Podcast | The past and future of American democracy with Slate

In a live podcast taping, historian Heather Cox Richardson debates the nation’s founding and the state of democracy ahead of the 2024 election.

Celeste Headlee and Heather Cox Richardson on stage

Celeste Headlee and Heather Cox Richardson on stage at the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival on May 4, 2024. (Christopher Nelson for Cascade PBS)

Historian Heather Cox Richardson, author of Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America, points out a central tension in American history: The founding fathers penned the idea of equality before the law, but as white male property owners, they could always have meant to exclude some people from participating in their new government. 

As part of the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival in early May, Richardson got on stage to dig into this tension with Celeste Headlee, host of Slate’s Hear Me Out podcast. The two debated the founders’ intentions, the country’s consistent struggle to live up to its ideals and how this fraught historical context impacts the current state of American democracy.  

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In this episode of the Cascade PBS Ideas Festival podcast, Headlee and Richardson discuss the American story and the American dream; how some of these narratives help drive the MAGA movement; the bitter war of ideas taking place in our country and what gives each of them hope despite it all.  

This conversation was recorded on May 4, 2024. 

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