Whose Democracy Is It?
Part of the Public Radio Collaboration -- 2003

Whose Dmocracy Is it?The Public Radio Collaboration is a nationwide coalition of public radio stations and producers (including NPR), who worked together on air and online to create a national conversation about the health of American democracy, Nov. 3-9, 2003.

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Democracy Stories From NPR Stations

audio icon Norman Rockwell Was Wrong
From New Hampshire Public Radio
The New England town meeting is often seen as the purest expression of American democracy. Norman Rockwell captured that feeling in his painting "Freedom of Speech," with a rough-hewn commoner standing and giving his opinion, while wealthier townspeople look on respectfully. But sometimes, small town government can seem almost like Washington. Expanded Coverage

audio iconTraining Camp for Campaigners
From KERA in Dallas, TX
Politics can be a cynical, cutthroat business - one that turns the public off as much as it entertains it. And yet it's an essential industry in our democracy. Here's an inside look at a weekend initiation of the next generation of political consultants and campaign professionals. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Democracy on the Block
From WFUV in New York, NY
John Flansburgh of the band They Might Be Giants moonlights as a tour guide in this sound-rich, music-filled hour looking at informal, overlooked and sometimes quirky democracies. Stops on the tour include a playground, a coop apartment building, and Coney Island's freak show. New Yorkers explain why their mini democracies work in their communities, and how they fit into the ever-changing American democracy. Expanded Coverage

audio icon You Decide
From KQED in San Francisco, CA
Should the United States replace the Electoral College system with a direct democracy? You decide. Yes | No

audio icon Putting the "Riot" Back in Patriotism
From Chicago Public Radio
Commentator Gwen Macsai takes a look at the notion of patriotism and the feelings it evokes: loyalty, respect and devotion, apathy, skepticism, and desertion. She comes to the conclusion that it's a lot like marriage.

audio icon Lessons From the Fall: A Losing Candidate's Reflections
From Minnesota Public Radio
For every candidate who wins an election, there is another who experiences the agony of defeat. Many of them are newcomers to the world of politics, who get an eye-opening look at the inside of a campaign, from door knocking to raising money. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Does Your Vote Count?
From WAMU in Washington, DC
Voting is the central expression of our democracy, but does your vote really count? It used to be that on Election Day, you punched a card or pulled a lever, and walked away confident your choice was recorded. But three years ago, the dimpled chads of Florida shook that confidence. With the next presidential election one year away, NPR's Diane Rehm Show takes a look at the accuracy and integrity of our voting system. (Live broadcast Monday, Nov. 3, 2003 - 11 a.m. EST) Expanded Coverage

audio icon What Can I Say?
From WNYC in New York, NY
Right now, as "loyalty" and "treason" are being redefined by world events, so are cultural expressions of patriotism and dissent. From "message" pictures in the old Hollywood, to morale-building songs, to satirists' comic visions, politics and mass culture have been inexorably linked. Expanded Coverage

audio iconArmchair Citizens
From KERA in Dallas, TX
Commentator James Mardis's experiences teaching young people about citizenship illustrate how America has become a society of reactionaries rather than citizens who create solutions. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Politics as Family
From New Hampshire Public Radio
Many Americans eye politics with suspicion. It's seen as a world of clout, back room deals and less than sincere efforts to do public good. But for families long involved in the process, those elements are only part of the story. For one family in New Hampshire that grew up with politics around the kitchen table, it's too easy to call it dirty. Expanded Coverage

audio icon The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
From Minnesota Public Radio
There are at least 40 millionaires in the United States Senate. Political watchdogs say they expect that number to increase because the national political parties are recruiting candidates who are wealthy and willing to spend millions of dollars of their own money to run for office. "Self-financed" candidates say campaigning with their own money makes them more independent of special interests. But critics worry the trend will make political campaigns more expensive and put public office out of reach for average Americans. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Money and Politics
From KERA in Dallas, TX
Commentator Chip Pitts notes that money in politics undermines the democratic process and recommends some improvements. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Native Americans and Democracy in New Mexico
From KUNM in Albuquerque, NM
Before the European colonization of New Mexico, Indian communities there practiced highly democratic forms of self-governance. This radio segment traces the changes in Native American forms of government from that earliest period to the present. It includes early history, reform movements of the 20th century, and today's impact of gaming on Indian political clout. The voices in this program include current and former elected officials, community activists and scholars.

audio icon The Rise and Fall of Third Parties
From Minnesota Public Radio
It's been 15 years since an American president was elected with more than 50 percent of the popular vote. Minnesota has provided some of the most fertile ground for third-party candidates in recent years. Jesse Ventura of the Independence Party held the governor's office for four years, and the Green Party has won some local races in the state. Despite that slim fingerhold, third-party and independent candidates struggle for their infrequent victories. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Switching Sides
From WNYC in New York, NY
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did it. Condoleezza Rice did it. Winston Churchill did it -- twice. There are countless reasons why politicians switch parties -- convenience, opportunities, ideology, geography... but what about ordinary people? In a country where party affiliations are often lifelong and handed down through generations, the change can be huge and divisive. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Revolution South of LA
From KPCC in Pasadena, CA
Early this year, the city of South Gate, CA, removed a corrupt government with a recall election. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman Lopez covered that race. In this feature, he returns to South Gate to see how the new democracy is working.

audio icon What it Takes to be a Good Citizen
From KUER in Salt Lake City, UT
Is democracy just too hard for modern Americans? Writer Anne Milliken explores what it takes to be a good citizen in America today, profiling two women in Utah. One believes her voice makes a difference in the political process, the other chooses to invest herself elsewhere. Expanded Coverage

audio icon The Next Generation: Democracy on Campus
From Michigan Radio
No one can predict the future, but today's political movements hint at the direction democracy is taking. On university campuses, students are more active than they have been in a decade. Tracy Samilton visits the University of Michigan -- birthplace of Students for a Democratic Society -- for a picture of student participation in democracy.

audio icon Is Democracy Monolingual?
From KERA in Dallas, TX
Marisa Trevino points out that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 still leaves many non-English speakers disenfranchised, when practical steps are not taken to help them at the polls. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Cyber-democracy and Civic Discourse
From Minnesota Public Radio
For years political observers have been lamenting the demise of old-style political discourse. The rise of the Internet and online community forums have given some people hope of luring increasingly disconnected public back into the political process. Expanded Coverage

audio icon On Deaf Ears
From KUER in Salt Lake City, UT
If politicians are supposed to represent us, why do we disagree with so much that is done in the name of public good? Jenny Brundin looks at the question of whether we elect politicians for their individual wisdom or their commitment to accurately fight for our views. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Small Stuff Democracy
From Michigan Radio
You don't have to be a politician to have experience with democracy. In fact you don't even have to go to the polls. Many Americans spend their entire lives swimming in democratic concepts day in and day out. As Tamar Charney reports our sense of democracy is so ingrained that we look to voting and majority rule in our everyday lives.

audio icon Dissent and Democracy
From Chicago Public Radio
Dissent has long been a powerful element of democracy -- from the Boston Tea Party to civil disobedience in the 1950s and 1960s, from book burnings to flag burnings. For many, the right to dissent without fear of repercussion is a definitive hallmark of a democratic system. In this two-hour special edition of Odyssey, Gretchen Helfrich and her guests engage in a comprehensive exploration of the role of protest in a democratic state.

audio icon Killing and Dying for Democracy
From Wisonsin Public Radio
What would you die for? And what are you willing to kill for? Democracy? Well hear from writers Alice Walker, Sherman Alexie, Isabel Allende and Margaret Atwood. And, Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, on why democracy may be the wrong idea for a developing country. Expanded Coverage

more Art and Democracy
From WNYC in New York, NY
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright speaks with Kurt Andersen about what kind of art a democratic society produces -- and if there's really such a thing as democratic art. We look at voting for your art, on American Idol and in movie focus groups. We hear how jazz broke down hierarchies and changed our politics. And we visit the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Plaza in Albany, a place one critic called an example of fascist architecture. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Arab Americans: Democracy in a New Land
From Michigan Radio
Many of the United States' four million Arab-Americans have adapted to life in the United States by building successful businesses in their communities. Many have also taken active roles in civic life, on both neighborhood and national levels. Michael Leland traveled to Dearborn, MI, and found that some Arab-Americans still struggle with certain aspects of democracy.

Democracy Stories From Public Radio Shows and Independent Producers

audio icon The President Calling
From American RadioWorks in St. Paul, Minn.
Three of America's most compelling presidents - Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon - tapped their telephones, leaving behind a trove of secretly-made audio tapes, recording thousands of conversations, from momentous to mundane. American RadioWorks eavesdrops on presidential telephone calls to hear how each man used one-on-one politics to shape history. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Local News, Local Democracy
From Good Radio Shows, Inc./Paul Ingles in Albuquerque, NM
Local broadcast news shapes what many people know about their community and about how to participate in their democracy. In this hour-long special, producer Paul Ingles convenes two panels of national media experts and news professionals to debate how well local TV and radio news programs inform citizens. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Campaign Finance, European-Style
From Marketplace in Los Angeles, CA
As opposed to the lucre-soaked U.S. political process, not quite as much money flows in European election campaigns. So, what kinds of advantages do politicians use to get around campaign finance rules? And, what do astute political observers across "The Pond" say about the American way? Stephen Beard reports. Expanded Coverage

audio icon The Nation of Hawaii
From Outer Voices in Sebastopol, CA
When democracy is imposed in a place where people don't want it, is that democratic? Welcome to Hawaii, the 50th state, where many people would prefer a return to the monarchy. While there is no longer debate about the right to sovereign nationhood, there is still discussion about whether there isn't room for American democracy in Hawaii, after all. Expanded Coverage

audio icon PAC Man
From Sesh Kannan in Washington, DC
Overcoming fear, isolation, and prejudice, Muslims in Northern Virginia have staked a claim in the future of U.S. democracy. A new political action committee called the Platform for Active Civil Empowerment is rallying local Muslims to be politically active to register to vote, fundraise, and support political candidates. Expanded Coverage

audio icon A Peek Into the Minds of Political Donors
From Marketplace in Los Angeles, CA
In the world of mainstream politics, big campaign donors are as essential as air and water. Bill Zeeble talks with two campaign donors -- a Democrat and a Republican -- about the role of money in elections, how they got involved, why they give, and how they deal with critics. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Whose Vote Counts?
From American RadioWorks in St. Paul, Minn.
In the last presidential election, as many as six million votes weren't counted because of antiquated voting machines and confusion at the polls. America pledged to overhaul its voting system, but are we ready for 2004? American RadioWorks and the Center for Investigative Reporting try to find out. Expanded Coverage

audio icon The Religious Roots of American Democracy
From Speaking of Faith in St. Paul, Minn.
With conversation, readings, music, and sound, Krista Tippett explores the religious impulse in American democracy with philosopher Jacob Needleman. His thought-provoking findings suggest how Americans today might fill familiar patriotic sentiments with new meaning. Expanded Coverage

audio icon Lenape Democracy
From PeaceTalks in Philadelphia, PA
The Native Americans of the Lenape Nation have inhabited Pennsylvania for well over a thousand 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.

audio icon Small Business Trumps Large in Political Giving
From Marketplace in Los Angeles, CA
The auto industry often ranks near the top of political giving -- but its the auto dealers whose checks often lead to a bigger payoff. And, the auto dealers have a larger role in local communities. Bill Poorman explores the role of small business in politics. Expanded Coverage

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