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Research Report

Democracy Depends On All of Us

Annual Report 2022

Published: April 25, 2023
2022 Annual Report
Dan Bejar

In 2022 election deniers lost. But the fight goes on.

The forces of American democracy rallied in 2022. For years we saw the rising authoritarian movement, rooted in white supremacy, that threatened our basic values, part of a conflict with increasingly visible global dimensions. Now there is a democracy movement to counter it — strong, wide, diverse, and growing. In this great effort, the Brennan Center plays a singular, central role.

The year began with Congress considering voting rights legislation championed by the Brennan Center and heavily based on our ideas — legislation that came achingly close to enactment. We realized we needed to pivot to securing the 2022 election. We worked with election officials from both parties, bringing them together with law enforcement to make clear that intimidation of voters and election workers was flatly illegal.

In the end, despite the threats and lies, the 2022 election was calm, secure — normal. All the preparation worked. And every single one of the election deniers running in races to control election outcomes in key states lost their election. Voters made it clear: they cared about the health of our democracy.

Now we grapple with big challenges in 2023.

Start with the U.S. Supreme Court. Its new conservative supermajority produced the most extreme term in decades. Last year the Brennan Center co-led the friend-of-the-court campaign in Moore v. Harper, in which the Court may give state legislators exclusive power to set election rules — with no checks and balances from state courts, constitutions, governors, or voters. We expect the decision soon.

We have launched a major new strategic initiative to respond to the Court’s hard-right turn. We will enlist historians to critique extreme originalism. We will publish a major new book, The Supermajority, showing how this Court’s extremism will provoke a massive backlash. We will press for term limits for justices and a Supreme Court code of ethics. We will forge arguments for an enduring, flexible Constitution. And we will expand our advocacy for democratic safeguards in state courts — for example, every state constitution but one has a stronger protection for the right to vote than the U.S. Constitution does. This summer we will launch an exciting new website,, to serve as an intellectual and strategic hub.

Another challenge: rising violence since the pandemic has created an opening for demagoguery and regressive policies. We fight fear with facts to show that public safety and fairness go hand in hand – with innovative policies that continue the path of bipartisan criminal justice reform.

We will address big money’s growing role in American politics. A decade after Citizens United, the 100 biggest federal donors now give more than all small donors combined. A ray of hope: New York State just implemented its statewide small donor public financing system, the most important response to Citizens United anywhere in the country.

We will hold the flag high for the next wave of democracy reforms. Our country needs innovative approaches and fresh thinking. We will host a major symposium on new ways to ensure representation in a changing nation.

We will work to get ready for 2024. We know that antidemocracy forces will try to sabotage free and fair elections in that crucial year. Each year there are new and ominous ways to suppress the vote, such as Florida’s election police squad, which has targeted voters of color who accidentally cast illegal ballots.

Above all, we will work to shape the next generation of reform ideas, in areas ranging from how the Department of Homeland Security protects against terrorism to new approaches to voting, such as ranked-choice voting.

In all this, the Brennan Center is a national leader. We take seriously our obligation to serve as a creative nexus for strategy, scholarship, legal advocacy, and public education. We know that much depends on our work.

Throughout most of the country’s history, candidates have debated these very issues of power and voice. In the age of Trump, those who want to tear down our democracy had been on the march. Now citizens of all parties who want to defend our democracy and make it work for all are on the march too.

The fight for democracy, justice, and the Constitution are at the center of American politics, where they belong. In 2023 let’s keep them there.

Michael Waldman
President and CEO