Dear Democracy Forward community,
Four years ago, a dedicated and spirited group of people left coveted jobs and beloved colleagues to build something new: Democracy Forward. In the wake of the 2016 election, it was clear that the number and severity of threats to democracy, social progress, and the rule of law would be unprecedented. We took the opportunity to be part of that vigorous, worthy fight using three principles to guide our work.
First, we would defend democracy, social progress, the wellbeing of people, and the rule of law against unprecedented attacks. We would pay no mind to the hours it took, the difficulty of the work, or the short time frame in which we needed to act. We had to be determined and nimble.
Second, we would fill gaps. We would not duplicate work already being done by organizations long dedicated to representing the interests of working people, propelling equity, or defending civil rights and the Constitution. Instead, we would go where we were needed. We would deploy innovative legal strategies to support and enhance existing work and organizations. We would develop and originate high-stakes, though sometimes under the radar, cases and legal actions challenging wrongdoing that would otherwise go unchecked and unnoticed.
Third, we would not be afraid to fail. Democracy should not be wagered or hedged—nor should the legal fights to defend it. If a policy was unlawful, harmful, and offended the country’s core values and aspirations, it needed to be challenged and exposed. While our work was rooted in sophisticated legal theory and application, we could not be focused on batting a thousand—the magnitude of the power and corruption that was lined up against our country’s very ideals meant we couldn’t just take on the easy cases. Instead, we sought to use all the tools that the law provides to fight for democracy and our nation’s future.
“The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport.”
— Congresswoman Barbara C. Jordan
In the first days, our team sat on half-assembled furniture and typed out a challenge to the prior administration’s attempt to establish a commission to collect personal information on individual American voters to find ways to suppress votes. The very prospect of such a commission caused a bipartisan coalition of our country’s security and technology leaders to warn that it would pose immense threats to national security. This voter suppression initiative, known as the Kobach Commission, was ultimately disbanded in the face of litigation challenges.
Since our first case successfully challenging the Kobach Commission, Democracy Forward has filed more than 650 legal actions and records requests. We’ve found real success in challenging many of the past administration’s hidden and dangerous policies. Our legal work reversed the rollback of healthier school nutrition standards for 30 million children, compelled collection of equal pay data, helped to reinstate more than $200 million in evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention grant funding, assisted in preserving the Affordable Care Act, and secured a first-of-its-kind court ruling that a Trump administration official had been unlawfully appointed, which led to the invalidation of policies harmful to asylum seekers, among many successes. As our work has expanded, so too has our community—as talented lawyers and strategists have joined our team amid a growing and impressive alumni network.
Our client list reflects the very fabric of American democracy: workers, educators, students, health care professionals, veterans, cities, counties, small businesses, conservationists, scientists, researchers, immigrants, voters, the press, community-based advocates, national organizations, and many others. Our work shows that fighting for democracy isn’t just about fighting for a lofty ideal—it is about fighting for real people and communities, fearlessly and tirelessly.
It isn’t over.
On January 6, 2021, violent rioters and insurrectionists executed a planned siege on our nation’s Capitol. Beyond that horrific day—in statehouses, courtrooms, and communities across the country—we see threats to democracy and the wellbeing of Americans. Every news cycle revolves around democracy in crisis at all levels. More than one hundred of the country’s leading political scientists have declared that “our entire democracy is at risk,” given the movement in many state legislatures.
All of this lends urgency to our work. It’s why there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
I am honored and thrilled to be rejoining the growing Democracy Forward team. We are firm in our commitment to go to court for democracy and its promise. Our clients, who are challenging harmful policies that remain on the books, have a zealous advocate in our team. We will take on new fights, including providing resources and legal representation to committed advocates in states across the country when unlawful policies and abuses of power threaten Americans’ wellbeing. We will further use the law and regulatory process to make sure the government hears the voices of those essential to the fabric of the country. We remain determined and nimble—and we will go where we are needed. As always, we will not let the odds or challenges discourage us in this work.
We are but one piece of what is required to preserve democracy, protect social progress, and improve the lives of the American people. It will take all of us. At Democracy Forward, we are committed to doing our part to ensure that our democracy is not nearing its last days. We believe America’s best days are still ahead. Our work is just beginning.
Skye L. Perryman, JD
President & CEO, Democracy Forward