Show cover of How to Fix Democracy

How to Fix Democracy

Since its origins, democracy has been a work in progress. Today, many question its resilience. How to Fix Democracy, a collaboration of the Bertelsmann Foundation and Humanity in Action, explores practical solutions for how to address the increasing threats democracy faces. Host Andrew Keen interviews prominent international thinkers and practitioners of democracy.


How the Constitution and the Law Can Save American Democracy | Featuring Jeffrey Rosen
In this episode we delve into Jeffrey Rosen's latest work The Pursuit of Happiness. As the President of the National Constitution Center and a Professor of Law at George Washington University, Rosen brings a unique perspective on America's democratic foundations. Through an exploration of classical writers and America's own philosophers and political founders, Rosen and Keen engage in a discussion on the challenges facing American democracy and law today. We ask crucial questions: How closely do America's democratic institutions align with the ideals of the founding fathers? What insights can we glean from the evolution of American law and government practices over centuries? And, perhaps most importantly, what elements from our past are essential for sustaining and enriching American democracy? 
50:32 4/3/24
Testing American Liberalism in the Cold War Years | Featuring James Traub
Testing American Liberalism in the Cold War Years In this episode journalist and historian James Traub delves into the paradoxical nature of liberalism in the post war years. The continuation of New Deal social and economic reforms charactarized a society of consensus in fulfillment of democratic ideals in the Cold War years. However, the illusory impression was built on the continuiation of Jim Crow systems in the South deepening racial inequity in the rest of the country. Resistance stirred underneath consensus and the illusion of an expanding liberalism and democratic enhancement. James Traub is an American journalist and scholar specializing in international affairs. 
42:47 3/15/24
Challenges to Democracy in the Cold War | Featuring Sarah Snyder
In conversation with Prof. Sarah Snyder, an historian of Cold War international relations, Andrew Keen examines the relationship of democratic goals with the realities of American foreign policy. As the world's great post-war democratic and capitalistic power, the U.S. opposed Russia and China through strategic foreign aid and international interventions - often with non-democratic regimes. Internal divisions and controversies about the role of the United Nations, international human rights initiatives and racial divisions in the U.S. however challenged that post-war consensus.
40:10 3/4/24
The Democratic Divide in a Post World War II America | Featuring Dr. Carol Anderson
The democratic divide in post WWII: advance abroad, retreat at home.  In this episode, Andrew Keen speaks with Dr. Carol Anderson, professor of African American Studies at Emory University. They discuss America in the post World War II years when America emerged as the world's leading democratic country. That claim was belied by the reality of a flawed and unfulfilled democracy at home. Black Americans, who joined the military in great numbers and fought with great distinction, returned to Jim Crow America and discrimination in many parts of the country. It continued practices of oppression and blocked the expansion of global post-war Human Rights doctrines from applying to the United States.
40:45 2/2/24
American Democracy Transformed | Featuring Kevin Baker
American Democracy Transformed: A Conversation with Kevin Baker on the Interwar Era's Cultural and Political Evolution In this episode, host Andrew Keen discusses with writer and editor, Kevin Baker, the multifaceted changes and growth of American democracy. Significant cultural innovations, technological advancements, and societal shifts occurred between the two World Wars. Baker emphasizes America's transformation into a cultural and political powerhouse during this period, where its arts and politics gained global recognition and when American culture including literature, music, and cinema, played a pivotal role in shaping societal views and politics. Kevin Baker graduated from Columbia University in 1980 and has since pursued a career as a writer and editor. His writings include novels like "Sometimes You See It Coming" and "Dreamland" forming part of his New York City of Fire trilogy.
34:20 12/13/23
Fighting for Equity: African-American struggles in the '20s and '30s | Featuring Jill Watts
Fighting for Equity: African-American struggles in the '20s and '30s. In this episode, host Andrew Keen talks to Jill Watts author of The Black Cabinet, about the untold story of African Americans and politics during the age of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Jill Watts is an author and a Professor Emeritus of History at California State University San Marcos where she teaches United States social and cultural history, African American history, film history, and digital history.
49:31 11/10/23
Women's Political Rights | Featuring Dr. Allida Black
Women's Political Rights | Dr. Allida Black Allida Black speaks with host Andrew Keen about the history of women in politics and the impact of their noteworthy political and social activism, which dates back a time well before the Women's Right to Vote. Dr. Allida Black is a historian, author, and editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers.
28:31 10/24/23
The Hoover Presidency | Featuring Richard Norton Smith
In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, host Andrew Keen engages in a conversation with the author and historian Richard Norton Smith, delving into a discussion about the Hoover presidency and its profound relevance for the United States during a time of upheaval and economic depression. Author and historian Richard Norton Smith enjoys national recognition as an expert on the American presidency. After graduating from Harvard in 1975, he began his career as a White House intern and subsequently served as a speechwriter for Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts. Smith held the position of Director at various prestigious institutions, including the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Center, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
40:33 9/20/23
The Legacy of FDR | Featuring Paul Sparrow
The Legacy of FDR | Paul Sparrow, former Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, speaks with Andrew Keen about the immense challenges and legacies of FDR and his administration. Sparrow maintains that Roosevelt saved American democracy from an existential crisis caused by the Great Depression and the failure of previous administrations to provide for the welfare of the public. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, Sparrow delves into the deep complexities of the 32nd U.S. President who employed the powerful resources of his mind and personality.   Paul Sparrow is a writer, historical consultant, and the former Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Before moving to the FDR Library, he was the Deputy Director and Senior Vice President for Broadcasting and New Media at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He was a founding partner in the University of Maryland’s Future of Information Alliance and a pioneer in interactive digital media. Prior to his work at the Newseum, Sparrow was an Emmy-Award winning television producer, and showrunner for Discovery, TLC, Fox, and PBS. He began his television career at KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco.  
40:26 8/15/23
FDR and the Great Depression | Featuring Derek Leebaert
FDR and the Great Depression | In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, author and historian Derek Leebaert provides a revisionist account of President Franklin Roosevelt and four members of his Cabinet. According to Leebaert, the 1920s were beset by economic distress and labor unrest that culminated in the Great Depression. Supported by Frances Perkins, Harold Ickes, Henry Wallace and Harry Hopkins, the Roosevelt presidency provided new solutions to much of America’s endemic vulnerability, inequality, and instability. Leebaert describes the President as a deeply complex leader—a man of steely ambitions —who worked with the four Cabinet officials to escape the Depression and prepare the United States for world leadership.   Derek Leebaert won the biennial 2020 Truman Book Award for "Grand Improvisation". His previous books include "Magic and Mayhem: The Delusions of American Foreign Policy from Korea to Afghanistan" and "To Dare and to Conquer: Special Operations and the Destiny of Nations", both Washington Post Best Books of the Year. He was a founding editor of the Harvard/MIT journal International Security and is a cofounder of the National Museum of the U.S. Army. He holds a D.Phil from Oxford and lives in Washington, D.C.
38:55 7/24/23
American Isolationism and the Shifting World Order | Featuring Robert Kagan
American Isolationism and the Shifting World Order in the 1920s and 30s | In this 3rd episode of the season, host Andrew Keen talks to Robert Kagan, the distinguished Brookings Institute scholar of foreign policy, about America’s dramatically changing place in the world during the Twenties and Thirties. According to Kagan, at the end of World War I Europe expected American democracy to lead a new world order. The Versailles Treaty, designed to engage America in post-war Europe, failed to gain domestic support. America, the world’s leading economic powerhouse, retreated into its heartland of domestic concerns: consumer consumption, fears of anarchy, socialism, and communism as well as immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe and Asia. The U.S. Senate, led by conservatives, reinforced America’s isolationist foreign policy throughout the 1920s. The domestic power only shifted to the White House and State Department in the late 1930s when the dangers of European fascism threatened America’s stability and power.   Robert Kagan is the Stephen & Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the Foreign Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. He is a contributing columnist at The Washington Post and the author of several books, including "The Ghost at the Feast: America and the Collapse of World Order, 1900-1941" and "Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order". Kagan served in the State Department from 1984 to 1988 as a member of the policy planning staff, as principal speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and as deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.  
41:11 7/10/23
The Scopes Trial and the Fight for the Freedom to Teach | Featuring Edward Larson
The Scopes Trial and the Fight for the Freedom to Teach | In 1924, John Scopes, an instructor in a public school in Dayton, Tennessee, was indicted for violating the Tennessee Butler Act for teaching evolution in a publicly funded school. Strong personalities and strong beliefs clashed in the courthouse as they engrossed and even inflamed the country. Clarence Darrow, America's most famous litigator dramatically clashed with Williams Jennings Bryan, populist, presidential nominee and evangelical believer. The "trial of the century," as it was called, revealed profound cultural and religious issues. Despite Darrow's passionate espousal of free speech and civil liberties, Scopes was found guilty. The conviction was overturned but the issues were hardly resolved. Controversies over public education have continued to reverberate in America, reaching deep into each decade from the 1920s to today. Historian and legal scholar Edward Larson illuminates that history and relevance for us today.   Larson holds the Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair in Law and is University Professor of History at Pepperdine University. Originally from Ohio with a PhD in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and law degree from Harvard, Larson has lectured on all seven continents and taught at Stanford Law School, University of Melbourne, Leiden University, and the University of Georgia, where he chaired the History Department. Prior to becoming a professor, Larson practiced law in Seattle and served as counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, DC.
40:28 6/8/23
American Democracy in the Aftermath of World War I | Featuring Adam Hochschild
American Democracy in the Aftermath of World War I | In the first episode of Season 5, How to Fix Democracy host Andrew Keen sits down with Adam Hochschild, historian, journalist, and award-winning author of “American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy's Forgotten Crisis." Hochschild takes us on a journey to America in the aftermath of World War I – a country divided by labor strife, xenophobic fear of immigrants, and massive violations of civil rights. Both provincially insular and dynamically modern, Hochschild introduces us to an America nostalgic for an idyllic pre-war normalcy that can never be recaptured.   How to Fix Democracy Season 5 covers 100 years of American democracy between 1924 and 2024. The season uncovers the complexities of U.S. history and asks our distinguished guests why it remains the most iconic and yet misunderstood democratic system in the world. This season is brought to you by the Bertelsmann Foundation and Humanity in Action. Watch the episode videos at and listen wherever you get your podcasts.  
29:56 5/3/23
How Authoritarian Leaders Wield & Maintain Power | Featuring Moisés Naím
How Authoritarian Leaders Wield & Maintain Power | On October 20, 2022, Moisés Naím joined host Andrew Keen for a live episode of How to Fix Democracy in the Bertelsmann Foundation office in Washington, DC to discuss how authoritarian leaders wield and maintain power in contemporary politics. Author of “The End of Power” (2013) and “The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats are Reinventing Politics in the 21st Century” (2022), Moisés Naím is an authoritative political thinker and best-selling author. In this episode, he explains how authoritarian political leaders use three “P”s to maintain their power: populism, polarization, and post-truths. Take a listen!
63:43 3/6/23
The State of American Democracy in the Shadow of January 6th | Featuring Larry Diamond
The State of American Democracy in the Shadow of January 6th  Nearly two years on, the January 6th insurrection is still lingering over Washington, DC like a dark cloud. The events leading up to the Capitol insurrection, as well as the attack itself, have signaled a major threat to American democracy. Will the United States be able to recover fully from these events, or is the damage irreparable? Does the presidency of Joe Biden mean that healing can take place, or will future political leaders seek to insight violence whenever their platform is threatened?  Larry Diamond is a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. He is the author of several books, including Ill Winds and The Spirit of Democracy. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, he joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the state of democracy in the United States post-January 6th. Take a listen!
43:42 12/16/22
Is Bipartisanship Possible in the United States | Featuring Michael Thorning
Is Bipartisanship Possible in the United States? | The 2020 Presidential Election clarified the need for a unified, authoritative understanding of elections and election systems in the United States. In recent weeks, Democratic legislators have been working to pass the Electoral Count Reform Act to update outdated systems and clarify the role of the Vice President in electoral proceedings. Simultaneously, the Republican-backed Moore v. Harper case will be heard before the Supreme Court to determine how much power states can have over voting access and election results. Will it ever be possible to have a bipartisan, unified approach to voting rights in the United States?    Michael Thorning is the Director of Governance at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank in Washington, DC, that seeks to foster bipartisanship in American politics. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, he joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the implications for the current and upcoming voting rights legislation, as well as the need for bipartisanship in order to defend democracy in the United States.
31:12 12/7/22
The Transformation of the Republican Party | Featuring Dana Milbank
The Transformation of the Republican Party Throughout the last thirty years, the Republican Party in the United States has undergone a great change. How did the party come to adopt such a polarized platform in which white supremacy, conspiracy theories, and authoritarianism are no longer off limits? Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank traces this transformation from Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America in 1994 to the January 6th insurrection in 2021 in his new book The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, he joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the new voices of the Republican Party, how they came to power, and whether or not the party will be forced to change. Take a listen!
37:15 11/23/22
Midterm Elections Special | Featuring Rebekah Caruthers
Midterm Elections Special Many Americans are preparing to head to the polls on November 8, 2022 for the US Midterm Elections. Following the elections of 2020, many are worried about the rise of election denial and the growing distrust of electoral systems. Rebekah Caruthers, the Vice President of the Fair Elections Center, advocates for election security, the safety of elections officials, and equal voting access for all American citizens. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, she joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the implications for the 2022 Midterm Elections and gives advice for citizens on Election Day.
33:42 11/4/22
American Ideologies and Trumpism | Featuring Darrell M. West
American Ideologies and Trumpism “Trumpism'' has emerged as a powerful force in American political ideology since the 2016 election. It is characterized by a philosophy that leans heavily on populism, ultra-nationalism, and religious fundamentalism – all part of the platform that bolstered Former President Donald Trump throughout his administration and beyond. However, if Donald Trump were to disappear tomorrow, the forces that brought him to power would still very much be at play in the hearts and minds of American conservatives, explains our latest guest. Darrell M. West is the Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, as well as the author of Power Politics: Trump and the Assault on American Democracy. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, he joins host Andrew Keen to discuss how Trumpism came to be, and how it is influencing the structures of American democracy.
45:12 10/17/22
The Legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court | Featuring Dahlia Lithwick
The legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court The popularity of the U.S. Supreme Court has been in sharp decline throughout the last two years. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June of 2022, many Americans, feeling unheard and unseen by the court’s decision, have been asking the question, “Why does the Supreme Court have so much power?” Dahlia Lithwick, lawyer and author of Lady Justice, explains how the latest rulings by the Supreme Court threaten the fabric of American democracy. If the Supreme Court is no longer serving the people, is it still legitimate? In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, Lithwick joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the implications for the Dobbs Ruling, the decline in popularity of the Supreme Court, and whether or not the Supreme Court can maintain its legitimacy moving forward.
41:00 9/26/22
Religion and American Conservatism | Featuring Katherine Stewart
Religion and American Conservatism The American far-right has, in many ways, become inseparable from religious conservatism and fervor. Religious movements and organizations provide the foundation, funding, and voting base of the extreme right in American politics, explains our latest guest. Katherine Stewart, the author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, has spent her career reporting on the dwindling separation between church and state in the United States. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, she joins host Andrew Keen to discuss how religious nationalism has been cultivated by leaders on the far-right for political gain.
34:31 9/12/22
The Health of American Democracy | Featuring Cynthia Miller-Idriss
The Health of American Democracy The erosion of democratic values in the United States has led many to refer to American democracy as “sick” and in need of healing. Extremism, disinformation, and civic illiteracy have fueled radical beliefs and led to grave polarization within American society. Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab (PERIL), and author of Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right, has focused her research on these issues and how our society can overcome them. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, Dr. Miller-Idriss joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the state of American democracy today, the rise of extremism and radicalization, and strategies for curing what is seemingly irreversible polarization.
41:18 8/10/22
Racial Injustice & Voting Rights in the United States | Featuring Andrea Young
Racial Injustice & Voting Rights in the United States Andrea Young, the executive director of the ACLU in Georgia, is a lifelong advocate of voting and civil rights in the United States. Having participated in the Selma to Montgomery marches with her parents at nine years old, she has dedicated her life to ensuring the protection of civil liberties for marginalized groups in the United States. Georgia was of great importance in the 2020 Presidential Election, where President Joe Biden beat Donald Trump by only 12,000 votes. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, Andrea Young discusses the history of structural racial injustice in the United States, the need for a multicultural democracy, and the role that Georgia is playing in paving the way to a stronger democratic system in which everyone’s voice can be heard and affirmed.
36:42 7/8/22
Bridging the Partisan Divide | Featuring Mónica Guzmán
Bridging the Partisan Divide  What does it mean to engage with someone on the other side of the political aisle? Mónica Guzmán has made it her mission to answer this question and facilitate thoughtful, constructive dialogue between the political left and right in the United States. In her latest book, I Never Thought of It That Way, she explores the ways in which American citizens can move beyond political barriers and work together to create a less divided political system. In this episode of How to Fix Democracy, she joins host Andrew Keen to discuss the dire state of the political landscape in the United States today, as well as steps that we can take to fix it. She explores the ways in which she is able to engage with people who believe differently than her, and the events in her life which have led her to this place.
38:05 5/16/22
The Crisis of the American Right | Featuring Peter Wehner and Jonathan Rauch
The Crisis of the American Right Authors Peter Wehner and Jon Rauch recently published a New York Times Opinion piece entitled “What’s Happening on the Left is No Excuse for What’s Happening on the Right.” As conservative researchers, they have a unique position to observe and analyze the recent shifts in the American political right. In the latest episode of How to Fix Democracy, Peter Wehner and Jon Rauch join host Andrew Keen to discuss the history and implications of the stark transformation undergone by the Republican Party during and after Donald Trump’s presidency. What does this change mean for the future of the party, and for political stability in the United States? Why have some conservatives chosen to leave the party, while some have chosen to stay? Find out here!
47:57 4/19/22
Tocqueville's Take on Democracy | Featuring Cheryl Welch and Arthur Goldhammer
Tocqueville's Take on Democracy Harvard University professors Cheryl Welch and Arthur Goldhammer are world-renowned experts and translators of the work of Alexis de Tocqueville. They kick off Season 4 of How To Fix Democracy by joining host Andrew Keen for a discussion of Tocqueville's famous observational text, "Democracy in America." Our fourth season of the podcast will focus on just that: democracy in the United States. How do Tocqueville's observations apply to the 21st century? What did he get wrong, and what did he get right? Our guests explore all of these questions and more–take a listen!
42:01 3/16/22
The Roles of Citizens | Featuring Jon Alexander
The Roles of Citizens  Jon Alexander is the founder of The New Citizenship Project and speaks in this interview with host Andrew Keen about the conflict between our roles as citizens and consumers. From the psychology of marketing and the formation of the modern citizen to what a crowdfunded brewery can teach us about restructuring decision-making and profit-driven thinking, this interview helps illustrate the influence of democracy and capitalism on human behavior and what we can do to guide better citizen engagement in the future.
40:34 12/22/21
Democracy in Pain | Featuring Patrick Radden Keefe
Democracy in Pain  Patrick Radden Keefe is a writer and investigative journalist whose recent book, Empire of Pain, delves into the opioid crisis in the United States. In this interview, co-hosted by Andrew Keen and the John Adams Institute director Tracy Metz, Patrick explains some of the lessons from this story for repairing democracy in America. In many ways, the saga of the opioid crisis reflects a topic covered often in this series: the troubled relationship between corporate power and democracy in America. This is the first interview of a series in cooperation with The John Adams Institute.
40:47 12/9/21
Examining Elections | Featuring David van Reybrouck
Examining Elections  David van Reybrouck is a Belgian author, historian, archaeologist, and the National Endowment for the Humanities / Hannah Arendt Center Fellow at Bard College in New York. He and Andrew Keen take a multifaceted approach to deliberative democracy and the structural challenges of democratic practices today. Are elections as we know them today indispensable to democracy? Are there other kinds of decision-making processes that can empower citizens instead of elevating elites? Keen and van Reybrouck reflect on the philosophical underpinnings of representative democracy, discuss the latest developments in deliberative democracy and citizens’ assemblies, and consider the state of political communication and citizenship today.
31:46 11/24/21
Innovating Democracy | Featuring Claudia Chwalisz
Innovating Democracy  Claudia Chwalisz is the Innovative Citizen Participation Lead at the OECD Directorate for Public Governance. In this interview, she talks with host Andrew Keen about the importance of innovation in democratic governance to shift away from structures that encourage short-term thinking. Deliberative democracy, Chwalisz argues, can help engage citizens in the decision making process without presenting them with oversimplified or false choices, as can be the danger with referenda. From populism to citizens' assemblies, this conversation covers some of the most compelling topics in democracy today.
40:02 11/10/21