All over the world, liberal democracy is getting turned upside-down. Autocratic leaders are using populist appeals, the partisan media and the power of their offices to short-circuit thoughtful deliberation and political consensus. They flout the rule of law, unleash the police on their own people, suppress dissent and attack voting rights. So what can you do about it?
University of Virginia historian Deborah Kang unpacks the racist history behind American immigration law. Plus, two federal public defenders tell us how they’re fighting back against a discriminatory system in court — and winning. Read more >
School board meetings have been getting unruly lately, with parents decrying lessons on race and gender that sometimes aren’t even taught. The outrage may be manufactured, but the frustration it echoes is real, historian Natalia Petrzela says: Genuine shifts in public education have met pandemic fatigue. Read more >
The power of white evangelical leaders in the United States has reached a kind of zenith. President Trump helped make their dreams possible — but Sarah Palin before him laid the rhetorical groundwork, historian Anthea Butler says. So did a little-known Supreme Court ruling in 1971. Read more >
With a single video posted on social media, a little-known pastor launched a mass movement that helped oust the longtime president of Zimbabwe. But after a military coup kept the ruling party in power, pro-democracy groups splintered. So the struggle goes on. Read more >
The technologies developed in Silicon Valley launched Americans into space and laid the groundwork for the internet. But defusing the threats that Big Tech poses for self-government will take social and political innovation — not more gadgets or cleverer code. Read more >
In October 2020, federal agents uncovered a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, put her on trial and possibly start a civil war. Given America’s current political climate, the idea may not have been so far-fetched. Read more >
The Supreme Court may dismantle the constitutional right to abortion found in Roe v. Wade. Either way, journalist Rebecca Traister says, abortion rights have never been secure in America. Read more >
Smedley Butler had served his country in nearly every foreign conflict of the early 20th century, earning him monikers like the “Fighting Quaker” and “Old Gimlet Eye.” But when a visitor tried to enlist him in one last mission, Butler had this warning: I am going to ... lick the hell out of you. Read more >
Western powers are taking extraordinary action to isolate and punish Russia as it wages war on its neighbor. This week we speak to a Ukrainian expat in Canada as she agonizes over the fate her native land and her family. The sanctions, says journalist Jane Lytvynenko, are long overdue. Read more >
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Weird commas and all, historian Carol Anderson says the Second Amendment was drenched from the beginning in Black blood. Read more >
Sally Hudson brings an economist’s eye to her work as a lawmaker. Maybe that’s one reason the math on ranked-choice voting makes so much sense to her. With Hudson’s help, we revisit the state of democracy in our home state and assess the new governor’s first month in office. Read more >
You’ve heard us gripe about conspiracy theories and disinformation flooding the online ecosystem. But this time, Will and Siva speak with a colleague who argues that Americans need more and better internet access — not less. Read more >
It’s a perfect storm: gerrymandering, the collapse of independent media and the pressure tactics of interest groups are reshaping the legal landscape in America, state by state. Ohio writer David Pepper unpacks this nefarious game plan. Read more >
A year ago, a pro-Trump mob invaded the Capitol in Washington and tried to stop lawmakers from certifying the 2020 election. Now their enablers in Congress and in the media have painted them as patriots and victims. Read more >
Myanmar, Ukraine, Haiti, Charlottesville, trouble across the States — check out these shows and more in the three miniseries we dropped in the fall of 2021.
Plus, the anniversary of an insurrection.
Russia, Brazil, climate change, the troubled relationship between democracy and capitalism — and much more.
And let’s not forget, an insurrection at the seat of American government.
We were worried.
Relive why. After all, those demons are all still with us.
In the works
Next week: another look at the tragedy in Ukraine, this time from a reporter who has been there. And coming soon: the dilemma of social media regulation; plus our season finale, a show we’re going to be taping live at the American Political History Conference.
Our show is a project of UVA’s Deliberative Media Lab. It’s produced with support from the UVA Democracy Initiative and the College of Arts and Sciences, and syndicated in coordination with WTJU’s Virginia Audio Collective. We’re also a member of The Democracy Group, a podcast network that exposes the cracks and fissures in America’s democracy and equips concerned citizens with the tools to do something about it.
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