Democracy is not only under attack in America. In some states it is being lost.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once suggested that states could serve as laboratories of democracy, but these states are more like laboratories of autocracy.
Take Wisconsin. The GOP has been so successful in rigging state elections through gerrymandering that even when Democrats get more votes, Republicans win more seats. In 2018, Republicans won just 45% of the vote statewide, but won 64% of the seats.
Wisconsin is one of many states where an anti-democracy movement has taken hold, but it hasn’t always been that way.
In fact, Wisconsin pioneered the progressive era of American politics in the early 20th century – with policies that empowered workers, protected the environment, and tackled corporate monopolies. State lawmakers established the nation’s first unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and strict child labor laws.
Teddy Roosevelt called the state “a laboratory for wise legislation … aimed at securing the social and political betterment of the people as a whole.”
But over the past decade, Wisconsin has become a laboratory for legislation that does the exact opposite.
After Republicans took control in 2010, one of the first bills they passed gutted workers’ rights by dismantling public sector unions – which then decimated workers’ ability to support workers’ rights. pro-worker candidates.
This move was in the interests of their corporate donors, who benefited from weaker unions and lower wages.
This new formula from Wisconsin has been replicated elsewhere.
Republicans in Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina won a minority of votes in 2018 but still won a majority in their state assemblies through gerrymandering.
In Texas, Ohio, and Georgia, Republicans created gerrymanders powerful enough to create supermajorities capable of overriding a governor’s veto.
More alarmingly, hundreds of these state Republican lawmakers “used the power of their office to discredit or attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election” on behalf of Donald Trump.
How did it happen? Simply put: years of careful planning by corporate interest groups and their radical allies.
And the companies that enable these takeovers don’t just influence the law — their lobbyists literally draft many of the bills that pass.
This political alliance with corporate power has given carte blanche to these Republican legislatures to pursue an extreme culture war agenda – an agenda that removes the rights that the majority of people support – while distracting attention from the economic agendas of their bosses.
Republicans introduce bills that restrict or criminalize abortion. They prohibit teachers from discussing the history of racism in this country. They make it harder to protest and easier to harm protesters. They punish trans people for receiving gender-affirming care and their doctors for providing it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are still laboratories of democracy where real public servants find creative ways to defend the rights of all of us.
The elected officials of Colorado and Vermont codify the right to abortion. California lawmakers have proposed making the state a haven for transgender youth and their families. And workers across the country are demanding their right to organize, helping to rebuild an important check on corporate power.
But winning will ultimately require a fifty-state strategy — with a Democratic Senate willing to reform or end the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade, protect voting rights and protect the right to organize nationally.
America needs a national pro-democracy movement to stop the ongoing anti-democracy movement — a pro-democracy movement committed to helping candidates everywhere, including in state-level races.
That’s where you come in. Volunteer for pro-democracy candidates — and if you don’t have time, contribute to their campaigns.
This is not a battle of left versus right. It is a battle between democracy and autocracy.