Dear All, 

As the summer draws to a close, I wanted to reflect on the recent twists and turns of American democracy. Often exhausting and sometimes exhilarating, the last few months reminded us that our democracy — while in a tenuous place — is not static.

First, the worrying parts: The January 6th Committee offered clarity on the deliberate plan to overturn the 2020 election — and the violent, if unsuccessful, execution of that plan. Election deniers won primaries across the country, including in the races for governor in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona. 8 out of 10 House Republicans who supported impeachment after the January 6th insurrection, including Liz Cheney, will not be on the ballot in November. The Supreme Court lost credibility with decisions on abortion, guns, and the environment, leading confidence in the court to sink to a historic low. And in Philadelphia last week, the President addressed the threats to American democracy as his central theme.

But this summer also saw positive progress for federal legislation, voter turnout, and systems reforms. New legislation passed on climate, healthcare, semiconductors, and infrastructure. Voter registration by women surged in multiple states, and turnout far exceeded expectations in Kansas to defeat a ballot initiative restricting abortion. Last week’s Special Election for Alaska’s Congressional seat, using the state’s new final four primary system with ranked choice voting, rewarded candidates who could appeal across the aisle and resulted in a surprise upset for Sarah Palin. In my own state of New York, Democrats were forced to end decades of gerrymandering. While the redistricting process was far from ideal, the more objective lines created welcome competition in the August primaries — and stand in contrast to states like Ohio, which chose to ignore court mandates and continue partisan electoral maps.

As discussed in this newsletter, the Electoral Count Act and the continued work of the January 6th committee will keep democracy in the spotlight this fall. Leadership Now members across the country are already taking action. Upon the July introduction of the bipartisan Electoral Count Reform Act — which aims to clarify the presidential transition of power to ensure it remains legitimate and peaceful — Leadership Now members joined with military and national security leaders to support the legislation, recognizing that our country’s security and economy depend on a stable democracy. In the wake of the January 6th hearings,  Wisconsin members made a compelling business case for democracy in the Wisconsin State Journal. Investors and business leaders, including Seth Klarman, Ken Chenault, and several Leadership Now members, further argued that the findings of the January 6th Committee pose a real and present threat to business and the economy.  

I’m sure many of you may share my mixed emotions. This summer, I went from the joys of reconnecting with old friends and joining the pickleball craze with my family to being reminded by the committee hearings of the fear we had experienced living blocks from the capital on January 6th. As we enter a new season and anticipate the midterm elections, we have much to do to restore faith in American democracy. Ford Foundation President Darren Walker offers wise counsel on the nature of the hard work ahead of us:  

“What we do now matters urgently. And the American identity that we still share matters too, not least because it must inform and inspire a common effort, across our differences, to find our way out and forward.”

Thanks for your commitment to finding a way forward for our democracy together.


The January 6th Committee hearings have been important and compelling in multiple ways. So far, they’ve demonstrated President Trump’s intentionality and gave a clear explanation and timeline of events. We saw Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson defend the Constitution and stand for truth over partisan politics and the “Big Lie.” Additional hearings by the Committee will continue in September due to new evidence and new witnesses coming forward. Despite a respective primary defeat and retirement announcement, Representatives Cheney and Kinzinger vowed to continue the nationwide fight against election falsehoods and Trumpism. 

In response to the hearing, renowned investor Seth Klarman, former American Express CEO Ken Chenault, Leadership Now members Eddie Fishman (Managing Director and Member of the Executive Committee of D. E. Shaw & Co., LP), and Martha Samuelson (CEO and Chairman of the Analysis Group), and others signed a statement which emphasizes that what happened on January 6th presents a profound threat to business:

“American business played a necessary and powerful role last year in demanding a peaceful transfer of power. Going forward, we believe business leaders constitute an indispensable voice that collectively reinforces a respect for rules, stability, and fairness. We also know that the temptation to turn a blind eye — to believe this is not a problem of ours — is strong. But it is wrong. Whatever the facts or findings of the ongoing inquiry into the campaign to overturn the election may be, they concern us.”

With bipartisan support, lawmakers introduced the Electoral Count Reform Act (“ECRA”) and Presidential Transition Improvement Act on July 20. The ECRA would reform and modernize the antiquated Electoral Count Act of 1887 by: 

  1. Clarifying that the vice president’s role is merely ministerial in presiding over the Senate when counting electors 

  2. Raising the objection threshold for lawmakers to challenge a state's electoral votes

  3. Ensuring that electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect each state’s vote for President 

Meanwhile, the Presidential Transition Improvement Act would ensure an orderly transfer of power by providing clear guidelines for when eligible candidates for President or Vice President may receive federal resources to support their transition into office. The bipartisan Working Group responsible for the bill includes Sen. Collins, (R-ME), Sen. Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Sinema (D-AZ), Sen. Romney (R-UT), Sen. Graham (R-SC), and others.  

Over the last six months, Leadership Now and its members have supported the ECRA with Senators on both sides of the aisle. While the ECRA addresses just one facet of a set of much larger democracy threats, it is an important and worthwhile start.

With the Senate poised to take up the ECRA this fall — during the lame duck session at the latest — now is the time to reach out to your Senator and express support for the bill and ensure it maintains momentum.

Anyone Can Be an Activist
Harvard Magazine | By: Isabel Mehta 
Leadership Now CEO and co-founder Daniella Ballou-Aares is mentioned in this article on how Harvard alumni are concerned about the state of democracy. The piece also covers what we can do to advocate, educate, and mobilize voters ahead of the next elections.

Net Zero Group Cites Antitrust Threat — Legal Experts Don’t Buy It: Plus, US Executives Weigh in on the January 6 Hearings
Financial Times | By: Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
The Jan. 6 CEO open letter organized by top investors and business leaders was featured in the Financial Times’ “Moral Money” newsletter.

The Worst Supreme Court Decision Is Yet to Come | Opinion
Newsweek | By: Tom Rogers 
Leadership Now member Tom Rogers authored an op-ed underscoring why “the worst decision for our democracy is yet to come” and how the Moore v. Harper case would create a powerful precedent for the Supreme Court to shoot down Electoral Count Act reforms.

The Only Major Democracy In The World With... 
Fulcrum | By: Kevin Johnson 
Leadership Now member Kevin Johnson explains the functions of governance in the US that stray from democratic norms, while describing initiatives that could solve our nation's dysfunction. 

American Public Continues To Believe In The Power Of Small Business & Entrepreneurship 
Forbes | By: Rhett Buttle 
The Business & Democracy Initiative features in a recent op-ed by Rhett Buttle, Founder of Public Private Strategies, underscoring that small business is again the most trusted institution in the United States (according to a new Gallup Confidence Survey) and emphasizing the important role small business owners can play in helping us solve problems — both in markets and government.

Business Leaders Must Step Up for Democracy
Madison | By: John Florsheim and Sachin Shivaram
Leadership Now members John Florsheim and Sachin Shivaram published an op-ed underscoring how American business played a necessary and powerful role in demanding a peaceful transfer of power and that, going forward, “business leaders constitute an indispensable voice that collectively reinforces a respect for rules, stability, and fairness.”

Black Executives' Group Jumps Into Secretary of State Races and Other Down-Ballot Contests
CNN | By: Fredreka Schouten
David Clunie, Executive Director of the Black Economic Alliance (BEA) and Leadership Now partner in the Business & Democracy Initiative, is quoted in a CNN piece on the BEA’s plans to invest in down-ballot contests in the midterms in an effort to engage in races crucial to democracy's future.

In these moments, we find grounding in a range of perspectives from experts. Some pieces we recommend:

Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals 
New Yorker | By: Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker
How Gen. Mark Milley and others in the Pentagon handled the national security threat posed by their own Commander-in-Chief.

Senators Finalize Bipartisan Proposal Designed to Prevent Another Jan. 6
Politico | By: Marianne Levine 
Determined to prevent a repeat of January 6, 2021, a bipartisan group of senators on finalized a deal to reform a 135-year-old law that governs the peaceful transition of power, hoping to pass it before the end of the year.

How Does U.S. Voter Turnout Compare to the Rest of the World?
Council on Foreign Relations | By: Lyon Nishizawa
Voter turnout in the United States has long been low compared to other developed countries, raising worries over the health of the country’s democracy. 

Maps in Four States Were Ruled Illegal Gerrymanders. They’re Being Used Anyway
New York Times | By: Michael Wines 
A Supreme Court shift, frowning on changes close to elections, gives House Republicans a big advantage in November.

Five US States Will Decide If the 2024 Election Can Be Stolen
Bloomberg | By: Ryan Teague Beckwith and Bill Allison
Politicians who dispute the outcome of the 2020 presidential election are on the ballot this year for offices that could determine how the 2024 election is decided in swing states — regardless of what voters intend. 

How Democracy Is Under Threat Across the Globe
New York Times | By: Max Fisher 
The United States is far from alone in facing pressure on its democratic norms and institutions.

About the Leadership Now Project

The Leadership Now Project is a membership organization of business and thought leaders who are committed to long-term solutions to renew American democracy. Leadership Now has four guiding principles that transcend political parties: to protect democracy while renewing it; to promote fact and evidence-based policymaking; to create an economy that works for all, and to embrace diversity as an assetIn 2021-2022, the organization is focused on preventing and mitigating risks to democracy, particularly in response to immediate threats to voting and electoral systems at a state level; supporting new political talent as critical partners/enablers for action; and leading a proactive shift by companies to support democracy and shift their approach to political engagement.

Incubated in 2017 by a group of Harvard Business School alumni, Leadership Now activates the resources, networks, and skills of our members to advance our mission.

Learn more at and sign up there for our Newsletter. You can also follow us on LinkedIn and on Twitter at @LeadershipNP

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