This volume is a sample of the Brennan Center’s work on all fronts in the fight for democracy and justice in 2011. Material is drawn from Brennan Center reports, policy proposals, and issue briefs, in addition to public remarks, legal briefs, Congressional testimony, and op-ed pieces delivered at Brennan Center events or written by Brennan Center staff.
What kind of democracy do we have? This past year that fundamental question emerged again with new force.
New state laws curbed the franchise for the first time since Jim Crow. Just one year after Citizens United, we entered a dystopian world of campaign finance lawlessness. Government in Washington often seemed paralyzed. All this, as the Great Recession continued to hit homeowners and the poor the hardest.
But it was a year, too, where we saw the first stirrings of a response. More Americans are coming to see: if we don’t fix our systems, we can’t solve our problems.
That’s where the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law comes in. Part think tank, part legal advocacy group, we focus on the fundamental systems of democracy and justice. We are independent and nonpartisan. Our studies, lawsuits, and legislative advocacy have a growing impact. The Boston Globe called us “indispensable.”
This volume offers a taste of our work in 2011. We thank our supporters – individuals, foundations, law firms and businesses – who made it possible. We thank, too, the dozens of pro bono lawyers who worked alongside us.
In 2012, we will continue to fight against unjust laws. But defensive victories will not be enough. As Winston Churchill noted, “Wars are not won by evacuations.”
It is not just American politics that seems exhausted. Too often, the ideas by which we govern ourselves seem shopworn. We endlessly debate more government or less government, rather than asking how we can create better government. We are constantly asked to make a false choice between constitutional rights and national security, between racial justice and strong criminal laws. To renew America, we need an intellectual renewal as well – a long-term rethinking of policies and jurisprudence to modernize progressive thought and revitalize governance.
The Brennan Center will step up its work as a generator of innovative, nonpartisan new reforms that can restore the rule of law. Please join us over the coming year in our work to advance these core American values of democracy and justice.