This collection on American democracy challenges and complements blog posts and opinion pieces that are typical staples of the 24/7 news cycle in the lead up to US elections. You'll find reports about election and campaign administration, voting access and participation, government performance and perceptions, the role of the media in civil society, and more.

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"VOTE!" by Paul Sableman licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Behind the Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy

September 29, 2021

This report examines the ways corporations and the ultrarich are lobbying in response the the Biden Administration's Build Back Better plan. Specifically, they focus on who is spending big to block key measures in the plan related to taxes, drug pricing, healthcare, housing, the environment, and immigration. The authors explain wht that Build Back Better agenda proposes, and what current polls reveal about popular opinion.


Supreme Court Battle Against Ohio's Illegal Voter Purges Draws Support in Eighteen Amicus Briefs

September 25, 2017

A diverse set of stakeholders filed 18 amicus briefs urging the Supreme Court to strike down Ohio's Supplemental Process -- an illegal voter purge practice that removes eligible voters from the rolls for failure to vote, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

Campaigns and Elections; Government

Sanctuary, Safety and Community: Tools For Welcoming and Protecting Immigrants Through Local Democracy

January 13, 2017

Concerned about increasing threats to immigrant communities by several racially-fraught immigration policy positions advanced by the incoming federal administration, Demos and LatinoJustice PRLDEF are issuing this preliminary report on the ability of local communities to decide, based on their own form of local government, how they may enact policies to protect immigrant rights. This report is by no means comprehensive; it is intended to provide advocates with basic information about available options to effectively address the very real safety and security threats to immigrant communities. Our research demonstrates how local democratic institutions may enact countermeasures that welcome and include immigrants as equal members of society. We believe that this moment of crisis provides an opportunity for local governments and schools to dedicate themselves to building a "beloved community" that assumes responsibility for protecting its most vulnerable members and, in doing so, expands the well-being and security of all. Since the November 2016 election of a presidential candidate who ran on a platform of racialized xenophobia, a troubling wave of hate speech and hate crimes has been unleashed; the largest number has occurred in schools. Immigrant communities are not only living in fear of the termination of recent policies such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but also in real fear of draconian federal government policies that include racial profiling, raids and mass deportations. President-elect Donald Trump made campaign promises to "build a wall" to keep out "Mexicans", whom he universally labeled as "criminals"; to deny refuge for Syrians seeking asylum from civil war, including Syrian children; to institute an unconstitutional national registry for Muslims and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from entering the country; to retract President Obama's executive order deferrals of deportation for young people; and to deport 2-3 million undocumented immigrants. For communities of color, the rhetoric has already resulted in the creation of a hostile environment, saturated with high levels of hate speech and hate crimes, even in schools and directed against places of worship. In the month following the election of Donald J. Trump to the nation's highest office, over 1,000 bias-related incidents were documented, and nearly 37 percent of them included perpetrators expressing support for Mr. Trump while engaging in such deplorable acts against humanity.

Civic Participation

Whose Voice, Whose Choice? The Distorting Influence of the Political Donor Class In Our Big-money Elections

December 8, 2016

Over the last three decades, the Supreme Court has curtailed meaningful limits on political campaign spending and contributions. Te alarming, but predictable, result is the rise of a small group of wealthy elites who make large political contributions with the goal of infuencing election outcomes and policymaking. We are lef with a government that is less responsive to the needs and concerns of ordinary Americans, and more responsive to the needs and concerns of economic elites. To understand what big money in politics means, it is important to understand the "who" and the "what" of political donations: who is spending big money on elections, and what do they want? In the following analysis, we uncover the demographics (the "who") and policy preferences (the "what") of the donor class that dominates U.S. campaign funding, in order to shed light on why money in politics is distorting our democracy in favor of economic elites, and particularly white male elites. Drawing on unique data sets and original data analyses, for the frst time we are able to see who is -- and is not -- represented among big political donors and how their policy concerns difer. The data reveal that the donor class is in fact profoundly unrepresentative of the American population as a whole, and particularly of low-income people and people of color. Our analysis encompasses federal elections in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Campaigns and Elections

Understanding the Federal Deficit and the National Debt

October 18, 2010

Concerns about rising budget deficits have been on the political scene for decades. More recently these concerns have reappeared, as tax cuts and the costs of two wars transformed budget surpluses left by President Clinton into deficits in the early 2000s, while foreseeable long-term challenges approached. More recently, the recession has increased the short-term deficit to historic levels, though they will come down as the economy recovers. The current federal debt, which has risen sharply as tax cuts were phased in over a decade, security spending soared, and the nation was devastated by the financial crisis, is at its highest level since 1952, when the country was still repaying debt incurred during World War II. However, sharp increases in deficits and debt are common during economic downturns due to declines in tax receipts and additional federal spending to ameliorate the negative effects of a recession. Similarly, the deficit and national debt are most commonly measured as a share of the economy, so a shrinking economy also makes the fiscal outlook worse. The current debate over our nation's fiscal future is, however, conflating large short-term deficits, which will drop significantly after the recession, with the longer-term outlook for rising debt which is driven by escalating health care costs and an antiquated revenue code. Understanding the difference between short-term cyclical effects and long-term structural imbalances -- and the main factors of each type of shortfall -- is critical to adopting the right policy response. This short brief will give an overview of the concepts of the deficit and public debt, their causes and impacts on the national economy, and the appropriate policy options to address them in the short-, medium-, and long-term.