At the time of writing our November newsletter, the results of all the US mid-term elections are still unknown. One clear win for democracy was that most of the local Secretary of State and Gubernatorial candidates who were “2020 election deniers” were unsuccessful in their bids for office. As we celebrate the wins of the many pro-democracy candidates and the tireless community organizers around the country, Horizons has been reflecting on Daniel Stid’s recent blog “…the conflation of democracy with politics is one of the biggest challenges to sustaining it. Democracy is so much larger than politics… we have to do a better job demarcating when we’re talking about what, otherwise we can create an idea or expectation that democracy is only working when we get the political wins we want, or that everything we don’t agree with is inherently anti-democratic”.
We still have a lot of work to do on the democracy agenda in the US and globally, and there are many resources and thought leaders offering a path forward. The Brennan Center for Justice provided a thoughtful analysis of How Voter Suppression Legislation is Tied to Race.
Erica Chenoweth and Zoe Marks from the Harvard Kennedy School recently released a seminal report (commissioned by Social and Economic Justice Leaders Project) Pro-Democracy Organizing against Autocracy in the United States: A Strategic Assessment & Recommendations, that proposes nonviolent resistance strategies, support systems to protect communities at-risk, and infrastructure needed for effective pro-democracy organizing. Others are asking In a Fast-Changing Political Landscape, How is The Democracy Alliance Evolving? And, also offering observations that Philanthropy Needs New Strategies to Save American Democracy.
Jill Vialet from the Center for Social Sector Leadership describes a new form of Democracy Entrepreneurship and highlights the importance of bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to the work of democratic reform. Part of this new mindset is how we talk about democracy, and in his recent opinion piece, How to Strangle Democracy While Pretending to Engage in It, Carlos Lozada reflects on how the rhetoric we use can “move public discourse beyond extreme, intransigent postures of either kind, with the hope that in the process our debates will become more ‘democracy friendly’”.
At Horizons, we are committed to helping build a renewed global democracy movement, and the recent article by Rachel Kleinfeld, A Helsinki Moment for a New Democracy Strategy discusses lessons from the democracy community’s last paradigm shift to provide a lens for seeing what we need next; and, how countries need to work together on shared challenges. Finally, we hope you’ll tune in to the recent podcast interview with Horizons’ Co-Lead and Chief Organizer, Maria Stephan on the Difficult Conversations Podcast where she discusses the US’s long history of authoritarian tendencies, exactly how those tendencies are manifesting today, and how the tools and strategies of nonviolent action can be used to effectively counter them.
As we prepare for the Thanksgiving holidays in the US, we are grateful for all the inspiring work and important ideas reflected in what we’ve been reading, watching, and listening to:
The Pillars of Support Project
By The Horizons Project
Horizons recently launched a new initiative to compile research and make recommendations for engaging different pillars within society that are positioned to incentivize pro-democracy behavior or continue to prop up an authoritarian system. There are many excellent organizations working within these pillars, such as faith communities, the private sector, organized labor, and veterans’ groups to name just a few.
The Role of In-Group Moderates in Faith Communities
by The One America Movement (OAM)
When OAM describes the role of in-group moderates, they “aren’t talking about being politically or socially moderate, compromising your values, or changing who you are. Being an in-group moderate means that you are willing to speak out when members of your community (your friends, your family, your coworkers, your congregation, your political party) behave in a way that contradicts your values. This act of speaking up can look like pulling someone you love aside to explain to them how concerned you are about their words or actions”.
The Importance of Corporate Political Responsibility
by Andrew Winston, Elizabeth Doty, and Thomas Lyon, MIT Sloan Management Review
Corporate Political Responsibility (CPR) is a broader take on old-school corporate social responsibility, or CSR. CPR focuses on how business influences four key systems: the rules of the game (markets, laws, and regulations), civic institutions and representation (for instance, protecting democracy), civil society and public discourse, and natural systems and societal shared resources. The article includes a helpful table on “Putting Corporate Political Responsibility Into Action”.
Could Veterans Put Us on a Path Toward Bringing Respect and Civility Back to Politics?
by Dan Vallone, Stars and Stripes
As we celebrated Veterans Day November 11th, this special edition of Stars and Stripes highlighted the research of More In Common that found that 86% of Americans say they trust veterans to do what is right for America and 76% say veterans are role models for good citizenship. “This trust and respect holds true for Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, and speaks to the distinct potential veterans have to bring Americans together across our political divide”.
Perspectives from Neuroscience: Visualizing the Wonders of the Brain
by Dr. Richard J. Davidson; The Wellbeing Summit for Social Change
The Wellbeing Project held a Summit for Social Change in June 2022 that brought together global social, governmental, arts, and business leaders to advance individual and collective wellbeing for those working on the front lines of social change. You can watch all the videos of the presentations and check out the practical tools and arts installations presented at the Summit here. This session on the neuroscience of wellbeing was one of our favorites.
Check out this great Tik Tok explanatory video on how wellness and fitness influencers create pathways to misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories. (And while you’re there, check out their other super videos on misinformation and other narrative change topics)!
Building and Sustaining Resilience Amid Rising Political Violence
by Western States Center (WSC)
WSC hosted a series of conversations, Looking Forward by Looking Back, to learn from those who have waged a long-term struggle against authoritarianism to reflect on the choices we will make to protect inclusive democracy in the US. If you missed this inspiring webinar sharing important lessons from the experience in South Africa, we highly recommend taking time to watch the recording; you can download the presentation slides here.
These Political Scientists Surveyed 500,000 Voters. Here Are Their Unnerving Conclusions
The Ezra Klein Show podcast
John Sides and Lynn Vavreck — political scientists at Vanderbilt and U.C.L.A., respectively — discuss the findings of their new book, The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy. In this podcast, they make an interesting argument that our politics aren’t just polarized, but calcified, describing the process and implications of this calcification.
The Deep Dive podcast with Philip McKenzie
Systems-level change is hard. In this podcast, Jennifer Garvey Berger discusses her new book Unlock Your Complexity Genius which explores how we think about and process complexity and how we leverage that thinking to understand ourselves and the world we inhabit.
In 2012, StoryCorps broadcast a conversation with a young woman involved in the murder of Mulugeta Seraw, a Black man in Portland, Oregon. A decade later, they revisited it to look at the ripples of racist violence, and a few people who fought to stop it.
How to Depolarize Deeply Divided Societies
The Conversation Weekly podcast
Jennifer McCoy, a political scientist at Georgia State University, is studying cases of depolarization from around the world over the past century. Her research is identifying a couple of fundamental conditions of countries which have successfully depolarized (and sustained it.) Robert Talisse, a political philosopher at Vanderbilt University, describes a different phenomenon that he calls belief polarization. Talisse doesn’t believe polarization can ever be eliminated – only managed. And he has a couple of suggestions for how.
Fine Acts teamed up with the Democracy & Belonging Forum, an initiative of the Othering and Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley – to produce a collection of powerful visual artworks on the topic of Bridging & Belonging. They “commissioned 40 amazing artists to work on the topic, through the prism of solutions and hope. All works are now published under an open license on thegreats.co, their platform for free social impact art, so that anyone – including educators, activists and nonprofits globally – can use them in their work”.