THE DEMOCRACY TEST

A Six Part Series Launching September 2018

The presidency of Donald Trump has sparked a national conversation .Is our democracy at risk? Across the country, scholars, activists and citizens are taking stock.  With an eye on how democracies have failed throughout history, and on the rise of authoritarian leaders across the globe, they ask the question … can it happen here? The Democracy Test gives a broad and diverse national platform to this work as we seek to understand what is truly unique in this moment of our nation’s history, what brought us here, and what it would take to emerge with an even stronger understanding of what democracy means in America and what we can do now to move toward an even stronger expression of  its ideals.

Episode One

Why Democracy?

In 1789, the Constitutional Convention decided to revive a form of government untried since the collapse of the Athenian democracy and the Roman republic in ancient times. Why?  With Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics; author of Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality

Broadcast Date: September 21, 2018  Consult your local station.

Online Post: September 28, 2018

Episode Two

A House Divided

A healthy democracy thrives on ideological struggle, robust debate, dissent and compromise. But, in the 1850s and 60s, deep splits drove the country to civil war. The same fault lines exist today. When the “other side” becomes illegitimate, the room for democracy shrinks. When politics is the problem, can it also provide the solution? With Joanne Freeman, author The Field of Blood: Congressional Violence in Antebellum America; Jennifer McCoy, distinguished university professor at Georgia State University; Kwame Anthony Appiah, author, The Lies that Bind : Rethinking Identity.

Broadcast Date: September 28, 2018.  Consult your local station.

Online Post: October 5, 2018

Episode Three

Created Equal

 Accepting the nomination for president in 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt acknowledged a fundamental challenge of American democracy : “For too many of us, the political equality we once had won, was meaningless in the face of economic inequality.” In the depths of the Great Depression, how did America’s democracy survive that crisis? And, with inequality now at the highest rate since the depression, is our democracy ready to answer the challenge again? Robert Dallek, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life;  Lawrence Jacobs, editor of Inequality and American Democracy.  

Broadcast Date: October 5, 2018   Consult your local station.

Online Post: October 12

Episode Four

Consent of the Governed

Democracy derives its just powers from “the consent of the governed.”  How that has played out in our nation is an imperfect history, flawed from the beginning by disenfranchisement and today  by the out sized role of money in politics, voter suppression, foreign influence and the manipulation of political boundaries. How far have we moved since the founding?  Can faith in democracy survive a lack of trust it its most fundamental tool?  With Carol Anderson, author “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy” and Kimberly Reed, Director/Producer “Dark Money.”

Broadcast Date: October 12, 2018 Consult your local station.

Online Post: October 19, 2018

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Episode Five

Checks and Balances

The path from monarchy to democracy relied on a vision of government based on the principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, and the rule of law. From hyper partisanship to corruption to executive overreach, much of what the framers hoped to avoid has come to pass, and yet democracy survived. From Watergate to today, what drives the tipping point between democratic resilience and decay?  When government is broken,who needs to fix it? Julia Azari, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marquette University;  E. J. Dionne, author, Why Americans Hate Politics, and Beverly Gage, author of the forthcoming G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the American Century.

Broadcast Date: October 19, 2018 Consult your local station.

Online Date: October 26, 2018

Episode Six

Truth and Faith

What happens in a democracy when we can’t believe in anything?  When we don’t even believe in our nation’s ability to govern itself?  Faith in democracy decays. Participation erodes. The politics of possibility in our nation demand some sense of shared reality and basic level of belief that government  can serve the common good. What will be the lasting impact of our current break in truth and trust? Melvin Rogers, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brown University, and Sophia Rosenfeld,  Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

Broadcast Date: October 26, 2018 Consult your local station.

Online Post: November 2, 2018