Our Plan

The most effective [pro-democracy] coalitions are those that bring together groups with dissimilar – even opposing – views on many issues.

– Steven Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die

Combining person-to-person and social media approaches, Saving Democracy will encourage Americans of ALL political stripes (Independents, Republicans, and Democrats) to step up to the moment, with an involvement that could make all the difference.

The Project has two distinct phases.  In Phase 1, Saving Democracy will raise awareness and educate the broad public about the ideals of American democracy while at the same time informing citizens about the clear and rising danger of illiberal far-right politics.

Next, Saving Democracy will focus resources during the 2023-2024 election cycle in purple swing districts where the nation’s fate will likely be decided.  Here, Saving Democracy will make appeals to Democrats, Republicans, and no party preference (NPP) independents. NPPs make up approximately one-third of voters in many areas of the country.  Saving Democracy will also reach out to and craft appeals to infrequent and new voters to stress that voting is the best way to exercise our power as American citizens.

We have to defend it, protect it, stand up for it, each and every one of us.

President Joe Biden, Independence Hall,
September 1, 2022


Focus on the Civic Middle, the Disaffected, and Younger Voters

Democracy will not be saved by appeals to party loyalists. For 20-plus years, the nation’s political consultants have won elections by messaging to the base while largely ignoring the middle. In strictly partisan terms, the nation is sharply polarized into Blue and Red camps.

  • But this ignores the “Civic Middle,” the ballast of our political system. Many Americans are moderates who find themselves in the political center between the parties. These independent-minded individuals believe that committed partisans often take positions that go too far to the right or to the left. While smaller than in the past, the Civic Middle still exists. It includes those moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who feel abandoned by their party, as well as NPP and infrequent voters.
  • Additionally, disaffected voters across the spectrum, from conservatives in the Liz Cheney mode to those on the progressive left, must be urged to vote. Our goal is to help people, regardless of how alienated they might feel, believe that a working democracy promotes a culture where even those without power can participate and be heard. Everyone needs to feel that they matter and that their voices can be heard. Should we become an autocracy, America’s proud tradition of individual rights will be a thing of the past. Democracy is not just about the democratic process. When it works for all, democracy is a way of life.
  • Saving Democracy will reach out to Millennials and Gen Zers. A surge of the youth vote could right our democratic ship.  We believe that by stressing the fragility of democracy and how their vote and participation matters, younger voters can better see the risk from autocracy and act.

We believe our best chance to break the nation’s political impasse is to speak to the civic middle, the disaffected, and younger voters and to drive home what is at stake when one of the country’s two major political parties is no longer loyal to the Constitution and the central democratic premise of free and fair elections.  This is not the time to write off politics as much ado about nothing.  Only when semi-loyal politicians suffer electoral defeat will they see the cost of following the authoritarian road.

Technology and a New Generation

The cornerstone of any democracy since Aristotle has been to persuade enough of the population to your way of implementing a common vision in the lives of its citizens. Today, the creation of digital platforms powered by data science has resulted in the proliferation of social media channels. Once, the traditional news media held sway over voters. Now, through fragmentation and micro targeting of the “like minded,” people can be organized into communities and open forums where racism is freely expressed.

The result of exponentially democratizing the processing and sharing of information, without vetting and fact checking, has been to increase misinformation, blatant propaganda, and systematic lying about politics. The digital media revolution spreads information at nanovelocity and along with it any lies and misinformation to which its adherents cling. Regrettably, corporate media news gathering and reporting is not equipped to help people understand and process what is at stake.

Our hope is that young people have a grasp of the new media landscape, its implications for our democracy’s health, and can teach us about these new lenses of democratic persuasion.  Building trust through face-to-face interactions while sharing space and fostering community in reliable online and physical environments is crucial to rebuilding belief in our political system.

Education and Persuasion Where It Has Impact

Large organizations – whether it be a presidential administration, corporation, business group, labor union, nation-state, or religious organization – are largely immune to education and persuasion. At the societal level, as Reinhold Niebuhr taught and Martin Luther King Jr. understood, what is required is some form of coercion. The Civil Rights movement deployed the coercive power of nonviolent protest. Emphasizing personal interactions and small group dialogue, Saving Democracy will operate in the sphere where education and persuasion can – and do – have a powerful effect. Additionally, Saving Democracy will employ social media for positive ends.

At the conclusion of the eighth Jan. 6 committee hearing, Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney said:

We must remember that we cannot abandon the truth and remain a free nation.

Phase 1 – Educate and Raise Awareness

The overarching goal of Saving Democracy is to raise awareness and educate the broad public about the ideals of American democracy while at the same time teaching citizens about the clear and rising danger of illiberal far-right politics.   This can be approached in a variety of ways:

  • Speaking on podcasts and in the media, hosting events, publishing articles
  • Building a social media presence
  • Meeting with business and civic leaders and groups in key areas
  • Educating volunteers so they can reach out to others in their networks and communities
  • Raising funds to support education and activism
  • Conducting pilot programs to test concepts

Phase 2 – Three-Prong Plan

Saving Democracy will tap into those feelings of patriotism and love of country that nearly all Americans possess. The goal of Saving Democracy is to bring about a small but significant percentage increase in the pro-democracy electorate. In close-fought swing district races, this marginal change could make all the difference in the electoral outcome.

1. Deep Door-to-Door Canvassing

Walk door-to-door in working-class and middle-income precincts to first identify and then establish an ongoing conversation with voters open to persuasion. This piece of the Saving Democracy program will employ the deep-canvassing approach to political persuasion, characterized by empathetic listening conversations, that has been shown to be more successful than traditional door-to-door techniques. In contrast to traditional canvassing, deep canvassing aims for deeper conversations in which people open up about what they value and aspire to for themselves, their community, their nation.

2. Local Business and Civic Leaders

Reach out to local business and civic leaders in an effort to generate dialogue about the erosion of democratic norms, stressing the business community’s strong interest in having a stable, rule-following democracy where extremism and threats of violence are sharply discouraged. Speaking to organizations such as business councils, chambers of commerce, and civic associations and clubs will help initiate conversations around defending their members’ interest in a strong and stable democracy.

3. Social Media Campaign

Construct a Social Media campaign that will both supplement and benefit from the ground effort. After on-the-ground research and experimentation, as part of our communications effort, Saving Democracy will produce a series of short videos conveying our basic themes for social media (such as TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter). These videos will feature people from the local community speaking about the need for every American to stand up for democracy.

For each of the three-prongs, Saving Democracy will educate citizens about the authoritarian threat, and equip them to recognize what a belief in and commitment to democratic principles and behaviors look like.

Time Frame

2023: Pilot Program in Key Swing Districts.

Saving Democracy will engage in promoting a dialogue about what democracy entails and the challenges presented by the illiberal far-right.

In the pilot phase, Saving Democracy will select geographic locales in the Southwest (Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada) and Midwest (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan) in which to pilot our approach. We will learn what works best in order to deliver what is most effective and cost-efficient.

2024 and Beyond: Continue to Educate and Raise Awareness and Implement Swing Area Program Based on Results of Pilot Tests.