Happy 2024 from Horizons! A year when half the population of the world will be going to the polls. One of the main lessons from recent electoral successes – like in Poland – is the importance of keeping pro-democracy coalition(s) from fracturing. So staying together as partisans for democracy is especially important as we go into this electoral year. There are several helpful efforts underway to map the pro-democracy ecosystem in the US and to reflect on the ways pro-democracy private philanthropy is responding. And while Horizons continues to be galvanized by the authoritarian threat in the US, we also feel a sense of hope and momentum from the many state-level efforts to fight back against these anti-democratic trends, such as Pennsylvania Uniters and KeepLouisanaUnified.org.
Check out this short explainer video on the Pillars of Support framework that Horizons released earlier this month to help make sense of authoritarian systems and highlighting some of the strategies used during the civil rights movement. In January, we also celebrate Martin Luther King Jr – a day to be inspired not only by his vision and leadership, but by the multitude of people who made up civil rights movements. Appreciation to More Perfect for sharing this short film, Traveling with Dr. King, featuring stories from several of Dr. King’s closest advisers, and we also recommend King: A Film Recorded…Montgomery to Memphis covering some of the most critical campaigns of that period. Part of commemorating MLK Day is also to be clear eyed about our history in the country and to take seriously the current resurgence of threats of political violence that is having an increasingly chilling effect on democratic participation.
Enjoy some additional resources we are reading, watching, and listening to this month:
A Partnership of More in Common and the SNF Agora Institute
Within the complex ecosystem of democracy reformers, there is often two dominant paradigms: (1) institutional reform efforts and (2) individual, psycho-social interventions. Through a series of case studies, this report seeks to articulate another paradigm for making democracy work: investing in the design and distribution of civic infrastructure. “By investing in collective settings, we hope to develop the muscles for democracy that people and communities will need to seek, identify, and implement shared solutions that do not accept the world as it is but instead create the world they need.”
by Rebecca Solnit, Literary Hub
“The expectation that change will be swift and the failure to perceive it when it’s not impacts politics for the worse. A common source of uninformed despair is when a too-brief effort doesn’t bring a desired result—one round of campaigning, one protest. Another immense impact of this impatience and attention-span deficit comes when a political process reaches its end, but too many don’t remember its beginning. At the end of most positive political changes, a powerful person or group seems to hand down a decision. But at the beginning of most were grassroots campaigns to make it happen. The change got handed up before it got handed down, and only the slow perspective, the long view, lets you see the power that lies in ordinary people, in movements, in campaigns that often are seen as unrealistic, extreme, aiming for the impossible at their inception.”
by Joe Goldman, Lee Drutman, and Oscar Pocasangre, The Democracy Fund
“Will Americans stand up for democracy even when it works against their party?” The View of the Electorate Research (VOTER) Survey is a longitudinal survey that Democracy Fund has conducted in partnership with YouGov since December 2016. Insights from the most recent report include: while the vast majority of Americans claim to support democracy, fewer than half consistently and uniformly support democratic norms across multiple surveys over the past seven years; support for democratic norms softens considerably when they conflict with partisanship; the portion of the public who are consistently authoritarian — Americans who consistently justify political violence or support alternatives to democracy over multiple survey waves — is also relatively small. This leaves most Americans somewhere between consistent democratic and authoritarian leanings, a position often heavily shaped by partisanship.
The Frameworks Institute
“Democracy in the United States is at a crossroads. Moving forward, the strength of our democratic system will depend on public support and action, which in turn depends on how people think about and make sense of democracy itself. The framing choices we make can have a major impact on how people understand democracy in the US—what it is, how it works, and how it can be better. In this short guide, we zero in on democracy—specifically, how can we foster a more productive dialogue and build a greater understanding of what democracy is and how we can improve it in the US?”
NBC News Now Special
The National Day of Racial Healing was launched in 2017 and is observed each year on January 16th to reflect on our shared values around equality and how we can heal from the effects of racism. The National Day of Racial Healing is a part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing Transformation efforts We enjoyed seeing our friend and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)-KY organizer, Beth Howard, in the special! You can read more about all the organizations who commemorated this day and the many events they hosted around the country here.
The Financial Times
“In a year in which more than half the world goes to the polls, acclaimed novelist Margaret Atwood asks whether democracy is fragile and easily destroyed or flexible and resilient. This [short] animated monologue is the first of four films examining the state of government, representation, rights, and freedom.”
Three years after the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, political violence remains a threat to American democracy. You can watch the recordings of this live January 2024 Kettering Conversation, as they engaged with thought leaders about the ongoing threats of political violence including James Comey, former director of the FBI; Chris Matthews, nationally known broadcast journalist and political commentator and Kelley Robinson, President, Human Rights Campaign amongst others.
Sofia Ongele, TED Democracy
“’Democracy is more fun and inviting when you take it into your own hands,’ says creator and activist Sofia Ongele. Sharing how she’s using coding and social media to defend democracy, Ongele invites us to identify our own creative superpowers — whether it’s community organizing, making music or telling stories — and use them to cause a ruckus and bring movements to life.”
An Audio Docuseries by Our Body Politic
“Many of the investigators and team leads on the January 6th Committee that investigated the insurrection were people of color… We bring you the story of their leadership, and why their mix of lived experience as descendants of enslaved people; children of immigrants; or immigrants themselves deeply shaped the committee’s quest to protect and uphold a multiracial pluralistic democracy. In January 6th: An American Story, we show – through the eyes of the people of color helping to lead the committee – that January 6th is not over, and the ways we continue to make sense of its reverberations could save – or imperil – us all.”
Interview with Nora Bateson, Entangled World Podcast
Nora Bateson discusses her latest book, Combining, where she challenges conventional fixes for our problems, highlighting the need to tackle issues at multiple levels, understand interdependence, and embrace ambiguity. The interview looks at how we cannot solve our current global challenges or the metacrisis with direct correctives. She discusses the fact that in ecological systems nothing is happening one thing at a time. There’s not A solution to A problem.
Why? The Podcast
What would have happened if the January 6th insurrection had been successful? The second installment is out! Check out this interview with Harvard law professor Alan Jenkins who co-wrote the graphic novel with Gan Golan (and illustrated by Will Rosado). Drawing on real-life events on 1/6, the novel imagines a world in which the events of that day turned out very differently. It’s a story that demands our attention and calls on us to act. You can order the first two issues on the comic’s website.
Check out the Poetry Clinic, now live! “Poetry Clinic provides a poetic response to the complex situation of being a human during this time of climate crisis, cascading conflicts, the ongoing pandemic, and other social and environmental upheavals. Poetry Clinic cultivates new relationships among readers, poets, and poems in a time of profound uncertainty. In short, Poetry Clinic serves as a portal for users to request poems that address specific life situations they’re facing.
You are invited to email the Clinic with your quandary, any experience or circumstance, for which a poem might be a balm — or a disruption, an opening of sorts. Poetry Clinic is the online equivalent of an apothecary, but instead of dispensing herbs and potions, they offer up poems to help soothe a moment of your heartache or worry–or to join in celebrating births, marriages, love, transitions, the passionate transitory.