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Ways & Means Presents: Sealing The Cracks In Our Democracy

Rae Hsu

Could American democracy be better? It is a big and existential question that is now even more pressing as many watch their friends, neighbors and loved ones fall through the cracks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Researchers at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy have spent years putting the entire foundation of the nation we know under a microscope to ask big questions about our democracy, including: What does it take to get people engaged in the democratic process? How can we address the racial wealth gap? And why does local news matter for democracy?

In the final installment of our collaboration with the podcast Ways & Means, journalist Emily Hanford introduces us to scholars from Duke’s Center for Politics (Polis) who are examining the hows, whys and political potential of these foundational questions.

Part One: Reparations

The question of whether and how to compensate descendants of people formerly enslaved in the United States has hung over the country since the end of the Civil War. It’s getting new traction in the 2020 election.

''I don't think of this as a matter of personal guilt. I think of this as a matter of national responsibility, and the culpable party is the federal government.'' - Sandy Darity

Part Two: After-School Programs 

This episode looks at research into how government-funded after-school programs for poor families are empowering politically motivated parents.

Part Three: Local News Deserts

This episode takes a look at why local news is struggling, why that matters for democracy and what can be done about it.

Music For This Episode: Sound of Picture; “Jumpin Boogie Woogie by Audionautix; “Terrier Waltz” by Nat Keefe with the Bow Ties; “To Weather a Storm” by Dan Lebowitz; “Sing Swing Bada Bing” by Doug Maxwell all used with a Creative Commons license.

Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
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