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“From my Texas to his Ohio to countless states in between, David Pepper rightly argues that the biggest risk to democracy lies in out-of-control, out-of-touch and undemocratic statehouses that too few people pay attention to. Until we address that root cause—and David suggests many practical steps we can all take—the nation’s governance will continue to dangle in the balance. Read this book and spread the word!”

– Paul Begala

American democracy is under attack.


There is precious little time to save it.


And too many of those concerned still aren’t focused on the greatest risk.


It’s not the antics of Marjorie Taylor Green or Jim Jordan. It’s not the rantings of Donald Trump.  It’s not even the “Big Lie” or January 6, as disturbing as they may be.


What’s the greatest threat to American democracy?


To paraphrase the old Clinton mantra, “it’s the statehouses, stupid.”


David Pepper’s Laboratories of Autocracy shows that far more than the high-profile antics of national politicians and Trump himself, it’s anonymous, often corrupt politicians in statehouses across the country who pose the greatest dangers to American democracy. Amid all the chaos, these statehouses are hard at work, every day, hacking away at core principles and protections of our democratic system. And they’re getting more audacious every year.


Why do these statehouses seem so impossible to stop? Because more than most appreciate, in state after state, they no longer operate as functioning democratic institutions. And without basic democracy at the state level, all the incentives are warped—these politicians are rewarded for attacks on democracy and actions that sacrifice public outcomes for private profiteering. And because a robust democracy is the greatest risk to their grip on power, they do all they can to undermine it. Add it all up and these statehouses are placing American democracy at its greatest peril since the dawn of the Jim Crow era.


Unless and until those who care about democracy fully wake up to this threat—and do something to address it directly, at every level—the anti-democratic onslaught will only accelerate. And ultimately prevail.


But as bleak as things look, the final die is not cast. If Americans wake up to the problem, we can fight back. It starts with ensuring that Americans who care about democracy understand the root cause of the problem—statehouses emerging as the central mechanism undermining democracy. And then inspiring all—from elected officials to business leaders to grassroots and everyday citizens—to play a role to battle for democracy. Laboratories of Autocracy outlines 30 steps that must be undertaken, from federal action that must be taken immediately to steps every citizen can take to help fight back in their own community.


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