Democracy Works fits nicely into the nonpartisan spectrum. Created by faculty members at the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State University, Democracy Works talks with guest all over the political landscape and spectrum. Their unique position associated with a university gives them a certain credibility and additional resources many other podcasts aren’t afforded. Between the caliber of guests who join them — best-selling authors, professors, media pundits, and more — their conversation is informational, and more importantly, thought-provoking.
The podcast points out that we often hear about how democracy is failing today, but how does it actually work? The McCourtney Institute for Democracy examines democracy from multiple angles, saying they are "partisan for democracy" and that they don't take sides on the political spectrum.
About the show
The Democracy Works podcast seeks to answer that question by examining a different aspect of democratic life each week — from voting to criminal justice to the free press and everything in between. We interview experts who study democracy, as well as people who are out there doing the hard work of democracy day in and day out.
The show’s name comes from Pennsylvania’s long tradition of iron and steel works — people coming together to build things greater than the sum of their parts. We believe that democracy is the same way. Each of us has a role to play in building and sustaining a healthy democracy and our show is all about helping people understand what that means.
Democracy Works is part of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.
It has become one of my favorite podcasts because it helps soothe my worries for our democracy by creating the feeling that we are making progress toward understanding what's going wrong, building the necessary bridges, and making the necessary repairs.— Bonnie Dixon; Winters California
This podcast provides an understanding of how history looks at the success and failures of democratic governing practices and what may be the correct answers for civilizations going forward.— Liz Grosh; Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
I teach Peace & Conflict Studies and prompted by my students and in light of the sure to be contentious political season, I have begun a dedicated research of the conception, history, practice and suppression of democracy. This podcast is a welcome mapping of many of the current discourses surrounding democracy. I enjoy listening and sharing it with my students.— Michael Benton; Lexington, Kentucky
Jenna Spinelle is the Communications Specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. She is responsible for shaping all of the institute’s external communication, including website content, social media, multimedia, and media outreach. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Penn State and is an instructor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Prior to joining the McCourtney Institute, Spinelle worked in Penn State’s Undergraduate Admissions Office and College of Information Sciences and Technology.
Michael Berkman (Ph.D., Indiana University) is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the director of the Center for American Political Responsiveness (CAPR), a center of excellence within the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Berkman’s research focuses on American politics, particularly American state politics and policy. His most recent research, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on state Transitional Aid to Needy Families (TANF) programs. Along with his colleague Eric Plutzer, Berkman has published two books on state education policy: Evolution, Creationism and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms (Cambridge University Press) and Ten Thousand Democracies: Politics and Public Opinion in America’s School Districts (Georgetown University Press). His first book, The State Roots of National Politics: Congress and the Tax Agenda, 1978–1986 (Pittsburgh University Press), looked at how state policies influence national politics.
Christopher Beem (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is managing director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. He is the author or co-editor of five books, including The Necessity of Politics (University of Chicago Press). His latest book, Democratic Humility: Reinhold Niebuhr, Neuroscience and America’s Political Crisis (Lexington Books, 2015) argues that democracy requires a specific kind of humility to counter our natural inclination to self-delusion and self-righteousness. Before joining the Institute, Beem served as grants and communications manager for Next Door, a nonprofit organization dedicated to early childhood education in Milwaukee’s central city. Before that, he directed the Democracy and Community Program at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread Conference Center
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