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?

Join hosts Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan — along with leading thinkers from around the world — as they put illiberal trends in context and explore ways to turn them around.

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.

Subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get your audio.


Season Finale

S2 18. WTF, GOP


Joe Biden used the word “democracy” in his inaugural address more times than any other president, signaling a shift in rhetoric from his predecessor. But the opposition party that stands in the way of his agenda is openly pursuing less democracy, not more. We wrap up Season Two with a former Republican congresswoman who rejects the cult of Trump, and we hear from political analysts Larry Sabato and Nicole Hemmer. Read more >

S2 17. India Burning

As India approaches the 75th anniversary of its independence, the future that the country’s founders envisioned — of a diverse, dynamic, egalitarian nation — has been cast in doubt. Historian Manu Bhagavan along with two journalists, Kapil Komireddi and Vidya Krishnan, help Will and Siva ponder whether India is, after all, too big to fly. Read more >

S2 16. Moscow Duel

Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a Russian-made nerve agent in August 2020. When he recovered, he returned to his own country, knowing he would face persecution. New Yorker staff writer Masha Gessen says that sort of audacity is a cornerstone of the opposition movement. Read more >

S2 15. Between Progress and Putin

Harvard historian Serhii Plokhii says he is hopeful that, in the long term, democracy will prevail in his native country of Ukraine. It’s the immediate crises of Russian-sponsored violence, dismemberment and disinformation that worry him. Read more >

S2 14. Der Noisy Fringe

Historian Thomas Zimmer explains why he’s not terribly worried about the far-right in Germany, even though the xenophobic Alternative for Germany party now leads the opposition in parliament. And Constanze Stelzenmüller, an expert on foreign relations, credits Angela Merkel for holding democratic ideals together in Europe with a firm hand. Read more >

S2 13. Bittersweet Dreams

Sayra is from Mexico. Alejandro from Bolivia. Their journeys are different but the limbo they’ve experienced growing up undocumented in America has shaped them in parallel ways. Also on this episode, American University law professor Amanda Frosts reflects on how the hidden history of citizenship-stripping can inform naturalization policy in the present. Read more >

S2 12. Nuestra America

Gema Kloppe-Santamaría, a sociologist and historian of Latin America, studies the long and painful arc of extralegal violence in the region — from vigilante justice to the dirty wars and the drug wars. And, she says, the United States should play a role in solving the regional problems it has helped create. Read more >

S2 E11. Climate Shame

Science can tell us why the climate is changing (it’s people, people). But it can’t tell us what to do about it. That’s where politics and a sense of community come in, climate writer Kendra-Pierre Louis says. Read more >

S2 E10. Digital Wasteland

According to Syracuse University media scholar Whitney Phillips, information pathways run as deep and interwoven as the roots of redwood trees, and when they’re contaminated it threatens the whole forest. Read more >

S2 E9. The Wild Web

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Congress moved to regulate internet content and gave tech companies wide latitude, setting the stage for a Wild West of data flow — along with abuses of privacy. UVA law professor Danielle Citron says it’s time to rein in cyberspace. Read more >

S2 E8. People Power

Nonviolent protests have taken down dictators and protected civil rights. But very often they fail instead. Renowned Serbian activist Srdja Popovic outlines the key characteristics of successful movements. Read more >

S2 E7. Growing Pains

Degrowth. In classical economic circles the idea is heretical. For economic anthropologist Jason Hickel, dialing down production in rich countries — and canceling debt for poor countries — is the only path to real democracy and, by the way, saving the planet. Read more >

S2 E6. Census Division

If people aren’t counted in a representative democracy, it’s as if they don’t exist. And for politicians or parties banking on minority rule, that’s just fine. Until they meet Dale Ho — who defends citizens’ voting rights for the American Civil Liberties Union. Read more >

S2 E5. Hard Lessons

Last summer, young people were at the forefront of demonstrations for racial justice in America. In many ways, they were modeling democratic values for their educators. But can their teachers learn from them? UVA president Jim Ryan offers some insight on this and other tough questions. Read more >

S2 E4. Threadbare Country

In a tattered corner of rural Kentucky, Eduardo Porter came upon a puzzle. The New York Times journalist saw that while Harlan County was benefiting more than most places from federal tax dollars, its overwhelmingly white residents distrusted the government and feared minorities. Why? Read more >

S2 E3. The Bane of Brazil

Denying ecological devastation in the Amazon, ridiculing opponents, and playing down the coronavirus pandemic are all part of the Bolsonaro toolkit. Sound familiar? Media studies scholar David Nemer takes us on a haunting tour of his native country’s political landscape. Read more >

S2 E2. Down the Rabbit Hole

Despite new regulations, Facebook groups and Twitter bots are still luring naive users into a world of suspicion, lies and terrorism, says social media researcher Renée DiResta. Read more >

S2 E1. Cults of Personality

Remember Silvio Berlusconi? Sex scandals, shady deals and a cult-like following marked the Italian prime minister’s time in office. NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat breaks down a political playbook with a long history and continued appeal. Read more >

S2 E0. Preview: Season Two

After such a wacky month in America, is there any question democracy is still in danger? Yeah, we didn’t think so either. Will and Siva are back with Season Two and a whole new lineup of guests.

Special Episode. Insurrection

Much as the nation was stunned by the violence and mayhem at the U.S. Capitol in January, the assault was not unprecedented or unpredictable. Siva and Will — together with their University of Virginia students — reflect on what happened. Read more >

Archive: Season One

We were worried.

Really worried.

Relive why. After all, those demons are all still with us.

In the works

We’re taking a break for the summer while we plan out our Season Three. Stay tuned for updates on what we’re working on, including some new narrative series on threats to democracy — and efforts to protect it — across time and all over the world.

Want to suggest a topic for a future episode or tell us what you think of the show? Find us on Twitter or email

Creative Commons License

Democracy in Danger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This license covers all audio available on these pages or directly from our RSS feed.


Submitted by Betty McCurdy (not verified) on

Robert Armengol was amazing. I would like to listen to him as cohost in other episodes in the future.

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