“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

– Robert Kennedy, 1966

Often, books on politics and democracy instruct leaders, institutions and the country writ large what they must do to save democracy. And there is so much. But thirty-thousand-foot views leave everyday Americans feeling like there’s nothing they can do to save democracy. The opposite is true.

Every single person can take steps to protect democracy immediately. The most effective efforts to lift democracy are the ones that empower individuals to play an activist role while bringing people together. If done right, collective efforts scale things up exponentially, and put the work on much firmer footing for the long haul. And the effect grows more powerful the more pro-democracy work takes place beyond the traditional work of campaigns and political parties.

Teaming Up for Democracy


Any group that’s working to lift democracy—be it a party precinct or ward club, a nonprofit or an informal group of activists—should start its work inventorying and leveraging its own footprint, and the footprint of every single member of the group. And those footprints go far beyond asking for members’ money or time, which are the two things most people are asked to contribute today. Take stock in every footprint. Leverage them all.

2. From Feeling Alone to Social Proof

In many places across the U.S., folks can feel outnumbered (even when they’re not). When people come together, folks no longer feel isolated. It lifts morale, it’s energizing and sustaining. Whatever group you form or join – be sure to come together monthly or weekly. When participation grows large enough, across multiple groups and communities, the impact compounds even further—from simply “not being alone” to reaching the powerful and necessary “social proof” threshold.

3. Permanent Infrastructure, Grounded in the Community

One of the greatest benefits of forming groups of pro-democracy activity while also incorporating such work into groups already serving the community is that, together, they form infrastructure that’s permanent, not cyclical. And these efforts reach far deeper into communities, often reaching the very voters left unengaged by the traditional political process.

4. Beyond “Swing” States

Another reason to ground pro-democracy work beyond political parties and campaigns is because that party/campaign infrastructure is inevitably shaped by the federal swing state frame of today’s politics. Which means that while that work will be robustly supported in states and districts considered swing-state priorities, it will too often be left barren in places that are not. To wage pro-democracy efforts everywhere, it must start with groups of committed people grounded in their own communities everywhere.

Scaling Up, Again: Coalitions

Scaling Up, Again: Coalitions

Build coalitions of groups and institutions. For democracy. In every community. Community and regional leaders should do on an ongoing basis what many already do when the US Census effort comes around every decade. Counties and cities organize herculean communal efforts; they focus especially on segments of the population who are hardest to reach. If funding inspires a robust community-wide Census count effort every ten years, a fully inclusive democracy should serve as an equally compelling inspiration for an “all hands on deck” coalition for democracy. Meet regularly, measure outcomes and learn from one another. Always grow.

Political Parties—Stepping Up Engagement

Political parties play a vital role, but they simply cannot shoulder the entire burden of safeguarding democracy. While the Democracy Party has unique coordination abilities and can advocate for, train and support candidates – their operations have limitations. The best-run state and local parties should serve as models for all states, with more support provided well beyond the usual “swing states.” Strengthening parties and protecting our democracy will require collective efforts.

Engage Voters from Precincts/Wards Up

One overlooked aspect of political party work lies within precinct executives or committee members. By taking ownership of their precincts, these individuals can engage and organize their communities, impacting voter turnout and election outcomes. It’s a grassroots approach that has been largely overlooked. Through basic tasks like recruiting captains, engaging businesses, and bringing residents together regularly, precinct executives can authentically connect with voters long before elections. This untapped potential can make a significant impact on our democracy. Let’s breathe life into this overlooked strategy and revolutionize American politics.

Or go even bigger…

Create a standing precinct organization—ten, thirty, fifty members—that comes together regularly, then uses the footprints of all its members as the basis of broader work. With that group, build a long-term plan for the precinct. One of the greatest benefits of robust precinct organizing is that it, like community-based organizations, fills gaps otherwise left by political operations. First, it engages people far earlier than last-minute knocks on doors; those late knocks are no longer stand-alone transactional moments but the last of a steady series of engagements. Second, the conversations are more authentic, led by a neighbor—not a stranger. And third, the precinct strategy can target all voters, with extra focus on disengaged and suppressed voters, as opposed to the far narrower approach of most campaigns.

Additional Resources

Non-profit Vote
Center for Common Ground
Civic Alliance
SPAN—State Party Action Network