Democracy in Danger

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

Democracy in Danger

Season Four

Will and Siva kicked off the new calendar year with a retrotspective on the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Then we started asking in earnest what we can do to make democracy work better.

Show topics this season included a look at creative ideas for improving the news business, supporting America’s troubled K-12 schools, stemming gun violence and connecting more people to high-speed internet. We also took a look at a pro-democracy movement in Zimbabwe and considered the wider implications of Russia’s war in Ukraine. It was a busy time!

When you’ve caught up on all our past shows, stop by the current run and subscribe to the show. We’ve adoped a a new schedule beginning in Season Five: episodes drop every other Wednesday. And don’t be stranger, shoot us a tweet sometime and let us know what you think we should cover.

Season Finale

S4 E16. Past, Present, Future


With this live taping from West Lafayette, Ind., we close out Season Four. Three experts on Black Power, women’s movements and democracy’s discontents join Siva and Will onstage to discuss what the past has to teach us about defending — and improving — government by the people. Read more >


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.

S4 E15. Saving Social Media

Facebook and Twitter have helped topple dictators and foment social movements. They also have unimaginable power over how people communicate and what they understand about the world. Hear what two pols have to say on what lawmakers can do to save the internet — and democracy. Read more >

S4 E14. In Ukraine, Hell — and Hope

By UN and U.S. estimates, as many as 20,000 soldiers have been killed in Russia’s war on Ukraine. Many more civilians have likely perished. Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s end game remains unclear; but one Ukrainian-born journalist finds hope amid the rubble, for his native country and its enemies. Read more >

S4 E13. Broken News

More than half of American newspapers are now controlled by financial firms. And while media moguls wring more from smaller staffs to squeeze out bigger profits, journalism hangs in the balance. Two seasoned j-profs share their hopes for the news business in the 21st century. Read more >

S4 E12. Criminal Laws

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 >

S4 E11. Learning Curbed

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 >

S4 E10. Crisis of Faith

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 >

S4 E9. False Flag

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 >

S4 E8. Titans of Tech

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 >

S4 E7. On Edge

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 >

S4 E6. Body Politics

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 >

S4 E5. Telltale Coup

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 >

S4. Special Episode: War Comes to Ukraine

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 >

S4 E4. Locked and Loaded

“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 >

S4 E3. The New Old Dominion

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 >

S4 E2. Disconnected

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 >

S4 E1. By Unpopular Demand

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 >

Special Episode: Insurrection Reflection

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 >

Archive: Season Three

We took a new approach this time, producing three multi-part series: one on the fallout and lessons from the war in Afghanistan; a tour of some fine states in the Union; and hard look at democratic hot spots around the world.

Listen to episodes on America’s earlier and often forgotten 19-year occupation of Haiti, on the summer 2021 unrest in Cuba and on the effort to restore voting rights for former felons in Florida. Plus a lot more.

See what you missed.

Archive: Season Two

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.

See what you missed.

Archive: Season One

We were worried.

Really worried.

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

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.

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.