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Analysis

A Year of Crisis For Our Democracy

The Brennan Center has responded to a year of unprecedented threats to our democracy.

December 28, 2021
Voters standing in line
Associated Press

What a year. It began with reason to hope for the health of our democracy. The 2020 election had the highest turnout since 1900, despite the pandemic. It was a real achievement.

That hope quickly deflated under the weight of what came next. Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen election. A violent insurrection at the Capitol. A wave of new laws in the states to restrict the vote, and, perhaps even more alarming, to let partisans tally the results. Today, one in three Americans does not accept the results of the 2020 election. Trump’s attempted coup was shambolic. There is no guarantee the next one will be, and his allies are systematically seeking to remove all obstacles to rigging the 2022 and 2024 votes. 

So this has been a year of extraordinary effort at the Brennan Center. We’re in a great fight for the future of American democracy. Nothing less.

My colleagues spent 2021 tirelessly exposing, publicizing, and combating this assault on the vote. We identified 34 new laws making it harder to vote in 19 states. Fourteen state legislatures have taken steps to limit judicial independence or increase political influence over courts. Our research drew wide public attention and helped shape debate. We’re working with allies and election officials to defend free and fair elections. We’ve sued to stop harsh and racially discriminatory voting laws in Texas, and discriminatory electoral maps in Ohio. We work as part of a wide and growing democracy movement.

Now, the year draws to a close on a dramatic note, with possible action by Congress to save our democracy. When states are abusing the rights of their people, there is simply no substitute for strong federal action.  Congress can stop this assault on democracy. It has the power, legally and constitutionally. Does it have the political will? 

At long last we are finding out. The House already has passed strong voting rights legislation. A majority of the Senate supports these bills. Now Senate leaders and President Biden have said this is a top, must-pass priority. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the voting bills would be the first order of business at the beginning of January. And Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said — in the very Fox News interview where he said that he would not support the Build Back Better bill — that voting rights is a must, and Senate rules must not get in the way. Pressure is building, things are changing by the hour, and we have a chance — but only a chance — to win action.

Make no mistake: sacred democratic principles are on the line. One person, one vote. Equal rights under the law. Let’s embrace them and get back to perfecting our union.