How You Can Save Democracy

“Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could do only a little.” — Edmund Burke

Voter turnout in the 2020 general election was the highest turnout in well over 100 years, but that high turnout was reflective of the division and distrust in our country. One side went bat-shit crazy and voted against the onslaught of conservative-fabricated existential threats. The other side raced to the polls to save Democracy from a cult.

Authoritarians are skilled at owning the narrative and they can cultivate our complicity by making us feel threatened and victimized while offering us a false, and very temporary, safe haven. There aren’t enough of us to actively support them, but authoritarians can also rely on our “permission” which they get through our complacency, a lack of awareness, and misguided sense of immunity.

Mainstream media and their pundits are magnifying the “permission” problem by trivializing modern politics. They are glossing over the battle between democracy and authoritarianism with their bothsidesism and their unwillingness to discuss what is at stake.

To make matters worse, the math is stacked against Democracy with the imbalance of representation by the Senate and the Electoral College, dark money, gerrymandering, a compromised SCOTUS, complicit third-party candidates, etc. If all that isn’t enough, restrictive voting laws are continually being passed by Republican state legislatures all around the country, with some areas now allowing officials to simply overturn election results. Democrats need an oversized voter turnout just to have a chance to save Democracy.

We are on the brink of Authoritarianism because the mechanics of our Democracy have been hijacked and because enough of us have been guided to either complicity or complacency.

So…what can we do?

It’s not enough to just sit around and worry until election day. We all have to do more and do it now. Authoritarians are winning from the bottom up so we need to start doing the same. We need to do two things right now: bring folks back to reality and get folks to the polls.

The battle for Democracy is in your backyard and it is now or never…seriously.

Below are some thoughts…

First, Multiply Your Effort
Hopefully, you’re reading this because you feel you need to do something other than just vote. You’re not the only one – we all need to do more. The most important and time-critical thing you can do is to get others to do more than just vote.

We all need to truly understand what’s at stake in this election and we all need to push back wherever and however we can. We need to create a greater awareness that Democracy is truly at stake and we need to build a stronger grassroots movement to motivate and mobilize as many new voters as we can.

Share this article with every Democrat or left-leaning person you know. Don’t be shy about it – share your ideas with them, ask them their thoughts, and ask them to pull in others. Think of it as multiplying your effort.

Keep Ridin’ with Biden

It’s important to course-correct folks if Biden’s age comes up in conversation. Remind folks of all the successes that Biden has had – especially considering the mess he was handed and the fact that Republicans are doing all they can to stop him and destroy Democracy.

Mainstream media, doing its best to ignore our march to authoritarianism, continues to bring up Biden’s age and exaggerate the concern of Democrats.  What they don’t tell you is this:

  • When Biden was sworn in on January 20, 2021, he was 28,551 days old.
  • If Trump is sworn in on January 20, 2025, he will be 28,710 days old.
  • If Trump wins next November then he will be the oldest American sworn into office – and this extremely dangerous man will never leave

If Trump is elected, journalism will be one of his first victims and Mainstream media will be too worried about being jailed to mention Trump’s age.

Things are unraveling all over the globe and we need a leader with experience, confidence, and empathy.

Engage Youth
Every election cycle we hear about Democrats relying on young voters and how those young voters so often disappoint. This isn’t entirely on young people – this is also on adults. We have to understand that young people have always been late to political involvement – and we were no different. Even for the youth who are engaged there is still the issue of patience and frustration with the lack of movement in Washington. With their still-developing brains having to deal with technology distractions, a burning planet, an increasingly dysfunctional government, and built-in boredom, it’s easy to see how they would check out of politics.

If we expect young voters to save our Democracy then we must help them. Don’t just tell your young adult children/relatives/neighbors to vote, physically help them register to vote and then vote. Take them through the process.

Remind young voters that Republicans have consistently kept the minimum wage low, defunded schools, decreased gun control, and weakened or prevented climate protections – and they want to keep doing it.

If their only political concern is college loan forgiveness then you need to address why it is not straightforward and how Republicans are going out of their way to prevent it. More importantly, explain the dangers of one-issue voting and what they will lose if we lose Democracy.

Keep these conversations going at the dinner table, on the way to baseball practice, etc. You can’t get away with a one-time mention of this stuff.
Our young voters are the ones who will save American Democracy, but we have to help them.

Engage the Disengaged

Even though we had a record turnout in the 2020 general election, one-third of eligible voters (80 million people) stayed home. There are plenty of reasons why voters have checked out of or were never interested in politics. Their votes are needed by both sides and you can be certain the right is going after them harder than the left…

If you know any then engage them on this issue. There are some points to get across. They are simplified here for brevity – do it gently.

  • Both sides aren’t the same – the “both sides do it” argument is long gone
  • Explain to them what authoritarianism/fascism looks like
  • Remind them of the things their government does
  • Remind them that once Democracy is gone, it’s not coming back.
  • Show them how Republicans and conservatives corrupted our government
  • Ask them about the last time billionaires did something for them
  • Remind them that if they’re not voting then they’re voting for Trump

Engage the Right 

Engaging the Right is tricky stuff and it’s hard to know if you should even bother. Some Republicans are approachable, but many are not. Trump followers would be a particular challenge for reasons that are well beyond the scope of this article.

So, job one is to determine if it’s worth your effort – some general guidelines:

  • Don’t waste your time with people you don’t know
  • It’s probably best to avoid co-workers
  • Stick with friends and family – people with you have history and memories
  • Get a sense of how approachable they might be

Understand that this will take quite some time. It won’t be a quick chat of talking points and rebuttals – that will be counterproductive

If you think you know folks that you can engage with then take a look at the approach outlined here. It includes tips on how to avoid alienating them and ruining relationships.

Alternatively, you could dip your toes into the opinion section of your local paper – just keep the linked approach above in mind. Also, when writing each sentence, consider the rebuttals you might get for each sentence – this will help you form fewer “attacking” sentences. Even better, coordinate with others in your community to maintain a steady stream of “opinion pieces”. Review each other’s work to help ensure that they get the right message across without alienating the Right.

Whether it’s one-on-one conversations or opinion pieces, the primary goal is to start sowing seeds of doubt in them about the path they have been led down. Don’t try to convince them that they are wrong. Ideally, they’ll figure that out for themselves in a quiet moment.

Again, MSM will not help Democracy and the Democrats have serious messaging issues. We are on our own. We can do this but it has to be true grassroots – friend by friend and family by family.

Rebuild community connections

We are losing physical face-to-face interactions with others in our communities. Some of this is caused by dwindling public funds, but much of it is caused by the draw and convenience of social media and the pervasiveness of conservative rhetoric. Provocateurs use these outlets to separate and isolate us, overload us with their manipulative disinformation, drive us further apart, and push us toward their twisted version of our world.

We are social creatures, and we have much more in common and rely on each other more than we realize, but the Right is trying to make us forget this. We need to restore the use of community activities and festivals of various types to help remind folks that we’re pretty much all the same.

  • First, start taking part in things that are going on
  • Take the time to learn about upcoming community events in and around your town.
  • They don’t necessarily need to be of particular interest to you – that’s not the point
  • Spread the word to friends and family – make a plan – invite some to come with you.
  • Subscribe to the local newspaper – it will help the paper and provide a steady feed of events
  • Join the folks who are organizing these events to help them and to learn from them.

There could always be more things going on in your community, so create some. There’s always some way to celebrate what the community and surrounding environment have to offer.Here are some simple, inexpensive, and fun things to do – just to jog your noggin.

  • Cornhole or Wiffleball tournaments are fun, bring back memories, ooze Americana, and only need open space.
  • Throw in a sack race, egg-and-spoon race, and a scavenger hunt and call it an “Old Times Field Day”
  • A community garage sale will help folks clean out their houses, save money, reduce waste, and teach about reuse.

Barriers come down when people work toward a common goal or cause. Here are some ideas that folks might be able to work on together that will help your community and create connections.

  • Hold food, harvest, or arts and crafts festivals – this will help these small businesses or maybe help spawn one or two.
  • Start a grower’s market
  • Is there a way your community could help a struggling family, farm, or business?
  • Habitat clean-up events or anything related to climate change

Come up with ideas that make sense for your community at large, not something that would just attract liberals or repel conservatives. This is about reconnecting as many people as possible.

Don’t go it alone – find others to help you – that, in itself, is community building. All of these events can be taken to various levels with sponsorships, homemade food for charities, local food vendors, local music, etc. Always work with local officials.

It’s OK to Pick a Fight

Support your State and Local Candidates

This one is big. Democracy is going to live or die right here.

Our democracy is in desperate need of more balanced state legislatures. We are learning just how far Republican legislators are willing to go, when they have a majority, to push the far-right, authoritarian, and corporatist agenda. They oust elected officials, veto popular legislation, cripple public education, and create and destroy election laws at will to force more of their candidates into office. If they win in 2024 they will take this to the next level and Democracy will die.

If you are able to donate then donate to Democratic candidates for your state legislature – this is just as important as donating for the President. This will be the best investment you’ll ever make because all the guardrails that protect you and your children are already on the Republican chopping block.  Look for donation multiplier opportunities and check with the Democratic party to confirm the legitimacy of the organization you are donating through.

Also, get involved. Engaging in local and state politics is not only informative and rewarding, it is contagious. Contact the Democratic Party in your state to see how you can help. They should be able to direct you (and your recruited friends) in making phone calls, knocking on doors, throwing a postcard party, etc. If they can’t, then reach higher up the Democratic Party until you can find someone to help the more local organizers.

There have been several important elections since the 2020 midterms and the Democrats did quite well, but only because there was a groundswell of local activists and funding, we have to repeat that.

This is no joke and it’s worth repeating – Democracy is going to live or die right here.

Run for Office

At some point, Democrats, because of demographics, budgets, and bad assumptions, made the calculation to leave certain areas of the country. They forgot that opportunists and evil will always fill the void.

In many areas of America, there is literally no one to vote for other than a Republican. Unopposed officials have few consequences for their actions and without an opposing party, that one party will not be held accountable at the polls. With nothing in their rearview mirror, they don’t even have to act on behalf of their voters, and they often don’t when corruption is involved.

We need to give voters the opportunity to hear other voices and have more choices. At a minimum, this will help keep the renegade Republicans in check, but we could easily pull off some wins.

We need to run for any and all uncontested positions. If you question your qualifications for office, just look at the incompetence, corruption, and shame that the Republicans brought to your state. If you’re reading this, you’re qualified.

One of the pitfalls of gerrymandering is that when you spread all your voters out across too many districts, that spread can be a bit thin. A lot has happened to this country since the extreme Republican gerrymandering in 2010 external link, and there may be enough Republicans in those barely red districts who still prioritize country over party and will flip these rigged districts to Blue. Also, the population is shifting – not only is the electorate getting younger, but they’re also getting pretty pissed off. You are qualified and you have a better shot than you think.

You can also dip your toe in local government. Learn how government works in your area. Familiarize yourself with your local positions, which will vary, depending on where you live – here are a few.

  • School Committees
  • Township trustees
  • Town Councils
  • School Committees
  • Soil and Water Conservation Boards
  • Library Board

If you know someone who would make a good candidate for a position then put that bug in their ear.

Start a Movement

The fight could be against local citizen crusades (book banning), pending action/legislation by your local/state government, the damage being caused by a corporation, etc.

Make the fight about the harm being done to the general population. This will reinforce that we all have a common enemy and maybe we shouldn’t be fighting each other.

Do some homework. These days, there is almost always billionaire money (funneling down to state/local political organizations) behind attacks on school committees, book banning, legislation, etc. Organizations that are producing television ads or sending out flyers need to identify themselves – learn about those organizations and who they are associated with. They may have been created for the sole purpose of attacking your community or creating a crisis. Two groups that are known for pushing the billionaire agenda down to the local level are the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN) which as affiiate groups in every state.

There are many resources online – here is an example of protecting public education 

Suppress Voter Suppression

This one is important.

Depending on where you live, the above actions might not be enough. Voter suppression laws are being passed all around the country and they will quickly negate your efforts.

Contact Democratic organizations in your state to learn about voter suppression activities and find out what they are doing about it. Get involved with their efforts to counter any pending or passed laws. If they are not doing anything about it then push them to.

Does that mean you should punt if it’s going on in your state? Nope – it means to make voter suppression part of your narrative about the attack on Democracy. Remind folks that once some of us lose the ability to vote then anyone can – this is an important thing to remind folks of. Also, remind folks that billionaires are almost always behind these efforts to weaken our country. Then ask if they can recall the last time a billionaire did something for them. Voter suppression laws may be focused on minority groups now, but they can later be focused on the poor.

As a reminder, this one is important…


Okay, that was quite a bit. It goes without saying that you should pick the actions that you can make time for and that you feel you’ll be successful at. It also goes without saying that it’s always good to step out of your comfort zone…

Remember to not talk down to people – that always backfires. No insults, smirks, or rolling eyes. Not a hint of being a dick. No matter who you engage with, always show and practice gratitude and humility – these are the building blocks of happiness and peace of mind.

Don’t think your small actions won’t make a difference – they absolutely will, because just like the efforts to destroy our Democracy, when it comes to saving it, the whole is certainly greater than the sum of the parts.