rachel Kleinfeld recently released a helpful report on the negative impact of populism on the business sector around the world.

At this time of rest and reflection during our summer vacation mode in the United States, we hope you enjoy some of the additional resources we are reading, watching, and listening to:


Mapping An Emerging Ecosystem

by Life Itself

At Horizons we spend a lot of time reflecting on ecosystem-level organizing for social change. If you’re into systems thinking and systems change, you will appreciate this super project overview by Life Itself. “We sense that a new ecosystem, or ecosystem of ecosystems, is emerging. A growing number of people, organizations, and initiatives are taking alternative approaches to social change, which diverge from and go beyond the more established spaces in civil society and the social economy.” They explain the process used for identifying and visualizing the various approaches different organizations and networks are taking to affect large systems-level shifts. They also relate this work to other established and emerging movements.

We Need to Talk about Well-being: Why the Study of Well-being is Crucial for Race Relations and Advancing Prosperity

by Andre M. Perry and Jonathan Rothwell, Brookings

A new study was released by Brookings that analyzes data from Gallup to show that measures of well-being offer a valuable way to chart collective progress towards a diverse thriving society, arguing it’s a more holistic indicator than the traditional measures of education and income attainment. Acknowledging that “the road to a more perfect union is paved in race relations,” the report highlights the country still has a long way to go and points out that high well-being scores correlate with greater individual and community stability, high racial and ethnic diversity, and lower rates of so-called “deaths of despair.”

How to Build Movements with Cyclical Patterns in Mind

by Dave Algoso, Florencia Guerzovich, and Soledad Gattoni, Nonprofit Quarterly

“The world changes too much for anyone who is invested in social change work to imagine that this work is linear and predictable. Opportunities come and go, whether caused by a pandemic or political shifts. This much most social movement leaders and activists intuitively understand. But what can be done with this realization? How might movement groups better prepare for moments of opportunity?” In this super article, the authors reflect on how we can create the changes we want to see by responding to the changes that are outside our control.


Building Collective Leadership at Grassroots and Globally Can Fuel Positive Change

hosted by the Social Change Initiative

“Collective leadership, strategic thinking, and self-care are key tactics to leading change in difficult circumstances and divided societies.” Don’t miss the recording of this inspiring online discussion hosted by the Social Change Initiative featuring Ambika Satkunanathan a human rights lawyer from Sri Lanka; Eric Ward, Executive Vice President with Race Forward in the US; Bernadette McAliskey, a human rights and social justice campaigner from Ireland; and Phumeza Mlungwana, an activist from South Africa. Addressing the big challenges facing those who seek to lead change, Bernadette gave some sage advice: “All I can say is, does the road wind uphill all the way? Yes. Will you meet the best human beings in the world on your way? Yes, you will. And if we stand together for the values of human dignity and equality, if we stand for the principles of democracy and equality, will we get there? Yes, we will.”

Talking about Science in an Age of Misinformation

by Nat Kendall-Taylor, Nobel Prize Summit

At the recent 2023 Nobel Prize Summit, FrameWorks Institute CEO Nat Kendall-Taylor gave a short talk on two cultural mindsets that undermine trust in science and two that can be activated to build trust in science. The public’s trust in science has been on the decline, and Nat explains that to understand this lack of trust and what we can do about it, we need to look not only at what people think, but how people think about science. Also, in case you missed it FrameWorks’ recently released an updated report on their findings on Culture Change in the US incorporating shifts from the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the contentious 2020 midterm elections on Americans’ perspective on the world.

The Hopeful Majority

with Manu Meel and Jeremi Suri

Manu Meel, CEO of BridgeUSA has started a new video podcast, The Hopeful Majority, and in this third episode to celebrate Juneteenth, Manu interviewed distinguished historian Jeremi Suri to reflect on the complexity of American history while seeking to advance a new narrative of patriotism. Manu says, “to me, loving America means admiring and critiquing- both are necessary for America to be the greatest democracy possible.”


Patriotism: Pride, Race and Reckoning

Let’s Find Common Ground podcast

In this Memorial Day episode, retired US naval officer and Washington Post columnist Theodore Johnson explores the paradox of patriotism and ponders, “how can we take pride in a nation with a history of injustice and inequality?” He shares a powerful personal story of standing at attention in the stands while his son took a knee during the national anthem at his high school football game. And, he shares his thoughts on how he believes America can have more productive discussions about race.

A Billion Dollar Problem

Justice Ain’t Cheap: A Queer Philanthropy podcast

In this premier episode of the new Justice Ain’t Cheap podcast, host Saida Agostini-Bostic talks with Funders for LGBTQ Issues’ board members Ana Conner (Third Wave Fund) and Paulina Helm-Hernández (Foundation for a Just Society) about the heightened attacks on transgender and gender nonconforming communities and the role philanthropy plays in resourcing social justice movement. Paulina says, “I feel like there’s a conversation that has been created by philanthropy in relationship to movements that’s like, ‘Is this a $50,000 problem? Is this a $100,000 problem?’ And I’m like, ‘This is a billion-dollar problem. This is a huge problem.’”

The Edges in the Middle III: Báyò Akómoláfé and Indy Johar

For The Wild podcast

This is a thought-provoking conversation on A New Theory of Self that delves into how lifeforms are entangled together on the earth, exploring the modern crisis of a singular self that creates space for violence and waste. Báyò is the inaugural Global Senior Fellow at the Othering & Belonging Institute and Indy is the Founding Director of Dark Matter Labs, and their conversation is both inspiring and challenging as they call attention to the aliveness of the world and how we may collectively “move beyond constraining ideas of order, power and control to be able to recognize and take part in relational ecological emergence.”



The American Music Landmarks Project (AMLP) connects music fans, music landmark operators and other advocates through unique opportunities to discover, experience and support the places that shaped US popular music history. During this year’s Civic Season, they are focusing on supporting Gen Z to add their voices as present and future stewards of our music history’s architectural legacy through connecting them with virtual and on-site tours, special events and volunteer experiences to meaningfully participate in the ongoing preservation, maintenance and interpretation of music landmarks. “AMLP understands that the presence of youth in transforming our music landmarks from built history to built heritage is essential to further democratizing and diversifying public awareness, appreciation and support for the places that shaped our collective musical past.”

The Global Far-Right Authoritarian Alliance Threatening US Democracy – And How to Weaken It

This article was written by Chief Organizer Maria Stephan and was first published on Just Security.

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban sparked widespread outrage a year ago with a speech to members of the Hungarian minority in Romania in which he said Europeans should “not want to become peoples of mixed-race.” Days later, he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas. The defiant leader denounced gay marriage and immigration, receiving raucous standing ovations from the room of U.S. Republicans.

The CPAC gathering illustrates a troubling global trend. Namely, authoritarian leaders around the world are cooperating and learning from one another, with the apparent aim of consolidating their grip on power and enriching themselves and their allies. Working through networks of security actors, propagandists, and kleptocratic financiers, autocratic leaders are bolstering one another while subverting democratic norms and institutions at home and abroad. It’s a transnational network that award-winning journalist and historian Anne Applebaum, a traditional conservative who has become highly critical of the GOP’s far-right tilt, calls Autocracy, Inc.

While this global autocratic alliance includes members from across the political and ideological spectrum, such as China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, it’s the far-right ties that are having the most corrosive effects on U.S. democracy. The alliance among far-right autocratic leaders, including influential members of the GOP, has emerged as a significant threat to U.S. democracy, one that has only expanded since Donald Trump’s presidency. These leaders’ actions often reflect what’s frequently referred to as the authoritarian playbook: politicizing independent institutions, spreading disinformation, aggrandizing executive power when it is in their interest, quashing dissent, marginalizing vulnerable communities, corrupting elections, and stoking violence. The effect is to undermine democratic institutions such that meaningful political opposition becomes more and more difficult, and to use state power to exert control over historically excluded groups.

This far-right autocratic network is extensive, but it is by no means invincible. Past struggles against authoritarianism show that even the autocrats who seem most powerful are vulnerable to strategic, organized nonviolent action against them. Thus, the strongest way to weaken Autocracy, Inc. is by expanding learning and collaboration among pro-democracy organizations and individuals inside the United States and in other countries.

History of Far-Right Collaboration

Close cooperation between far-right leaders is not new. Perhaps the most infamous example involves the collaboration between the antisemitic America First Committee, which included 20 members of Congress, and Nazi party officials in Germany during the 1930s and early ‘40s. Working alongside the America First Committee, the far-right movement in the United States at that time included radio propagandists, prominent religious leaders, and even Hollywood studios. German Nazi officials, for their part, took inspiration from the U.S. system of Jim Crow racial apartheid.

During the Cold War, the United States famously backed right-wing dictators like Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines with military and intelligence support, until both leaders were removed from power following mass popular uprisings. Of course, this was happening in a Cold War context where communist dictatorships, like the Soviet Union, were similarly conspiring across borders to suppress fundamental rights and freedoms. Since the end of the Cold War, however, right-wing autocratic alliances have taken more subtle forms. Their actions now rely less on military coups and tanks in the streets – though there are still too many of those, too — and more on the gradual evisceration of democratic norms and institutions by democratically elected leaders skilled in the art of divide-and-rule.

The alliance of far-right “elected autocrats” is the most prevalent and problematic today. The GOP and its MAGA faction have become particularly close with Orban, Hungary’s elected leader who originally came to power through democratic means, but has subtly eroded institutional checks on his power, such as the courts, electoral bodies, and the free press, while scapegoating and stripping rights away from historically excluded groups including the Roma, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. Many of Orban’s anti-democratic moves have technically been legal since he has simply changed laws and the Constitution to weaken the opposition and tighten his grip on power. The European Union, meanwhile, has struggled to come up with ways to counter the anti-democratic slide in Hungary and neighboring Poland, making it easier for both countries to push the envelope of what’s tolerated without facing meaningful consequences.

Across the Atlantic, former Fox News host and far-right propagandist Tucker Carlson has lionized Orban, praising his brand of culture war conservatism. Carlson hosted his show in Budapest, Hungary, two years ago while producing a documentary about Orban entitled “Hungary vs. Soros: Fight for Civilization.” Attacks on George Soros, a wealthy philanthropist who supports human rights defenders around the world, have become an established part of the far-right authoritarian playbook with antisemitic overtones.  Addressing the CPAC conference in Dallas last year, Orban referred to a “clash of civilizations” between liberals and conservatives and called for greater conservative coordination across the Atlantic to “take power back.” The day before the CPAC conference, Orban met with Trump and expressed his hope that Trump would be president again.

Far-right leaders commonly appeal to traditional “family values” to mobilize fear and resentment toward those who they consider to be outside their own traditional conservative norms. The LGBTQ community is often in their crosshairs. Orban’s anti-LGBTQ legislation inspired Florida Governor and presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and there are ties between the DeSantis and Orban administrations. The president of Hungary, Katalin Novak, a close ally of Orban, has met with DeSantis and a Hungarian-born top donor. Leading conservative thinkers like Rod Dreher are based in Hungary and have actively connected Hungarian leaders to U.S. leaders.

The normalization of political violence, and the lies and hate-filled rhetoric that fuel it, is a particularly worrisome element of the far-right autocratic alliance. The relationship between the U.S. far-right and Brazil’s far-right former president, Jair Bolsonaro, has included efforts to violently overturn free and fair elections. On Jan. 8, 2023, in a scene eerily like the January 6th, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, Bolsonaro supporters violently attacked government buildings and police, and called on the military to launch a coup. Rioters claimed that opposition leader Lula da Silva had stolen the presidential election. Bolsonaro, like Trump, had spent months predicting mass fraud and then refused to concede defeat after losing.

The spinning of shared narratives across borders has strengthened far-right authoritarians’ grip on power while fueling a global ecosystem of disinformation. Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, whose right-wing “War Room” podcast drives much of MAGA messaging, declared that the Brazilian election “was stolen” and later referred to the rioters as “Brazilian freedom fighters.” Carlson similarly supported Bolsonaro’s claims of voter fraud on his Fox News show. In the lead-up to the election, Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, met with MAGA leaders, including Bannon and corporate backer Mike Lindell (the “My Pillow” guy), to discuss the possibility of mass fraud in the Brazilian elections. Researchers at the University of South Florida found that the most extensive social media amplification of the Jan. 8 Brazilian insurrection and attempted coup occurred in the United States, Russia, and Brazil, with the top account listed in Orlando, Florida.

Misogyny and the weaponization of male grievance, which often includes support for policies and practices that seek to expand state control over women’s bodies, is another key element of the far-right transnational alliance. These are core elements of “The Movement,” a loose grouping of nationalist and populist forces in Europe, Asia, and Latin America founded in 2017 by Belgian right-wing politician Mischael Modrikmen that includes Steve Bannon. The real extent of Bannon’s influence in Europe is questionable, and his efforts to mobilize conservative Catholics and build an “academy for the Judeo-Christian West” in Rome have faltered. However, Bannon’s efforts to recruit “incels” (an abbreviation of “involuntarily celibate” describing men frustrated by a lack of sexual experience who blame – and lash out at — women for their situation) and his and the MAGA faction’s close association with white supremacist groups, continues to pose a significant threat to U.S. democracy.

Countering the Right-Wing Autocratic Alliance

Given the far-right’s common strategies and collusion, democracy advocates must step up their own transnational learning and solidarity. Investing in peer learning and training that draws on experiences in other countries has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to support pro-democracy movements. Learning about strategies and tactics for countering far-right disinformation and propaganda, while building movements that draw on diverse social foundations, would help democrats across borders develop their own playbook. That means joining forces (non-violently) to understand what is working where and supporting each other’s narrative, organizational, and tactical infrastructure in the same way that authoritarians do.

Efforts to operationalize democratic solidarity should include U.S. and international activists and organizers, along with faith leaders, captains of business, union leaders, veterans’ groups, journalists, and entertainers. Their skills and capabilities are necessary to counter the most dangerous aspects of a global authoritarian alliance while building inclusive democratic futures. These key pillars provide the social, political, economic, financial, and moral support that authoritarian leaders need to consolidate and expand their power. In the United States, although companies like Disney and Bud Lite have recently faced far-right blowback for the positions they have taken, like opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation, the business community played a key role in ensuring a democratic transition after the 2020 election. Organizations like Check My Ads, which targets digital advertising companies that are promoting hate speech and disinformation, use lessons from successful campaigns such as “Sleeping Giants,” to cut off a key source of authoritarian power.

Organizations like the Horizons Project, where I work, as well as the pro-democracy group Keseb, the Social & Economic Justice Leaders Project, and United Vision for Idaho are creating opportunities and initiatives for democracy advocates in the United States and from other countries experiencing democratic backsliding to learn from each other about effective narratives, strategies, and tactics. That includes Keseb’s Democracy Fellowship, UVI’s national training hub, and Horizons’ efforts to support a multi-disciplinary cohort of trainers and facilitators from across the United States and globally who are sharing skills, tools, and approaches for countering authoritarianism and strengthening democracy.

Next month, another civic group, the 22nd Century Initiative, is hosting a major public conference in Minneapolis focused on countering authoritarianism and strengthening democracy, which will bring together hundreds of organizers, bridgebuilders, and democracy advocates to meet, build relationships, and organize. Networks of creatives and social change leaders, such as the Impact Guild and Color of Change, and faith-based groups like SojournersFaith in ActionFaith for Black Lives, the Kairos Center, and NETWORK are similarly drawing on international insights and networks to inform their work to counter racism and strengthen democracy.

At a time when global authoritarianism and a well-resourced “Autocracy Inc.” is expanding its reach, and in a context where U.S. states have become laboratories of democratic backsliding, it is imperative to double down on efforts to strengthen democratic solidarity within the United States and across international borders. That means sharing analyses and resources, and investing in mentoring relationships between pro-democracy trainers and facilitators in the United States and those in other countries. And it means creating opportunities for organizers and bridgebuilders to learn from each other about effective strategies and tactics to resist autocracy while building inclusive democracies.