American democracy is facing an existential crisis. Even as we have witnessed a blossoming of civic participation in recent years, our system of governance is now faced with escalating threats on all fronts.
Before, during, and after the 2020 election, Americans saw a rise in efforts to suppress the vote and destabilize the outcome of the election, super-charged by an explosion of racialized disinformation driving hyper-partisanship and undercutting support for long-standing rights and norms. Hundreds of anti-voter bills have been introduced in nearly every state, all designed to erect significant barriers to participation in democracy and enable partisan control of election administration.
A broad cross-section of progressive organizations and democracy champions is committed to fighting back. They have built an increasingly collaborative and cohesive pro-democracy movement. Their strategic infrastructure has shown that it is capable of both responding to ongoing crises in our democracy and driving transformative reform.
This movement has built a massive national, state and local infrastructure to register millions of voters, particularly from underrepresented constituencies. Hundreds of groups engaged in voter mobilization, including Wallace Global Fund grantees such as the Working Families Organization, Voto Latino and the Alliance for Youth Organizing. Media Matters for America, Color of Change and People’s Action have fought election disinformation. Key advocates, including the Advancement Project and Common Cause, educate voters about their rights and challenge voter suppression in the courts. The results of these partnerships are unprecedented. Despite the extraordinary challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and wide-ranging efforts to undermine the 2020 election, an historic 67 percent of the US electorate made their democratic voices heard.
Now this movement is proposing policies with the potential to transform American democracy. They are working to establish standards to prevent voter suppression, reduce the influence of corporate money in politics, and constrain partisan gerrymandering. As disinformation spreads, threats of political violence mount, and electoral norms and systems are undermined. The movement will continue its fight to uphold the pillars of democracy and governance. Despite facing many challenges, the pro-democracy movement is strong, networked and increasingly committed to equity and inclusion at all levels.
Strengthening democracy is one of Wallace Global Fund’s most bedrock commitments, and we believe that people-powered movements are critical to its success. As such, the Fund has been a long-time supporter of high-impact movement-based organizations and networks working to protect and expand US democracy. We have supported hundreds of national, state and local groups, through either direct grants or via collaborative funding initiatives such as the State Infrastructure Fund, the Heartland Fund, and the Youth Engagement Fund.
“Over generations, social movements have made strides toward the promise of multiracial democracy, advancing the freedom to have our voices heard on the issues that affect our communities,” said Maurice Mitchell, Executive Director of the Working Families Organization. “With each gain comes new, underhanded attempts at repression. Today those efforts are reaching an apex—an historic onslaught of voter suppression laws, elections bought with unprecedented volumes of dark money, and a deadly white-supremacist insurrection on our nation’s Capitol for which complicit elected officials have yet to face any serious consequences. The modern democracy movement is rising to meet these unprecedented challenges, and the American people are coming together to demand action.”