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Whose Democracy Is It?
A Public Radio Collaboration Examining Democracy in America

listenListen to Peter Overby's report.
Gen. Wesley Clark
Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, one of nine Democratic presidential hopefuls, is among the latest candidates for office to run as a "political outsider."
Photo: Americans for Clark


Mark Hanna, a wealthy Ohio businessman, played a key role in President William McKinley's 1896 election. Hanna raised a record amount of money for McKinley's presidential campaign, largely through his ties with business leaders.
Mark Hanna, a wealthy Ohio businessman, played a key role in President William McKinley's 1896 election. Hanna raised a record amount of money for McKinley's presidential campaign, largely through his ties with business leaders.
Credit: Library of Congress


President Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail. Railroad and oil companies provided 75 percent of Roosevelt's campaign funds during the 1904 presidential election. When voters found out, the backlash that resulted prompted Congress to pass the first major campaign-finance reform law, the Tillman Act of 1907. The law banned corporate donations to federal candidates.
President Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail. When it was revealed that railroad and oil companies provided 75 percent of Roosevelt's campaign funds during the 1904 presidential election, the voter backlash prompted Congress to pass the first major campaign-finance reform law, the Tillman Act of 1907. The law banned corporate donations to federal candidates.
Photo: Library of Congress


November 2003 -- From Nov. 3 through Nov. 6, NPR will join a coalition of public radio stations and independent producers around the country crafting programming that examines the health of democracy in America. From the history of campaign finance to political traditions among Native Americans, the project takes a broad look at democracy in its many incarnations.

The goal is to stimulate a national conversation on the state and direction of democracy in America and what it means to be a citizen. Explore NPR's coverage, join an online discussion and get reading suggestions from our "democracy library."

NPR Stories for the Project:

Monday, Nov. 3
More The Outsiders
From former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura to general-turned-presidential hopeful Wesley Clark, a number of politicians have made bids for public office by running as government outsiders. NPR's Mara Liasson looks at the 'outsider' phenomenon and examines how it affects voters' views on government and democracy.

Tuesday, Nov. 4
More Big Money and Politics
Advocates of campaign-finance reform argue that major political contributors exercise undue influence over lawmakers. But the influence of money on U.S. politics is nothing new. Large contributions from big-business interests played a critical role in the 1896 election of President William McKinley. And a campaign finance scandal involving President Theodore Roosevelt led to the first major curb on corporate contributions, the 1907 Tillman Act. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

Tuesday, Nov. 4
MoreThe Library of Democracy
An educated citizenry is said to be the backbone of any healthy democracy. But what exactly should those citizens be reading? On Talk of the Nation, host Neal Conan and guests discuss books that belong in the "Library of Democracy." Browse our suggested reading list.

Wednesday, Nov. 5
MoreVoter Turnout, or Lack Thereof
As voting rights have expanded, the percentage of eligible people who actually vote has declined. NPR's Linda Wertheimer looks at the reasons behind low voter turnout.

Thursday, Nov. 6
The Booming Line-Standing Business
One example of money's crucial role in Washington can be seen outside any important congressional hearing: paid line-standers, who often wait overnight to get seats for those lobbyists who can afford their services. It's a regular business, with wranglers who hire and supervise standers -- and provide them with a regular paycheck. NPR's Peter Overby reports.


Stories by Other Collaboration Contributors:

ListenLenape Democracy
From PeaceTalks in Philadelphia, PA
The Native Americans of the Lenape Nation have inhabited Pennsylvania for well over 1,000 years. Yet, the state has never formally acknowledged their existence, despite evidence that Native American traditions may have influenced the creators of our own Constitution. Hear who's fighting for them and why. Blair Brown narrates.

More Does Your Vote Count?
From WAMU in Washington, D.C.
Voting is the central expression of our democracy, but does your vote really count? NPR's Diane Rehm Show takes a look at the accuracy and integrity of our voting system.

Listen The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
From Minnesota Public Radio
There are at least 40 millionaires in the U.S. Senate. That number is expected to rise, as political parties recruit wealthy candidates willing to spend their own money to run for office. "Self-financed" candidates say they're more independent of special interests. But critics worry the trend will put public office out of reach for average Americans.

MoreMore Stories from Collaboration Contributors


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