Democracy in Danger

Saving the rule of the people — one episode at a time.

Broken Promises

Democracy in Danger / Episode 5

A protester stands tall at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., on June 6, in support of ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States.

Photograph by Johnny Silvercloud via

Leah Wright Rigueur calls America a failed state. As a polity, she says, the United States has failed Black people, falling short of its promises of equality and justice. This summer’s protests are a dramatic diagnostic of that failure — the latest in a long history of wake-up calls. But this is also, perhaps, a transformative moment, a sign of hope. Rigueur, a Harvard historian and public policy expert, discusses the importance of heeding Black protest, Black politics, and Black demands for reparations.


About our guest

Leah Wright Rigueur is the Harry Truman Professor of American History at Brandeis University and the author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican: Pragmatic Politics and the Pursuit of Power, from Princeton University Press (2016). An expert on 20th century African American history, civil rights and political ideology, Rigueur has contributed news analysis to ABC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and other media organizations. She is working on a new book about the Housing and Urban Development scandal under the Reagan administration in the 1980s. Follow her on Twitter @LeahRigueur.

The show was recorded in July and posted August 18, 2020.

What we’re reading

By our guest

The Loneliness of the Black Republican shows how African Americans on the right “attempted to influence the direction of conservatism — not to destroy it but rather to expand the boundaries of the ideology in order to include Black needs and interests.” Nevertheless, Rigueur argues, the GOP has increasingly alienated Black voters since the Civil Rights era. Read an excerpt here.

Rigueur has most recently served as a political analyst for ABC News, on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and the network’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

During the 2016 election, she commented on “The GOP’s problem with black voters” for the Virginian-Pilot and, with Theodore R. Johnson, wrote about the divisive, coded language of race in electoral politics for The Atlantic.

From around the web

Consider these powerful arguments for economic justice and reparations for African Americans, by Nicole Hannah-Jones this year in The New York Times Magazine, and, in 2014, by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic.

Black Lives Matter co-founder Opal Tometi spoke with Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker last month about why the protests following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis may mark a turning point in the struggle for racial justice. Read that interview here.


A transcript of this episode is available here

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