About Us

Saving Democracy engages with citizens across the spectrum in talks about the threat to American democracy – and what to do about it.

Our Mission

Saving Democracy aims to recruit, train, and support a group of patriotic Americans who, acting as energetic evangelists for freedom and democracy, will reach out and speak to their friends, associates, and members of their networks. We will educate our fellow citizens about the authoritarian threat to our constitutional freedoms – including free and fair elections and the rule of law – and equip them to recognize what a belief in and commitment to democratic principles and behaviors look like. We will ask them to do their patriotic duty; they decide from there.

Hundreds of leading U.S. companies and major law firms expressed their alarm at attacks on the right to vote and free and fair elections across two pages in the New York Times on April 14, 2021. These business leaders called for “all Americans to join us in taking a nonpartisan stand for this most basic and fundamental right of all Americans.” Saving Democracy provides a nonpartisan vehicle to put this into action.


Our Values

  • Constitutional democracy is a system of government and a way of life.
  • It is a system where individual rights are safeguarded, free speech and a free press are protected, and a commitment to equal justice and the rule of law is respected.
  • The right to vote is the fundamental democratic right and access to voting should be expanded, not restricted.
  • The American system has worked because Americans have remained true to the norms and traditions that Madisonian democracy requires. These norms are the oxygen that our institutions need to breathe.
  • A healthy democracy is characterized by active, informed citizenship and a commitment to the common good that mutes selfish individualism.

Who We Are

The project’s principals were Coro Fellows in Public Affairs after college and have stayed in touch in the years since. Coro is a unique experiential program that teaches individuals gravitating toward politics, civic life, and public affairs the importance of working with people from diverse agendas, backgrounds, and different political views. Immersed in real world politics and policy, Fellows emerge from the experience with an appreciation for the importance of dialogue, compromise, and working with people who see the world through a variety of lenses. The program is steeped in bipartisanship.

Saving Democracy is a collaborative effort rooted in our Coro training. It began out of concern that our nation’s democratic norms are quickly eroding. Things that would have been unimaginable even five years ago have increasingly become accepted. We call this initiative Saving Democracy because our democracy is indeed in danger and there is an urgency to take fact-based information directly to those who hold the balance of our democracy in their hands. We are targeting key congressional swing districts in Southern California, but the Saving Democracy program can be followed well beyond the Golden State.

Here is a Coro-type training exercise: It’s early in the 21st century and technological innovation has disrupted basic communication among people. As a result, U.S. democratic norms and guardrails are under siege from disinformation and the traditional news media is widely distrusted. A free and fair presidential election is challenged and the loser refuses to concede. Three years later, approximately forty percent of Americans have doubts about the legitimacy of the person sitting in the Oval Office. Many Americans openly worry that the nation is slipping into autocracy. And no one is coming to save us. What would you do? What actions can individual citizens take to preserve and defend democracy from an attack within the nation’s borders?

As we began a conversation, what emerged was an idea to go deep into local communities to discover what is happening at the grassroots. We decided the best way to defend democracy is to speak to neighbors and people in our own communities about how our liberties and freedoms depend on constitutional democracy. We listen to people at the doorway and the kitchen table. We also speak to local civic and business groups about the precious gifts that democratic society bestows on all of us as individuals. We tell our fellow citizens that democracy is rare in human history and once gone difficult to reclaim.

We believe that American politics is healthy when the broad civic middle of the American electorate exercises its voice and cast ballots. This stands in contrast to efforts by both political parties to energize and mobilize their base voters. Mobilizing the base is fine, but if we want American democracy both to survive and to work, we also must engage voters who are not super partisans.

Using community-building techniques (talking to civic groups, engaging neighbors), we can reach the civic middle – moderate voters who traditionally have provided the ballast for America’s political life – as well as disaffected and Gen-Z voters frustrated with the messy nature of democracy and turned off by the angry tone of Washington D.C. and cable news. These three groups constitute the core persuadable voters in today’s polarized electorate. Troubled by our nation’s deep political divide and the violence unleashed on Jan. 6, they will participate in elections, but only if given a reason.

A grass-roots pro-democracy effort focused on education and civic engagement is an essential strategy if we are to successfully turn back the authoritarian, anti-democratic tide that now endangers the very foundations of national life. Saving Democracy aims to activate the patriotic, pro-democracy sentiment dwelling just below the surface and restore our political guardrails.

Our nation finds itself at a crossroads: Stay true to our democratic ideals… or spiral into a political abyss filled with danger? At its core, the United States has stood for – and must continue to stand for – freedom from tyranny.

Our Team

Kevin C. O'Leary

Executive DirectorKevin C. O’Leary

Kevin is a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of California, Irvine and teaches in the Political Science Department at Chapman University. A graduate of UCLA, he earned his doctorate at Yale. He has been the lead West Coast reporter for TIME, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, editorial page editor of the Pasadena Star-News, editor of OC METRO magazine, and a contributor to The American Prospect. He is the author of Madison’s Sorrow: Today’s War on the Founders and America’s Liberal Ideal.


Director of Data and AnalyticsJim Bernstein

Jim brings decades of online and offline marketing experience to help companies devise and deliver data-driven solutions to increase revenue and marketing efficiencies. He has led major analytics engagements with many leading retail, telecom, health care and nonprofit market leaders and is currently VP, Analytic Solutions for Hansa Marketing Services. After receiving his B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis and his time with CORO, Jim pursued graduate studies in Public Policy at Claremont Graduate School.


Director of Social Media and MessagingRichard Vasquez

Richard brings more than 30 years of experience working with diverse segments of the Hispanic community, with a particular expertise in analyzing, developing actionable insights, and strategy building of Hispanics by race, ethnicity, national identity, culture, language, religion, and region. Since 1986, his consulting firm has advised and developed programs for such entities as NBCUniversal Telemundo, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Disneyland. After Coro, he became Southern California Field Representative to U.S. Senator Alan Cranston and then Western States Coordinator for the Cranston Presidential Exploratory Committee. He earned a B.A. in political science from UCLA.

Community Relations ManagerIsabella (Izzie) Stoddart

Isabella is a cum laude graduate of Chapman University where she majored in Political Science and minored in Sociology. She studied abroad in Northern Ireland where she learned about peace building and on-going reconciliation efforts between Protestant and Catholics. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was a volunteer coordinator for Delivering with Dignity and guided an emergency response team of more than 100 volunteers and staff members delivering food to vulnerable communities.

Campus CoordinatorRuben Lopez-Apodaca

Ruben is a graduate of Chapman University where he majored in Political Science.

Campus CoordinatorNatalie Tropea

Natalie is a senior at Chapman University where she is majoring in Business and minoring in Political Science.