If you think Washington is broken, David Pepper is here to tell you things are worse in Columbus. And Tallahassee. And Atlanta. And Austin. Pepper, a recent chairman of the Ohio state Democratic Party, has a new book out this week, Laboratories of Autocracy. The title plays off a phrase coined by U.S. Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, who called the states—optimistically—America’s laboratories of democracy.Pepper’s take is considerably darker. He describes not simply old-fashioned corruption in state legislatures, but a decades-long campaign, orchestrated by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, and the Republican Party, to use them to subvert democracy. The strategy is now paying off in everything from rigged election districts to voter suppression to anti-abortion vigilantes. But Pepper’s alarming book also includes smart ideas for fighting back. He spoke to Vanity Fair about both problems and solutions while visiting the Ohio birthplace of President Ulysses S. Grant, just south of his own Cincinnati hometown.