My father’s fight to save democracy and defeat authoritarianism – and ours. Are you in?

Recently, I spent two days at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.  There, I gained a much deeper understanding of the enormous sacrifices and commitments made by my father, who served in Europe, other loved ones who served there and in the Pacific, and the millions of Americans who worked overseas and at home in the effort. Many readers of this column had parents or grandparents involved in the herculean struggle to preserve democracy and prevent the spread of authoritarianism.

One of the key elements of that success was the willingness of most Americans to come together and do whatever it took to make sure that democracy prevailed.

That’s where philanthropy fits in. If your philanthropic focus is women’s reproductive health, then it’s imperative to focus your giving now on protecting democracy. The same is true with combating climate change and environmental degradation, supporting public education and literacy, resisting antisemitism and other forms of bigotry including Islamophobia and anti-LBGTQ equality, feeding hungry people, preventing gun violence, fighting discrimination and securing racial justice, protecting freedom of religion, and more.

To make progress on any of these important causes, we must preserve a healthy democracy with respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions.  If the vitality of our democracy is undermined, further progress on many of these issues will become next to impossible.

Today’s attacks upon our democracy by authoritarian forces are as serious as those of 80 years ago. In the 30’s and 40’s the threats were largely external, led by the Axis powers proclaiming authoritarianism, aiming to expand their territories, and impose their rule on others. The battle lines were geographical as well as ideological.

Today’s threats are largely internal and include divisive nationalism, misinformation, polarization and tribalism exacerbated by social media, challenges to a free press, voter suppression, rejection of the separation of church and state, disrespect for respected institutions such as the judicial system, government agencies, and NATO, disregard for the rule of law, praise for and emulation of foreign authoritarian dictators, and questions about the integrity of the electoral systems upon which democracy depends.

Our country’s future success as an experiment in freedom depends on the willingness of most Americans to come together once again and do whatever it takes to make sure that democracy prevails, and authoritarianism is rejected.

One of the most effective things we can do today is to support nonprofit organizations that are building trusted relationships with voters to get accurate information out about the issues in the election, how to register and be able to vote, and have votes counted in a fair and transparent election system. This work is especially important in the key “battleground” states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Future columns will make specific recommendations about organizations that are doing this work and are worthy of your support.

Donations made later in this year to organizations working to register, inform, and encourage voters will be welcome…but they may be too late to impact the upcoming election cycle. These organizations need your support in the coming weeks…to hire the people and do the organizing necessary to put the boots on the ground where it will count to help ensure that every American who wants to vote is well-informed and gets that opportunity.

A year before he was killed, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words at Riverside Church in New York:

      We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being “too late.” … This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.

My father and millions of other men and women risked their lives in World War II. Over 400,000 of them were killed, and another 670,000 were injured. The fight to preserve democracy successfully waged by past generations is now ours.

Are you in?