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The Democracy Works podcast seeks to answer that question by examining a different aspect of democratic life each week — from voting to criminal justice to the free press and everything in between. We interview experts who study democracy, as well as people who are out there doing the hard work of democracy day in and day out. The show’s name comes from Pennsylvania’s long tradition of iron and steel works — people coming together to build things greater than the sum of their parts. We belie ...
 
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The New York City mayoral primary is this week and will be the first one to use ranked-choice voting. This week, we revisit an episode that aired not longer after the city's voters approved ranked-choice voting via ballot measure in November 2019. What is ranked-choice voting? How does it work? And, is it more democratic than the single-vote method…
 
As we enter summer vacation season and emerge from pandemic isolation, Robert Talisse thinks it’s a good idea to take a break from politics. In fact, he might go so far as to say democracy is better off if you do. Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and author of a new book called Overdoing Democracy: Why …
 
We end this season the way it began, with a roundtable discussion on the state of American democracy. Michael, Chris, and Candis reflect on the January 6 insurrection, the one-year anniversary of George Floyd's death, and the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre. On the one hand, it's easy to be pessimistic about where things are as state legisl…
 
This week, we explore the questions of who governs in a democracy and what happens when the power is taken away from the people. Ashley Nickels, associate professor of political science at Kent Sate University, examines these questions through the lens of a municipal takeover in Flint, Michigan in 2011 that replaced elected city officials with an e…
 
Shaylyn Romney Garrett is a writer, speaker and changemaker pursuing connection, community, and healing in a fragmented world. She is the co-author with Robert Putnam of The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, which charts what the authors describe as the "I-We-I" curve in American democratic engagement and …
 
Misinformation, disinformation, propaganda — the terms are thrown around a lot but often used to describe the same general trend toward conspiratorial thinking that spread from the post-Soviet world to the West over the past two decades. Peter Pomerantsev had a front seat to this shift and is one of the people trying to figure out how to make the I…
 
Misinformation, disinformation, propaganda — the terms are thrown around a lot but often used to describe the same general trend toward conspiratorial thinking that spread from the post-Soviet world to the West over the past two decades. Peter Pomerantsev had a front seat to this shift and is one of the people trying to figure out how to make the I…
 
Chris Beem takes the interviewer's chair this week for a conversation with political theorist Laura K. Field about her recent work that examines how the conspiracism described by Nancy Rosenblum and Russell Muirhead in their book A Lot of People Are Saying has made its way to prominent conservative intellectuals and the institutions that support th…
 
Is the Federalist Society bad for democracy? There's nothing inherently wrong with groups of like-minded people organizing to share and disseminate their ideas — everyone from James Madison to Alexis de Tocqueville would agree on that. However, our guest this week argues that the group's outsized role in the courts has undermined the notion of judi…
 
For nearly 100 years, African Americans gathered in cities across the United States to participate in state and national-level political meetings that went far beyond slavery and conventional racial narratives to discuss education, labor, and what true equal citizenship would look like. This rich history went largely unnoticed for decades until P. …
 
Srjda Popovic and Sophia A. McClennen have appeared on our show separately and are now joining forces to apply a research framework to dilemma actions, a nonviolent organizing tactic that works by capitalizing on a belief that's commonly held by the public but not supported by those in power. Rather than simply getting people together to protest in…
 
Our guest this week argues that, much like democracy itself, public education is an ideal that we’ve never quite lived up to. We discuss the constitutional right to education and how it’s ebbed and flowed over the years, following many of the same trends as support for and access to other democratic institutions. The Trump administration infamously…
 
The Trump administration infamously referred to public schools as "failing government schools," illustrating how education has been caught up in the broader attack on the roots of American democracy. While the language is new, Derek W. Black argues the sentiment very much is not. Black is a professor of law at the University of South Carolina and o…
 
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner joins us to discuss the promise and peril of institutional reform and how he built a coalition of voters who are traditionally overlooked in politics. He spent his career as a civil rights attorney, not a as a prosecutor like his predecessors. He’s part of a growing movement of progressive district attor…
 
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner joins us to discuss the promise and peril of institutional reform and how he built a coalition of voters who are traditionally overlooked in politics. He spent his career as a civil rights attorney, not a as a prosecutor like his predecessors. He's part of a growing movement of progressive district attor…
 
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, legislators in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills aimed at restricting access to voting in person, by mail, or both. Chris Fizsimon, director and publisher of States Newsroom, returns to the show to give us a birds-eye view of what's happening on the ground in state legislatures. We discuss ho…
 
Danielle Allen is a leader of two large-scale efforts to make democracy truly inclusive and reimagine the way we teach new generations of democratic citizens. She joins us this week to discuss both initiatives and how to build coalitions for effective change Allen is the James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University and Director of…
 
If you're listening to this podcast, you probably don't fit Ethan Porter's definition of a consumer citizen, but you probably know someone who does — someone who tunes out of politics and would rather focus on just about anything else. Porter argues that appealing to consumer behavior might be on way to spark civic engagement among this group. In T…
 
The FBI recently reported that it’s opened 2,000 domestic terrorism investigations since 2017. How the United States responds to these threats touches on some of democracy’s most basic tensions. We explore those tensions this week and discuss where things might go from here. When the social fabric and institutions the hold a democracy together are …
 
When the social fabric and institutions the hold a democracy together are weakened, it can create a breeding ground for extremism that radicalization that might eventually lead to acts of domestic terrorism like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It's a vicious cycle — weaker democracy breeds more distrust which leads to more extreme actions. A…
 
Journalist, author, and historian Anne Applebaum says that democracy is not like running water — something that we know will always be there when we turn on the tap. Her latest book Twilight of Democracy, highlights the ways in which countries around the world are coming to terms with this fact and provides suggestions for how we can do our part to…
 
Seizing Freedom is a new podcast from Virginia Public Media that tells the stories of Black Americans during Reconstruction who fought for the everyday freedoms that many of us take for granted, like the right to decide how to make a living or which causes to support. Drawing from host Kidada Williams's research on historical records of formerly en…
 
The U.S. Capitol insurrection broke open a lot of conversations that had long been simmering under the surface about social media and democracy. Michal and Chris discuss this inflection point and our guest, Sinan Aral, shares ideas for how we might move forward. Sinan Aral has spent two decades studying how social media impacts our lives, from how …
 
Sinan Aral has spent two decades studying how social media impacts our lives, from how we think about politics to how we find a romantic partner. He argues that we're now at the crossroads of a decade of techno-utopianism followed by a decade of techno-dystopianism. How to reconcile the promise and peril of social media is one of the biggest questi…
 
Alexei Navalny has been a figure in Russian opposition for years, but garnered international attention recently though social media and what's widely believed to be an assassination attempt by the Russian government in the fall. This week, we unpack the complicated nature of Russian democracy and how the U.S. and other countries should respond — or…
 
From gerrymandering to ranked-choice voting to expanding voting rights, the ballot initiative has been essential to expanding and reforming democracy in recent years. However, the initiative has also been used to constrain minority rights and push the public to act on polarizing issues like the death penalty and immigration. Ted Lascher and Joshua …
 
We'll be back with a new episode of Democracy Works next week. In the meantime, we invite you to check out our partner podcasts in The Democracy Group podcast network. Here's a small sampling of what the network's shows have covered recently: Politics in Question examines the future of the Republican Party with the author of a new book on the Tea P…
 
Despite ongoing threats of violence, the wheels of democracy continue to turn, and in 2021 that means redistricting. States will draw new electoral maps this year using data from the 2020 Census. Our guest this week has spent the past decade covering attempts by politicians to draw those maps to their advantage in a practice known as gerrymandering…
 
Despite ongoing threats of violence, the wheels of democracy continue to turn, and in 2021, that means redistricting. States will draw new electoral maps this year using data from the 2020 Census. Our guest this week has spent the past decade covering attempts by politicians to draw those maps to their advantage in a practice known as gerrymanderin…
 
This episode was recorded on Friday, January 8, 2021, two days after the day that many of the things we’ve talked about on this show came to a head — political and epistemic polarization, delgitimation of the opposition, degradation of democratic norms, racial inequity, and many other factors. Democracy Works hosts Michael Berkman, Chris Beem, and …
 
Democracy Works hosts Michael Berkman, Chris Beem, and Candis Watts Smith reflect on the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and what it says about the condition of American democracy. They also discuss whether it's possible to learn from this moment and what guideposts they'll be looking for to determine whether all the talk about protecting and rest…
 
Neoliberalism is one of those fuzzy words that can mean something different to everyone. Wendy Brown is one of the world’s leading scholars on neoliberalism and argue that a generation of neoliberal worldview among political, business, and intellectual leaders led to the populism we’re seeing throughout the world today. But is it mutually exclusive…
 
From Pizzagate to Jeffrey Epstein, conspiracies seem to be more prominent than ever in American political discourse. What was once confined to the pages of supermarket tabloids is now all over our media landscape. Unlike the 9/11 truthers or those who questioned the moon landing, these conspiracies are designed solely to delegitimize a political op…
 
This episode was recorded on December 15, 2020, the day after the Electoral College voted to confirm Joe Biden as the next United States President. However, some Republicans refuse to accept the result and vow to continue fighting the result until Inauguration Day. Michael, Chris, and Candis discuss what these challenges mean for the long-term heal…
 
Many, many articles, books, documentaries — and even podcasts — have been produced over the past four years to explain who Donald Trump’s base is and what motivates people to vote for and otherwise support him. Our guest this week offers answers to these questions that are grounded in social science and political psychology. John Hibbing is the Fou…
 
We are conducting a listener survey in partnership with our colleagues in The Democracy Group podcast network. Take a few minutes to help us learn more about how we can make epodes that will better serve you in 2021 and beyond and receive a Democracy Group notebook. Take the survey. Geraldo Cadava is a professor of History and Latina and Latino Stu…
 
Dawn Carpenter is the creator and host of What Does It Profit? - a podcast that explores how we can reconcile capitalism’s demand for profit with the long term well-being of people and the planet, She is a former investment banker who had a mid-career pivot to studying applied ethics, the nature work, and the responsibilities of wealth. Dawn and Je…
 
Will Friedman is president of Public Agenda, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and public engagement organization that strives to strengthen democracy and expand opportunity for all Americans. One of the organization's major projects is the Hidden Common Ground Initiative, which challenges the increasingly dominant narrative of a hopeless…
 
Lieberman is co-author with Suzanne Mettler of the book "Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy." He is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. Political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power—alone or in combination—have threatened the survi…
 
Democracy takes center stage on Wynton Marsalis’s latest album, The Ever Fonky Lowdown and his forthcoming work, the Democracy Suite. However, he’s been thinking about the connection between jazz and democracy for his entire career. We are thrilled that he took a few minutes to talk with us about it this week. Listen to this episode while you wait …
 
The Ever Fonky Lowdown from Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra addresses the timeless cycle and methods used by the elite to exploit their fellow citizens in order to acquire, expand and maintain power. In the words of Mr. Game himself, ”We are here tonight, but this is an international hustle. It has played out many times across tim…
 
More than 2,000 local newspapers have closed over the past 20 years, leaving some parts of the country in what’s known as a “news desert.” This week, we examine what impact that’s had on civic engagement and democratic participation — and look at ways people are trying to make local news great again. The connection between local news and democracy …
 
A lot of people are thinking about the Civil War era these days, whether it's asking questions about whether we're in a second civil war now, or thinking about what happened during the election of 1876. In addition to our discussion of the Supreme Court, we talk about both of these things with Rachel Shelden, associate professor of history at Penn …
 
In this episode, we review the mechanics of how election results are certified and the work of the Electoral College between Election Day and Inauguration Day. Most of their work has historically happened behind the scenes, but it could become very public this fall if results are contested. We also look at what elections in 2000 and 1876 can tell u…
 
We really enjoy collaborating with the team at WPSU on Democracy Works and were happy to give the interviewer's chair to WPSU News reporter Anne Danahy for an episode that also aired on the station's interview show Take Note. This interview was recorded on Tuesday, September 30, 2020, before the first presidential debate and President Trump's diagn…
 
In some ways, the fight for democracy in Hong Kong is unique to the region and its relationship with China. However, the protests also feel familiar to anyone who's been watching the Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. or what's happening in countries like Hungary and Brazil. This week, we examine what's driving Hong Kongers into the streets, t…
 
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