democracy is a work in progress
Problems, Progress, Leaders2023-09-11T15:44:12-05:00
Shadow of historian, surrounded by others, points to ancient wall

Public History as a Guide to Decision-making

Board member and public historian Adina Langer explains that the Leader’s mission to untangle “the political, social, and economic threads that threaten to ensnare our democracy is the best kind of public history.”  Read more >

Leader Spotlight

Progress Updates

Protecting Voting Rights and Our Elections – June Update

Despite significant losses for election deniers in last November’s midterm elections, many anti-democracy candidates won key administrative and legislative seats up and down the ballot, and attacks on voting rights and the integrity of our elections continue.

The Great Economy Project Finds Common Ground

Patriotic Millionaires' Great Economy Project wants Americans to vote for candidates who will raise taxes on the rich, increase the minimum wage, and reduce taxes for people who aren't earning a living wage.

Bipartisan Hope Isn’t Helping Divided Congress Avoid Debt Crisis

Our Congress has two faces: We saw the authoritarian one during the rancorous vote for House Speaker, while the other is seen in an op-ed that lauds the bipartisan collaboration that produced over 200 recommendations for making Congress work more efficiently. As we brace for another game of chicken over the debt ceiling, it’s clear which face is doing the talking.

Building a More Perfect Union in 2023

2022 ended with sighs of relief and celebrations that the red wave didn’t happen, that voters rejected efforts to codify strict anti-abortion laws, that the budget deficit was cut in half, and that there was some bipartisan support for climate change action and improved access to healthcare. All good, but there is still work to be done.

Governors Who Lead: Climate Change Beyond Egypt and the Midterms

With little progress made in the struggle to limit global climate change at the recent gathering of world leaders at COP27, and with the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives a likely roadblock to further national progress, the actions of two governors offer signs of a way forward.

Setting Priorities

“You do the math. You solve one problem, then you solve the next one and then the next
and if you solve enough problems you get to come home.”

– Matt Damon as Mark Watney from the film, The Martian

Not every problem can be our top priority. Our challenge is to establish a common set of priorities so that they don’t compete with each other for attention and resources. If we are successful, we won’t get to go home like Mark Watney, but we will make our home more politically, socially, and ecologically sustainable.

Problem Briefs

Graphic showing uninsured rates of care
Access to Healthcare

Many Americans lack access to affordable healthcare. Access is limited by high cost, lack of insurance coverage, and a shortage of healthcare providers. Efforts in government to resolve these problems are deeply polarizing and typically provoke powerful industry interests that stand in the way of expanding access. Yet, the complex marketplace for healthcare services doesn’t always incentivize better care for more people.

More frequent wildfires are one result of global warming
Climate Change

Climate change is happening now, impacting us faster and sooner than predicted. The increasingly frequent floods, wildfires, and extreme weather events are causing damage in a growing number of communities around the country that are just now realizing the meaning of climate change. The specific damage varies by region, but recent reports indicate the costly impacts of climate change are no longer only predictions of the future. Whether or not you believe in climate change, those predictions are now also descriptions of the present.

Image of a weight fracturing the American flag
National Debt

The national debt has increased in all but four years since 1980. Its ongoing rise reflects an imbalance between tax and spending policies. The higher the debt, the greater the risks – to economic growth and stability and to our ability to address the next economic crisis when it occurs. While the debt may not be the most urgent problem facing the nation, it has the potential to undermine our ability to respond to those issues that demand action such as climate change and access to healthcare.

Damaged flag with Trump's eyes peering through holes
Threats to Voting Rights

The lie of a stolen election, the January 6 attack on Congress to prevent the certification of the 2020 election results, and the candidacies of hundreds of election deniers is putting at risk the very heart of our democracy – the right of all eligible citizens to vote and have their vote counted. Add in the volatile mix of Americans who now think democracy no longer works and those who no longer support the separation of church and state, and it becomes clear that we are in a struggle to preserve what President Ronald Reagan called “the shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

Our Focus

The American Leader is a news and reference resource aimed at surfacing and keeping front-and-center the knowledge and aspiration needed to address the nation’s systemic problems – because solving those problems is how we protect our democracy. Often hidden beneath the surface of the 24/7 stream of headlines and attention seekers is a deep bench of American leaders who are attempting bold or innovative ideas to solve the systemic problems that shape our lives. Like noise-cancelling headphones, we eliminate the distortions, distractions, and obfuscations of the news cycle, so that you can learn from these leaders, get inspired, and do something that makes life a little better for your community.

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