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As we’ve said many times on this show, democracy is long and slow, which is the exact opposite of the ethos that Amazon has pushed into our culture through quick shipping, easily accessible entertainment, its takeover of cloud computing, and more. Amazon’s expansion across America, from distribution facilities to data centers, is exacerbating regio…
 
Candis Watts Smith takes a turn in the interviewer's chair this week for a conversation about abortion and American democracy following the passage of SB8 in Texas and the Supreme Court's response to it. Like a lot of things in American democracy, it's complicated. As Candis says in the episode, it isn’t typical for us to discuss “hot topics” or po…
 
Half of the U.S. Senate and one-third of the House of Representatives is 65 or older. What does that mean for Millennial politicians? Time magazine’s Charlotte Alter joins us this week to discuss. Generational divides in American politics are nothing new, but they seem particularly striking now as the oldest Millennials turn 40 this year. This gene…
 
Generational divides in American politics are nothing new, but they seem particularly striking now as the oldest Millennials turn 40 this year. This generation has different lived experiences than its predecessors, but has been sidelines from political power as Baby Boomers live longer and benefit from incumbency advantages. Charlotte Alter has spe…
 
We’re back after our summer break! Michael, Chris, Candis, and Jenna catch up on what happened over the summer, from COVID vaccine mandates to school board chaos to the refugee crisis in Afghanistan. The underlying theme of it all is one of democracy’s central tensions — the collective vs. the individual. The tension between individual liberty and …
 
We're back after our summer break. Michael, Chris, Candis, and Jenna catch up on what happened over the summer, from COVID vaccine mandates to school board chaos to the refugee crisis in Afghanistan. The underlying theme of it all is one of democracy's central tensions — the collective vs. the individual. The tension between individual liberty and …
 
As redistricting begins across the country, we revisit our conversation with journalist and author David Daley about the consequences for American democracy if gerrymandering happens again this time around. This episode originally aired in January 2021, not long after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Daley has spent the past decade covering at…
 
Democracy and populism diverge at a single point. It’s like a fork in a road where both traditions depend on a common history, but they split in two. At first it may seem the choice doesn’t matter. You believe that eventually they will both lead to the same destination except they don’t. The choice leads to two different outcomes. Populism uses som…
 
Some of the most talked-about issues in Congress these days are not about the substance of policies or bills being debated on the floor. Instead, the focus is on the partisan conflict between the parties and the endless debate about whether individual members of Congress will break with party ranks on any particular vote. This behavior allows the p…
 
Many of us can recall the experience of scrolling through our phones or streaming TV apps without ever choosing something to focus on. Pete Davis describes this an "infinite browsing mode" and argues that it creates a culture where democracy can't fully thrive. Davis is cofounder of the Democracy Policy Network and author of Dedicated: The Case for…
 
Three pillars hold up autocracy in Russia, author and New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen says: media control, sham elections and downright terror. But the opposition movement spearheaded by imprisoned activist Alexei Navalny has struck at the heart of all three. This time on the show, Gessen explains how — and measures the power of democratic asp…
 
Can transparency, oversight, ethics and accountability save American democracy? What can Congress do to create lasting ethics reforms? How would the For the People Act change ethics rules for the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the U.S. government and are the changes enough? How can the Office of Government Ethics and Office of the…
 
Local news and democracy have been intertwined since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville. As we've discussed on this show before, news outlets are one way that people who live in a city or town keep up on what's happening in their local government. However, our guest this week argues the "watchdog" effect of local journalism might be overstated, alon…
 
Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America. He is the author of Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America and The Business of America is Lobbying. He is also the co-host of the podcast Politics in Question, and writes for the New York Times, Vox, and FiveThirtyEight, among othe…
 
We often talk about democracy in the context of politics and institutions, but this week’s guest draws from Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and John Dewey to offer a different perspective. We live in an era defined by a sense of separation, even in the midst of networked connectivity. As cultural climates sour and political division spreads, our…
 
We live in an era defined by a sense of separation, even in the midst of networked connectivity. As cultural climates sour and political division spreads, our guest this week suggests there is no better time to reconsider ideas of unity in democracy. In his book, The Ethics of Oneness, Jeremy David Engels argues that if the lessons of oneness are t…
 
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…
 
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