Civics 101

Civics 101

By New Hampshire Public Radio

What's the difference between the House and the Senate? How do congressional investigations work? What is Federalist X actually about? Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.


The Stump Speech: Student Contest Winners

What’s wrong in America today? What would you do to fix it? Today we share the winners of our third annual Student Contest. Hailey Cheng, Tigist Murch, and Vijay Damerla give us their minute-long pitch for what America needs. Political Science professor Dan Cassino weighs in on the tactics used in these three speeches, and whether or not they’re shared with the current presidential candidates. To hear all the finalists, visit
11/02/2012m 49s

The Republican Party

What role did slavery play in the formation of the Republican Party? How did a scrappy third party coalition create what became known as the Grand Old Party? And how did the party of Lincoln become the party of Trump? Taking us on the journey from 1854 Wisconsin to the present day Republican party is author George Will and political scientists Keneshia Grant, Kathryn Depalo-Gould and William Adler. Find more on our website,
28/01/2023m 3s

The Democratic Party

How did the Democratic party become "blue?" Why were they initially called Republicans? And most importantly, how did the party that supported slavery become the party that nominated our first African-American president? Taking us on the long winding path from the origin of the party to the modern-day Democrat is author Heather Wagner, political scientist Keneshia Grant, and historian Paddy Riley.
14/01/2019m 32s

Third Parties

When it comes to federal elections, third party candidates are almost assured a defeat. And yet the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Reform Party -- these underdogs always appear on the scene ready for a fight. So why run if you're not going to win? What do third parties do to American politics? Our mediators for this one are Marjorie Hershey, Professor of Political Science Emerita at Indiana University and Geoffrey Skelley, Elections Analyst at FiveThirtyEight.
18/12/1924m 55s

Becoming a U.S. Citizen

The first step, the step that really matters in becoming a U.S. citizen, is becoming a permanent resident. Once you have that Green Card in hand, this country is your oyster. Become a citizen, don't become a citizen -- either way, you get to stay for as long as you like. We hear a lot about the legal path to citizenship, but what does that path actually look like? And why is it so much longer for some than for others? Has it always been like this? Lighting the way in this episode are Allan Wernick, CUNY professor and Director of Citizenship Now, Mae Ngai, history professor at Columbia University and Margaret Chin, sociology professor at Hunter College.
03/12/1919m 51s


It's just a survey; a handful of questions that get issued to every household in the country every ten years. So how does a countrywide headcount end up being at the core of power and money distribution in the U.S.? And why does it matter if you fill it out? Walking us through the people, money and power at the heart of the census are national NPR correspondent Hansi Lo Wang and Chief Historian of the U.S. Census Bureau Sharon Tosi Lacey. After you listen, why not stand up and be counted as a supporter of Civics 101? We're in the throes of our end of year fund drive and we're asking you, dear civics listener, to consider making a contribution to the future of Civics 101. It's easy, mere moments, faster than filling out the census! If you're so inclined, you can make your gift here:
19/11/1919m 26s

Student Contest Announcement: Stump Speech

Can you tell us what America needs? In this year’s Student Contest, we’re looking for your stump speech, that 60-second pitch to the nation on what you’d focus on if you were running for president. What are the most important issues? How would you fix them? All students are welcome to contribute to this contest. The winning speeches will be assembled and released to our Civics 101 audience. The deadline is 12/31. To submit, record a 60-second or so voice memo of your stump speech on either your phone or computer and send it to Make sure to tell us your name and your school! Alternatively, you can leave your stump speech on our Civics Hotline by calling 202-798-6865. Good luck!
12/11/192m 38s

Electoral College

When we vote for a president, we're not really voting for a president. Today in our episode on the Electoral College, we explore the rationale of the framers in creating it, its workings, its celebrations, its critiques, and its potential future. This episode features the voices of Northwestern Professor of political science Alvin Tillery, University of Texas Professor of political science Rebecca Deen, and former 'faithless elector' Christopher Suprun.
05/11/1919m 9s

Introducing: Stranglehold

Want to dig deeper into the world of presidential primaries? No better place to start than New Hampshire. Our colleagues Lauren Chooljian and Jack Rodolico tell the story of New Hampshire's grip on the First in the Nation primary in this podcast about power and the characters who wield it here in the Granite State. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, and learn more about Stranglehold at Original music by Jason Moon and Lucas Anderson. Stranglehold reporting/production team: Lauren Chooljuan, Jack Rodolico, Jason Moon, Casey McDermott, Josh Rogers, Nick Capodice, Hannah McCarthy and the NHPR newsroom.
25/10/195m 33s


The primaries are over, the caucusing has closed, the results are in. Now it's time to party. Nominating conventions are, by and large, a chance for political elites to get together, network and celebrate. The American public has picked a presidential candidate and the convention is there to give it all some pomp and circumstance. But what are all those fancy folk up to in that convention center? And what happens if there is no clear winner after primary season is over? Taking us out onto the convention floor are Domenico Montanaro (NPR Political Correspondent), Alvin Tillery (Northwestern University), Bruce Stinebrickner (Depauw University) and Tammy Vigil (Boston University).
22/10/1933m 1s


We have never actually fired the President of the United States. But we sure have tried. It’s the biggest job in the country, so the road to termination is a long and fraught.  What happens after Congress initiates the process? What is impeachment? How does the process play out? Our brilliant friends Linda Monk (the Constitution Lady), Frank Bowman (author of High Crimes and Misdemeanors) and Dan Cassino (Political Science Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University) are our guides to the Big Show.
08/10/1919m 23s

Primaries and Caucuses

It's one of the most democratic aspects of our nation, not to mention extremely recent. In this episode we explore the snarled history of how we select party nominees; from delegates to superdelegates, and from gymnasiums in Iowa to booths in New Hampshire. This episode features political scientists Bruce Stinebrickner (DePauw University) and Alvin Tillery (Northwestern University), NPR's Domenico Montanarro, Iowa Public Radio's Kate Payne, and Lauren Chooljian from NHPR.
24/09/1927m 31s

How to Run for President

The job description is pretty sparse, the laws are convoluted and the path from A to Z seems fraught with peril. So how does a person go from candidate to nominee to Leader of the Free World? We asked some heavy hitters for the inside scoop on running for President.  Settle in for a long and strange ride with Former Governor and Democratic nominee for President, Michael Dukakis, CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers and founding partner of Purple Strategies, Mark Squier.
10/09/1931m 43s

Student Contest Winner: On the Bench

It's time for the 2nd annual winner of our Student Contest! Our winners are Jessie Aniloff, Katie Bruni, and Tara Czekner from Anthony Micalizzi's class at Villa Joseph Marie High School  In their podcast, On the Bench, they share their thoughts on representation in the Supreme Court, citing the work done by the four female justices to take the bench thus far. 
13/08/1918m 59s

Starter Kit: How A Bill (really) Becomes a Law

We at Civics 101 adore Schoolhouse Rock and that sad little scrap of paper on the steps of the Capitol. But today we try to finish what they started, by diving into the messy, partisan, labyrinthine process of modern-day legislation. This episode features the voices of Andy Wilson, Adia Samba-Quee, Alizah Ross, and Eleanor Powell. 
06/08/1924m 39s

Starter Kit: Federalism

A tug of war, a balancing act, two dancers dragging each other across the floor. This is the perpetual ebb and flow of power between the states and the federal government. How can things be legal in a state but illegal nationally? Are states obstinate barricades to federal legislation? Or are they laboratories of democracy? Today's episode features Lisa Manheim, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law and co-author of The Limits of Presidential Power, and Dave Robertson, Chair of the Political Science department at the University of Missouri St.Louis.
30/07/1924m 18s

Starter Kit: Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court, considered by some to be the most powerful branch, had humble beginnings. How did it stop being, in the words of Alexander Hamilton, "next to nothing?" Do politics affect the court's decisions? And how do cases even get there? This episode features Larry Robbins, lawyer and eighteen-time advocate in the Supreme Court, and Kathryn DePalo, professor at Florida International University and past president of the Florida Political Science Association.
23/07/1920m 52s

Starter Kit: Legislative Branch

There are 535 people who meet in the hallowed halls of Capitol Hill. They go in, legislation comes out. You can watch the machinations of the House and Senate chambers on C-SPAN, you can read their bills online. But what are the rules of engagement? Where does your Senator go every day, and what do they do? What does it mean to represent the American people? Our guides to the U.S. Legislative branch are Congressman Chris Pappas, Eleanor Powell, Stefani Langehennig and Emmitt Riley.
16/07/1923m 56s

Starter Kit: Executive Branch

In this episode of our Starter Kit series, a primer on the powers of the President, both constitutional and extra-constitutional. Also, a super inefficient mnemonic device to remember the 15 executive departments in the order of their creation. Featuring the voices of Lisa Manheim, professor at UW School of Law and co-author of The Limits of Presidential Power, and Kathryn DePalo, professor at Florida International University and past president of the Florida Political Science Association. 
09/07/1921m 20s

Starter Kit: Checks and Balances

We exist in a delicate balance. Ours is a system designed to counterweight itself, to stave off the power grabs that entice even the fairest of us all. The U.S. government is comprised of humans, not angels, so each branch has the power to stop the other from going to far. The only catch being, of course, they have to actually exercise that power. In this episode, with the inimitable Kim Wehle as our guide, we learn what those checks actually are, and how the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches (ostensibly) keep things democratic. 
02/07/1915m 32s

Upcoming Series: Civics Starter Kit

An announcement of our new series, airing on July 2.
25/06/191m 18s

Life Stages: Death

It's also the final episode of our Life Stages series, and its euphemism-free. We speak to a doctors, lawyers, professors, and funeral professionals about the rules of death; pronouncing, declaring, burying, cremating, willing, trusting, canceling, donating. Featuring the voices of Dan Cassino, Ken Iserson, Leah Plunkett, Mandy Stafford, and Taelor Johnson. 
14/05/1929m 4s

Life Stages: Retirement

The prospect of retirement -- of leaving the work force, aging, confronting a new body and a new way of life -- is peppered with concepts and requirements so unwieldy they can make your brain turn off. So how do we make retirement prep easier? Shed the dread and face the future armed with a plan? Our guides to the next stage of life are Bart Astor, Tom Margenau and Cristina Martin Firvida. 
07/05/1927m 25s

Life Stages: Marriage

Today, what does it really mean to be married? Divorced? What changes in the law's eyes?  What do you have to do? And, most importantly, how and why has the government decided who is allowed to marry whom? And while we're at it, what does love, Pocahontas, or a credit card application have to do with any of this? Today's episode features the voices of Stephanie Coontz, Kori Graves, Dan Cassino, Leah Plunkett, and dozens of County Clerks. 
30/04/1933m 39s

Life Stages: Work

The modern day workplace is the product of a centuries-long battle for fair wages, reasonable hours and safe conditions. Today's episode tells the story of the labor in the United States -- from slavery and indentured servitude to the Equal Pay Act and the weekend. What did Americans workers have to go through to make their voices heard, and how did they change labor in America? Our guests include Priscilla Murolo, Philip Yale Nicholson and Camille Hebert.
23/04/1933m 34s

Life Stages: School

As Adam Laats said, "when it comes to schools, the most important thing is who you are, and where you live." In today's episode, we explore how K-12 education has developed in the US since the 1600s, what teachers can and can't teach, what rights students have in public school, and how the federal government gets involved. Today's episode features Mary Beth Tinker, Dan Cassino, Kara Lamontagne, Adam Laats and Campbell Scribner. Subscribe to Civics 101 here!
16/04/1930m 43s

Life Stages: Birth

What does it take to be born an American citizen? And then, once you are, how do you prove it? And what does it get you? Today on Civics 101, we talk to Dr. Mary Kate Hattan of Concord Hospital, Dan Cassino of Farleigh Dickinson University, Susan Pearson of Northwestern University and Sue Mangold of the Juvenile Law Center to find out where (American) babies come from, and what that means. 
09/04/1929m 54s

Founding Documents: Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to our Constitution. Why do we have one? What does it 'do'? And what does it really, really do? Our guests are Linda Monk, Alvin Tillery, David O. Stewart, Woody Holton, David Bobb, and Chuck Taft. Visit our website,, where you can get Chuck's wonderful Bill of Rights SURVIVOR lesson plan, along with our favorite Bill of Rights resources. Each Amendment could be (and has been) its own episode. Except maybe the Third Amendment. So if you don't know them by heart, take two minutes to watch this video.
26/02/1923m 36s

Special Announcement: Student Contest

Go to for rules and resources. Make an under 15 minute podcast episode in any format by May 15th. We want to hear about your favorite civics primary source. This can be anything from Abigail Adams’ pocket to an interview with a family member about their protest sign to an old campaign button. It’s the ‘thing’ that rings that civic participation bell for you, and helps you to understand a moment, a political movement, a complicated element of our government, or your rights.
22/02/191m 56s

Founding Documents: The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

Ten days after the Constitution was signed at the Old Philadelphia State House, an anonymous op-ed appeared in the New York Journal. Signed by "Cato," it cautioned readers of the new Constitution to take it with a grain of salt. Even the wisest of men, it warned, can make mistakes. This launched a public debate that would last months, pitting pro-Constitution "Federalists" against Constitution-wary "Anti-Federalists." It was a battle for ratification, and it resulted in a glimpse into the minds of our Framers -- and a concession that would come to define American identity. 
19/02/1928m 25s

Founding Documents: The Constitution

After just six years under the Articles of Confederation, a committee of anxious delegates agreed to meet in Philadelphia to amend the government. While the country suffered recession and rebellions, a group of fifty-five men determined the shape of the new United States. The document that emerged after that summer of debate was littered with strange ideas and unsavory concessions. The delegates decided they'd be pleased if this new government lasted fifty years. It has been our blueprint for over two centuries. This is the story of how our Constitution came to be. 
12/02/1937m 7s

Founding Documents: Articles of Confederation

While a famous committee of five drafted the Declaration of Independence, a far more unsung committee of thirteen wrote America's first rulebook. The Articles of Confederation was our first constitution, and it lasted nine years. If you prefer Typee to Moby Dick, Blood Simple to A Serious Man, or Picasso's Blue Period over Neoclassicism, you just might like the Articles of Confederation. The fable of its weaknesses, strengths, rise, and downfall are told to us by Danielle Allen, Linda Monk, Joel Collins, and Lindsey Stevens. Also, Paul Bogush tells us how to play Articles of Confederation the Game with a sack of blocks. Subscribe to Civics 101 for all your civil needs. Find out more at
05/02/1920m 53s

Founding Documents: Declaration of Independence

America declared independence on July 2, 1776. But two days later it adopted this radical, revolutionary, inclusive, exclusive, secessionist, compromising, hypocritical, inspirational document. What does it say? What does it ignore?  This episode features many scholars with differing opinions on the Declaration: Danielle Allen, Byron Williams, Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Woody Holton, and Emma Bray. 
29/01/1926m 32s

Founding Documents: Magna Carta

Magna Carta was sealed on a field in England in 1215. It's purpose was to appease some frustrated Barons, and it was never intended to last. Over 800 years later, this document is credited with establishing one of the most foundational principles of our democracy. So what does Magna Carta actually say? And how did it get from dubious stalling tactic in the 13th century to U.S. Supreme Court arguments in the modern era? 
22/01/1928m 23s

Special Announcement: Upcoming Season

For our next season, we're going to tackle America's founding documents: Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Federalist Papers. Episode One will release on January 22nd, but don't hold back in the meantime! We want to hear your questions, comments and ideas. And if you're a teacher who has found a unique way to teach the founding documents, drop us a line! That email is 
20/11/182m 6s

Midterm Edition: Why Vote?

We've told you that midterm elections matter. But the truth is, midterms only matter to you -- and you only matter to your legislators -- if you show up at the polls. It's the first step in making yourself heard. And once you have, you mean that much more to the people who make our laws.  In this episode, you'll hear what voting actually does for you and your demographic. Plus, how to make sure your voice is heard, whether you're eligible to vote or not. Our experts this time around are Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Edgar Saldivar and Peter Levine.   
06/11/1827m 0s

Midterm Edition: Propositions

Regardless of how you choose to vote on Prop 1, you'll finish this episode knowing all about ballot measures. These are bills and amendments initiated by the people, and voted into law by the people. What could possibly go wrong when we sidestep our famously pedantic legislature?? Today's episode features our eminently quotable teacher and former California Assemblymember Cheryl Cook-Kallio, political correspondent at KQED Guy Marzorati, and frequent initiative proposer Tim Eyman. 
30/10/1825m 55s

Midterm Edition: Campaigning

How do you stand out in a sea of lawn signs, or make yourself heard above the roar of a thousand ads? Campaigns are hard enough when the whole country is watching -- so what does it take to get the vote when most people couldn't care less? That's the mystery of the midterm campaign. We asked some experts to help us solve it. In this episode, you'll hear from Inside Elections reporter Leah Askarinam, CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers, politics professor Barry Burden and state house candidate Maile Foster. Plus, Brady Carlson walks us through a midterm of revolutionary proportions. 
23/10/1829m 6s

Midterm Edition: House v Senate

Two houses, both alike in...well, many things.  But oh so different in many others. We go from absolute basics to the philosophical differences that exist in the Legislative branch. This episode features the opinions of former staffers from both chambers, Political Science professors, and political analysts.  Also, Brady Carlson tells the tale of the biggest loss in midterm history, and its relation to a federal holiday.
16/10/1825m 8s

Midterm Edition: State and Local Elections

Midterm elections don't have the glitz or drama of presidential campaigning. They're full of aldermen and comptrollers, state senators and governors. These offices seem meager next to national government. But most of the time, it's state and local officials that have the most palpable impact on our lives and on our future elections. In episode two of our five-part series on the midterm elections, we're taking a good look at the state and local offices that have a big-time impact on your life. 
09/10/1821m 52s

Midterm Edition: 5 Things to Know about the Midterms

Today we launch our five-part series on the midterm elections! Keith Hughes, creator of Hip History, tells us the five things he thinks every American should know about midterms and why they matter. Each episode in this series concludes with a snapshot of an historic US Midterm election, delivered by Brady Carlson. Today, it's 1826: Good Feelings and Hard Feelings.
02/10/1821m 18s

Special Announcement and IRL2 rebroadcast

First off, our next season of Civics 101 will launch this October with a special miniseries on the midterm elections. Each episode will better educate you on what you're voting for in November (you are voting, right? Even if you can't yet, we've got some stuff for you) and each will include a breakdown of the wide-ranging effects of a historic US midterm. Second, this is a rebroadcast of IRL2, our episode on the history of the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, focusing on times the use (or lack thereof) of these icons challenged the 1st Amendment.
21/08/1829m 31s

IRL1: Free Speech in Schools [Rebroadcast]

A rebroadcast to get ready for the school year: we're digging into four incredibly important Supreme Court cases - four cases that have shaped how we interpret the meaning of free speech in public schools.  Is political protest allowed in class?  Is lewd speech covered by the First Amendment? Can school administrators determine what students can and can't say in the school newspaper? Listen in, and find out how students and schools have gone head to head over how First Amendment rights apply in a public school setting.
07/08/1824m 45s

The Death Penalty

On today's episode we're looking into a practice that sets the U.S. aside from all other Western countries: Capital Punishment. So, is the death penalty a part of the constitution? How has the Supreme Court ruled on the issue? And ultimately, what can we learn about ourselves from the practice? Our guest today is Carol Steiker, Harvard Law Professor and author of Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment.
31/07/1819m 25s

The Equal Rights Amendment

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed Constitutional amendment that would explicitly guarantee legal equality under U.S. law, regardless of sex. But almost a century after it was first proposed, the ERA has still not been ratified. What's the hold-up? Lillian Cunningham is a journalist at The Washington Post. She's also host and creator of the podcasts Presidentialand Constitutional.
24/07/1818m 51s

The Affordable Care Act

On today's episode, we tackle a defining law from the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act -- better known as Obamacare. Some people love it, others hate it, but what did the law really do? Is American health care actually more, you know, affordable? And why is there so much talk of repealing the ACA? Our guide today is Julie Rovner, Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News. 
17/07/1818m 25s


Today on Civics 101, Ron Elving takes us through Tariffs. What are they? What are the pros and cons of taxing goods that enter our country? What is the effect on the consumer? And finally, how do trade wars end?
10/07/1816m 31s

Contest Winner: Unconventional

Adia Samba-Quee is the winner of our first ever student contest. She wrote, narrated, and cast a "Parks n' Rec-style mockumentary about the arguments surrounding representation at the Constitutional Convention in 1787."   
03/07/1821m 39s

The Draft

Do you believe in the power of an informed citizenry? Click this link to support Civics 101 today. When you hear 'the draft' you might think about the Vietnam War... but the history of compulsory military service goes all the way back to before the Constitution was written. In this episode, we start from the beginning: How did conscription change over the years? When was the first national draft law? Who was most likely to be drafted? And the big one: Will the draft ever come back? Answering those questions and more is Jennifer Mittelstadt: professor of history at Rutgers and the Harold K. Johnson Chair of Miltary History at The U.S. Army War College. 
26/06/1820m 14s

The Federal Register

Show your support for Civics 101. Click here to donate: Today a listener opens up a rabbit hole, and we immediately jump down it. We're learning about the Federal Register, a dense, cryptic document published every single day that records all the activities of the Executive Branch. It's a lot. Joining us is Oliver Potts, the director of the Federal Register, along with Kevin Kosar of the R Street Institute and Nick Bellos of the Regulatory Review. 
19/06/1811m 6s

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Hey folks! We're raising money to support this podcast. Please click this link and donate today! Remember the Human Genome Project? The massively complicated international undertaking that aimed to map the entirety of human DNA? It was funded and coordinated in large part by the NIH, or National Institutes of Health. The NIH is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is the nation's foremost government funded medical research agency. So how does it work? What do they actually do? Do politics influence their research? To find out, we turn to  Dr. Carrie Wolinetz,  Associate Director for Science Policy at the NIH. 
12/06/1813m 46s


Norm Stamper was a past-Chief of Seattle's Police Department and an officer with the San Diego PD. He joins us to talk about the history of modern policing, the role of police today, and how to make sense of controversial police killings. 
05/06/1819m 7s

Infrastructure – Water!

Drinking water in the United States is, according to the EPA, among the world's "most reliable and safest supplies." Its delivery involves a complex infrastructure of pipes, treatment facilities, aqueducts, dams, and reservoirs, and it operates on a local, state, and federal level. How did we get here? How is the U.S. public water system legislated? And, how is "potable" actually pronounced? We spoke with James Salzman, author of Drinking Water: A History. He is also a professor of environmental law at the UCLA School of Law and the Bren School of Environmental Science at UC Santa Barbara. This episode is part of our occasional series on American infrastructure. Listen to our first installment on roads.
29/05/1816m 41s

Freedom of Information Act

On today's episode: What exactly is the Freedom of Information Act, better known as FOIA? Can anybody use it to get their hands on... any public documents? What kind of government secrets have come to light as a result of FOIA? We talk shop with Jason Leopold, a senior investigative reporter for Buzzfeed News. 
22/05/1815m 23s


Space is big - like, insanely, incomprehensibly big - so it's understandable that NASA can seem divorced from the world of cabinet secretaries, White House press briefings, and presidential tweets. Amy Shira Teitel is the host of the YouTube channel Vintage Space and author of Breaking the Chains of Gravity: The Story of Spaceflight Before NASA. In this episode, she explains how despite its lofty aims, NASA is a lot more political than you might think. 
15/05/1818m 11s

The White House Press Secretary

Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for NPR, has reported on White House press briefings for 3 administrations. She tells us about the role of the Press Secretary, and how the job has changed from president to president. 
11/05/1815m 23s


ICE, or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is one of the nation's youngest law enforcement agencies. It's also become one of the most controversial. But what does ICE actually do?  Dara Lind, a senior reporter for Vox, walks us through how ICE got its start, some of its responsibilities today, and what we can expect from the agency moving forward.
08/05/1817m 32s

The National Guard

Miranda Summers Lowe, Military Curator at the Smithsonian and active National Guard soldier, tells us the history of the Guard, the process for calling them out, and what sets them apart from other branches of the USAF. 
01/05/1818m 39s

Episode 118: Presidential Transitions

On today's episode: what happens when the incumbent president leaves office and the president-elect enters? How is information shared? What laws or guidelines govern the transition of power? We talked with Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, on the written and unwritten rules of presidential transitions. We also explore our own transition, as hosting duties for Civics 101 transition from Virginia Prescott to Hannah McCarthy and Nick Capodice.
24/04/1818m 37s

Episode 117: Hostages

On today's episode: How does the government respond when an American is taken hostage? Is it true that we don't negotiate with terrorists? Who in the government handles these situations? We talked with Chris Mellon, a policy analyst at New America and coauthor of a paper on whether American hostage policies are effective. 
20/04/1813m 48s

Episode 116: Infrastructure - Roads!

Dams, highways, telephone poles... all of these things fall under the huge umbrella we call INFRASTRUCTURE.  But what does all that concrete and copper have to do with government?  More than you might think. Our infrastructure is what gives Americans access to community, communication, and business – it’s a system so complicated it takes dozens of federal administrations and agencies to oversee and regulate it.    In this episode, the first in a sporadic series on American infrastructure, we look specifically at roads. Who pays for them? How do we benefit from roads, even if we aren't the ones driving on them? What the heck is a public-private partnership?   Our guests are Civics 101 Senior Producer Taylor Quimby, and Shailen Bhatt, President and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. 
17/04/1818m 30s

Episode 115: Foreign Aid

On today's episode: What is foreign aid, and how much money does the U.S. spend on it? Is it purely humanitarian, or is it strategic? And how do we know if foreign aid actually works? Addressing these issues with us is Brian Atwood, senior fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute and former Administrator of USAID. 
13/04/1815m 46s

Episode 114: The CIA

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a U.S. foreign intelligence service. It was created in the wake of World War II and Pearl Harbor, at the dawn of the Cold War. But the agency's record and methods are controversial. What is the purpose of the CIA and what is the role of espionage within a democracy? Journalist Tim Weiner joins us to trace the inner workings and history of the CIA.  He is the author of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA..
10/04/1815m 52s

Episode 113: The Americans with Disabilities Act

On today's episode: How does the government look out for people who use a wheelchair, are deaf or blind, or have other disabilities? What forms of discrimination do people with disabilities face, and what did it take to get protections passed into law? How well are businesses complying with those protections? We spoke with Lennard Davis, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of Enabling Acts: The Hidden Story of How the Americans with Disabilities Act Gave the Largest US Minority Its Rights. 
06/04/1816m 54s

Episode 112: The Eighth Amendment

The Eighth Amendment grants us the right for protection against excessive bail, fines, or cruel and unusual punishment. But how do we define cruel and unusual? And how has that definition changed over the course of history? Is it still "an eye for an eye" out there? Walking us through everything from unreasonable bail to capital punishment is John Bessler, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore and Visiting Scholar at Minnesota Law School.
03/04/1815m 36s

Special Announcement: Student Contest!

Information at, open to all high school students/classes. 
31/03/182m 50s

Episode 111: The Department of Justice

The Justice Department seems to always be in the news - from the White House's public criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to the President's firing of James Comey - but what's behind the headlines? What exactly does the DOJ do from day-to-day? And what's the agency's relationship between other branches of government? NPR Justice Correspondent Carrie Johnson joins us to help us learn more.  
30/03/1815m 50s

Episode 110: The Hatch Act

Every now and again, reports come out that a public official has violated The Hatch Act - a 1939 law that prevents federal employees from engaging in certain types of political activity and speech.  Today, we'll find out what exactly is and is not allowed under the Hatch Act; who decides when the line has been crossed; and what the penalties are for violations. Our guest is Liz Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy for the Project On Government Oversight. 
27/03/1814m 45s

Episode 109: The Fourth Amendment

When an ordinary citizen interacts with law enforcement, it can be unnerving to realize the amount of power an officer wields: they've got the guns, the handcuffs, and the authority. But the Fourth Amendment places limits on governmental and police power. What exactly are those limits, and have they changed in the 21st century? Cynthia Lee is a professor at George Washington University Law School and author of Searches and Seizures: The Fourth Amendment. Correction: Cynthia Lee has written one book on the topic of the Fourth Amendment, not several, as stated in the episode's introduction. 
23/03/1817m 42s

Episode 108: The FBI

The FBI is our federal law enforcement agency. And, to enforce the law, it plays the role of secret intelligence agency as well. So how does the FBI protect us against domestic threats? And how far has it been willing to go to uphold the law? Journalist and author Tim Weiner joins us to reveal the inner workings of an agency shrouded in secret.
20/03/1818m 49s

Episode 107: Torture

On today's episode: What does the United States do when it captures prisoners of war? What are the Geneva Conventions? How did 9/11 change our commitment to treating prisoners humanely, and what mark has it left on public opinion about torture? 
16/03/1817m 8s

Episode 106: Department of State & Department of Defense [Rebroadcast]

They are two of the most powerful positions in a president’s cabinet: the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. One has been around since the American Revolution, the other is relatively new. So what exactly do these two departments and their heads do? And are diplomatic efforts and military strategy natural opposites? In this episode, the history and interaction between two of the most powerful US agencies. This is a rebroadcast of an episode that aired in March, 2017.
13/03/1814m 58s

Episode 105: Democratic Norms

On today's episode: What are the norms of democratic government, and where do they come from? Which norms are essential to U.S. democracy, and how are they changing today? We put these questions to the authors of How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, and get some concerning answers. 
09/03/1817m 20s

IRL2: The Flag and the Pledge

Today, our second IRL puts it up the flagpole and sees if anyone salutes it. Hannah goes into the history of the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and how they've changed since their inception. Then Nick talks about four times behavior towards the flag and the pledge were the subject of Supreme Court decisions. 
06/03/1827m 54s

Episode 104: Voting Rights

The Constitution doesn't explicitly guarantee the right to vote, but it's widely considered to be a fundamental way for citizens to participate in American democracy. Who gets to vote and why? Victoria Bassetti is the author of Electoral Dysfunction: A Survival Manual for American Voters. She is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.
02/03/1816m 24s

Episode 103: The Fifteenth Amendment

After the Civil War, Congress passed a bundle of Amendments which came to be known as the Reconstruction Amendments. Their purpose was to address the mass racial inequality that plagued the still forming nation. But did they work? And are they still relevant today? Helping us unpack the last Reconstruction Amendments - the Fifteenth - is Khalilah Brown-Dean, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Quinnipiac University. 
27/02/1816m 6s

Episode 102: The Fourteenth Amendment

Today, we continue our series on the Reconstruction amendments, the series of Constitutional amendments passed in the aftermath of the Civil War. Congress outlawed slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment, but freed slaves still were not legally citizens, were subject to discriminatory laws, and were not allowed to go to court. The Fourteenth Amendment was intended to change all that, with some of the strongest civil-rights language in the Constitution. If you've heard of due process or equal protection under the law, you've heard of the Fourteenth. We talk to Ted Shaw, professor and director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, and the former President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 
23/02/1817m 59s

Episode 101: The Thirteenth Amendment

After the Civil War, Congress passed a bundle of Amendments which came to be known as the Reconstruction Amendments. Their purpose was to address the mass racial inequality that plagued the still forming nation. But did they work? And are they still relevant today? Helping us unpack the first of these Amendments - the Thirteenth - is Maria Ontiveros, a Law Professor at the University of San Francisco and Thirteenth Amendment scholar.  
20/02/1815m 45s

Episode 100: DACA

What exactly is DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals? Is it the same as the Dream Act? What will happen if it expires?  How do DACA recipients effect the economy?  Today, an explainer and brief history of DACA. Our guest is Sarah Gonzalez, who covers youth and families for WNYC.   
16/02/1815m 28s

Episode 99: First Ladies

The role of the First Lady carries a lot of responsibility, but it's really more custom than law. How has is changed over time, and who are the women who have defined the role? Susan Swain is co-CEO of C-SPAN. She was the host of their year-long series "First Ladies: Influence and Image" and editor of the accompanying book. She's also behind the @firstladies Twitter feed.
13/02/1816m 38s

Episode 98: Nuclear Weapons

On this episode: How does the United States use, or more precisely avoid using, its fearsome arsenal of nuclear weapons? How did we arrive at a world in which so many countries are armed to the teeth with nukes? What can we expect from North Korea as negotiations continue? We revisit the Cold War this week with Joe Cirincione, author of Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons, and president of Ploughshares Fund. 
09/02/1815m 58s

Episode 97: Inspectors General

If you watch a lot of police procedurals, you’ll recognize this setup: beat cops get a visit from Internal Affairs and drama ensues.  As it turns out, government agencies also have their own internal watchdogs: investigators that make sure  federal policymakers are following the law. In this episode, we learn about the role and origin of inspectors general.  How do they launch investigations? To whom do they report? And is the position influenced by politics?  Our guest is Elizabeth Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy for the Project on Government Oversight. 
06/02/1815m 40s

Episode 96: The Federal Election Commission

On today's episode: How does the government make sure elections are conducted fairly? Who's keeping track of all the money donated to candidates? Is the Federal Election Commission still relevant in the era of dark money and Super PACs? Joining us on the show is Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics. 
02/02/1816m 6s

Episode 95: How We Vote

The secret ballot... the decorum of the polling place... the sanctity of the voting booth... these are the trappings of Election Day in the U.S., and they feel as old as time when you pull that curtain closed to (silently) voice your vote. But we haven't always voted this way. In fact, there was a time when Election Day was characterized by violence, drunken revelry and beans in a box. Jill Lepore is a professor of American History at Harvard University, and staff writer at the New Yorker. She joined us to shed some light on the (occasionally dark) history of voting in the U.S., and to explain why things got so quiet. 
30/01/1817m 20s

Episode 94: Super PACs

On this episode: What is a super PAC, and for that matter, what's a PAC? What are the rules they have to follow? Does spending money in an election count as free speech? We address campaign finance and the murky world of dark money with Dante Scala, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. 
26/01/1818m 39s

Episode 93: Welfare

Welfare is one of the nation's most contentious and least understood social programs. What began as support for single mothers and their children has throughout history been a target for stigmatization and budget cuts. Premilla Nadasen is author ofWelfare in The United States and she joined us to better understand the history and potential future of the program. 
23/01/1815m 40s

BONUS: Government Shutdown (Rebroadcast)

It happened. The government shutdown. But what does that mean? Civics 101 revisits an episode from September, 2017.   On this episode: What actually shuts down during a government shutdown?  Do federal workers still get paid? Who decides what government jobs are essential, and non-essential?  What can past government shutdowns tell us about the process? Our guest is Charles Tiefer, law professor at the University of Baltimore. 
20/01/1811m 35s

Episode 92: Lightning Round

Today, we celebrate our one-year anniversary with the first annual Civics 101 lightning round, in which we answer all the little questions you sent us that we never got around to answering in a full episode. Joining us to test his civics knowledge against your queries is Dave Alcox, social studies teacher at Milford High School and friend of the podcast.  Plus, stick around after the show for an exclusive taste of the secret, long-form Civics 101 theme song. 
19/01/1819m 23s

Episode 91: The Two-Party System

There are lots of political parties in the United States - so how come we pretty much only hear about two? What is the 'two-party system' and why does it hold sway? Is it an intentional part of governmental design, or is this simply how history shook out? In this episode, we'll explore those questions, hear from an original member of a third party, and dig into something called Duverger's Law - which explains why two parties tend to dominate in American politics.  Our guest is Civics 101 Senior Producer Taylor Quimby. This episode also features Hans Noel, political scientist at Georgetown University, and Lenny Brody, a member of the steering comittee at The Justice Party.  
16/01/1820m 48s

Episode 90: The Surgeon General

On today's episode: Who is the Surgeon General and what powers do they have? When a public health crisis strikes, what can the Surgeon General do? What influence did Surgeons General have on issues like smoking and HIV/AIDS? We sit down with Fitzhugh Mullan, professor of Health Policy and Management at George Washington University. 
12/01/1815m 54s

Episode 89: Post-Presidency

The President of the United States is considered one of the most powerful people in the world. So what happens after the Commander-in-Chief becomes a civilian again? How does a former president shape his legacy after he leaves office? To find out, we asked Mark Updegrove, historian and author of Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House.
09/01/1815m 50s

Episode 88: Department of Homeland Security

On this week's show: What does the Department of Homeland Security do? How has it evolved in the past decade and a half? Can it keep up with the changing nature of terrorism? Our guide today is Ron Nixon, the New York Times homeland security correspondent. 
05/01/1817m 18s

Episode 87: The National Anthem

On this week's episode: Who composed our national anthem? Why do we play it so often? And what's the significance of protesting during the anthem? Our guest is Marc Leepson, author of Flag: An American Biography. 
02/01/1811m 31s

Episode 86: Camp David

Every president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has spent time at Camp David. But why was the presidential retreat built in the first place, and what happens there? To find out, we spoke to Retired Rear Admiral Michael Giorgione, former commanding officer of Camp David and author of Inside Camp David: The Private World of the Presidential Retreat.
29/12/1713m 19s

Episode 85: Lobbying [Rebroadcast]

When discussing the political power of special interest groups, you can't help but talk about lobbying.  But what does a lobbyist actually do?  We know they hand over checks (lots of them), but how do they spend the rest of their time? What separates legal lobbying from bribery? And how is the food at all those Washington D.C. fundraising breakfasts, anyway? Jimmy Williams, former lobbyist and current host of Decode D.C. , spills the beans.  This is a rebroadcast of an episode that originally aired in July 2017. 
26/12/1714m 37s

Episode 84: FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was established in order to plan and respond to nuclear war.  These days, they're tasked with showing up after all sorts of disasters strike. But what kind of resources does FEMA have to respond to storms, earthquakes, fires and floods? And where is the organization when we feel we need them most... in the hours and days after disaster strikes? Our guest today is Garrett Graff, a journalist and historian who wrote The Secret History of FEMA for Wired Magazine. 
22/12/1715m 40s

Episode 83: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

What do alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives all have in common? They fall under the umbrella of a single federal bureau - commonly referred to as the ATF.  On this episode, what led to the creation of the ATF?  What kind of power do ATF agents have? What exactly is a legal explosive?  Our guest is Katie Tinto, assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. 
19/12/1712m 59s

Episode 82: U.S. Allies

On today's episode: What does it mean to be an ally of the United States, who decides which countries we should be allies with, and how do our alliances influence the role of the United States around the world? To clear up these questions, we spoke with Melissa Waters, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. 
15/12/1717m 0s

Episode 81: HUD

In the 1960’s there was a growing awareness of urban plight and poverty, which was generally referred to as the "Urban Crisis" - the economic abandonment of large U.S. cities.  As part of President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" push came a cabinet department designed in part to stabilize housing and urban areas: the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. How has HUD evolved since those early days? What programs does the department oversee? And what's its future today? Guiding us through the young history of HUD is Alec MacGillis, politics and government reporter with ProPublica. 
12/12/1715m 24s

Episode 80: The National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration is the forever home of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution,  but what else do they keep in their vaults? Can just anybody do research at the Archives? And what role does NARA play in the national election?  To find out, we spoke to Jessie Kratz, the historian at the National Archives.
08/12/1716m 46s

Episode 79: The U.S. Flag Code

In this episode: What is the U.S. Flag Code? Who created it, and why? Is it enforceable? When did the American flag start getting used in advertising? What are the differences between the U.S. Flag Code and flag protection laws? Has the flag always been a symbol of patriotism? Our guest is Marc Leepson, author of Flag: An American Biography. 
05/12/1713m 44s

Episode 78: Congressional Committees

In a given week, Congress might vote on everything from international diplomacy to wildlife conservation to internet regulation. How do individual members of Congress become experts on each of these subjects? The answer is: they don't. Congress divides its work load among committees. This week, how does the committee system work, which committees wield the most influence, and how do members of Congress jockey for committee seats? We speak with Garrison Nelson, a professor of political science at the University of Vermont. 
01/12/1710m 55s

Episode 77: U.S. Postal Service

One of the founding institutions of America's government is also one of the most overlooked and surprising ones: the Postal Service. What role did it play in shaping the early, disparate colonies into a unified nation? How has it survived the digital age? And what's its future going forward? Our guest is Winifred Gallagher, writer and author of How the Post Office Created America.   
28/11/1714m 0s

IRL 1 - Free Speech in Schools

This is the first in a series called Civics 101 IRL; special episodes where we explore the historic moments connected to our regular podcast topics.  Today we're digging into four incredibly important Supreme Court cases - four cases that have shaped how we interpret the meaning of free speech in public schools.  Is political protest allowed in class?  Is lewd speech covered by the First Amendment? Can school administrators determine what students can and can't say in the school newspaper? Listen in, and find out how students and schools have gone head to head over how First Amendment rights apply in a public school setting. CORRECTION: A previous version of this episode inaccurately stated that Justice Abe Fortas was Chief Justice. While Fortas wrote the Tinker decision, Earl Warren was the Chief Justice at the time.
24/11/1724m 44s

Episode 76: Native American Reservations

On this episode:  What is a Native American reservation? What is a pueblo? What does it mean to be a sovereign nation? What is the relationship between reservations and the federal government? Can reservations pass laws that run up against state or federal statutes? How are, and were, reservations created? What does the Bureau of Indian Affairs actually do? Our guest is Maurice Crandall, assistant professor of Native American Studies at Dartmouth, and a citizen of the Yavapai-Apache Nation of Camp Verde. 
21/11/1717m 27s

Episode 75: White House Staffers

In this episode: What do White House staffers actually do, what are the rules constraining them, and how have the day-to-day staffing demands of the White House changed over the years? Our guest is Karen Hult, Chair of the Department of Political Science at Virginia Tech. 
17/11/1712m 19s

Episode 74: Unions

 In this episode: What is a union? How are unions formed? What are the benefits and costs of labor unions, for both workers and business? What is the history of unions in America, and what might unions look like in the future? Our guest is David Zonderman, author of Uneasy Allies: Working For Labor Reform in Nineteenth-Century Boston.
14/11/1714m 41s

Episode 73: The Vice President

The vice president is said to be just a heartbeat away from Commander-in-Chief. But what does the VEEP actually do? How significant a role does the vice president play in the White House... and with the president? And what kind of effect can a running mate have on a presidential election? To find out, we talked to one of the foremost experts on the Vice Presidency, St. Louis University law professor Joel Goldstein. 
10/11/1715m 54s

Episode 72: The 2nd Amendment

On today's episode: The Second Amendment. For ages, the right to bear arms was among the least controversial amendments in the U.S. Constitution. Today,  it's among the most divisive issues in American politics. What were the Founders hoping to achieve in ratifying The Second Amendment?  When did the U.S. start regulating guns? What qualifies as arms? We'll seek out constitutional consensus on a topic where common ground is hard to find. Our guest is Jeffrey Rosen, CEO and President of the National Constitution Center, and host of We the People.
07/11/1714m 43s

Episode 71: The Secret Service

You've heard of the Secret Service and you've probably even seen them in action - observing stoically behind a dark suit and sunglasses. But what exactly do they do? How does someone become an agent? And how are they fairing with the demands of a Trump presidency? Today we get a behind-the-scenes breakdown of the agency from New York Times Reporter Nicholas Fandos who's been covering the service's inner-workings.
03/11/1715m 30s

Episode 70: The 1st Amendment - Freedom of the Press

On today's episode: We continue our investigation of the First Amendment with a conversation about the freedom of the press. What does this freedom guarantee publishers and journalists? Why did the Framers include it in the Constitution? And what does it mean in the era of digital media? We address these questions and more with Elizabeth Skewes, Department Chair of Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Media, Communication  and Information. 
31/10/1714m 18s

Episode 69: The Federalist Papers

On this episode: What are the Federalist Papers? Who wrote them? Who uses them? And why should you read them? Michael Gerhardt, professor from UNC and scholar-in-residence at the National Constitution Center, not only explains these invaluable documents to us, he breaks down some of the more notable essays. 
27/10/1715m 53s

Episode 68: Populism

On this episode: what is Populism? How can you identify a Populist candidate? What's its role inside of a democracy and what are some historical outcomes of populist movements? Our guest is Jan-Werner Mueller, professor of politics at Princeton University and author of What is Populism?
24/10/1711m 45s

Episode 67: The 1st Amendment - Freedom of Assembly

On today's episode: a closer look at one of the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment: the freedom of assembly.  What is it? Is our freedom of assembly tied to other First Amendment rights, or does it stand alone? Are there limits to where and when this freedom can be exercised? How are 'assemblies' defined in the digital age?  Our guest is John Inazu, author of Liberty's Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly, 
20/10/1715m 40s

Episode 66: The EPA

In the 1960’s, the American public looked around at the environment—polluted rivers, smoggy skies—and decided something needed to be done. By 1970, the blooming environmental movement had an official voice in the government: the Environmental Protection Agency. But what can the agency actually do, and how has its job changed with our changing environmental challenges? Guiding us through the brief, eventful history of EPA is Stan Meiburg, former Acting Deputy Administrator of EPA under Obama. 
17/10/1715m 50s

Episode 65: The Secretary of Education

Head of the Department of Education and a cabinet member with the ear of the President... but how much power does the Secretary of education really have? Can he or she influence policy? How much say does the Secretary have in the way we teach our kids? Our guest is Jessica Kendorski, Associate Professor and Director of Professional Education in School Psychology at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. 
13/10/1715m 4s

Episode 64: The Nuclear Codes [Rebroadcast]

In this episode: What exactly does it mean when we say the President has "the nuclear codes”?  Is it really as simple as pressing a button? And what happens after a president does order a nuclear strike? Retired Marine lieutenant colonel James W. Weirick, host of the podcast Military Justice, explains. 
10/10/1711m 23s

Episode 63: The CDC

In this episode: What exactly does the CDC - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - actually do? Could it really stave off a zombie outbreak? And who are the 'Disease Detectives' and what's their role inside the CDC? Our guest is Wendy Parmet, professor of law, public policy and urban affairs at Northeastern University. For more on the CDC, check out their all of their podcasts Find the Panoply survey here:  
06/10/1713m 38s

Episode 62: The Debt Ceiling

Every so often, while our national debt ratchets upward, politicians threaten to refuse to raise the upper limit on that debt. But does the debt ceiling actually curb the government's borrowing, and what would happen if Congress didn't raise it? Our guide to these questions is Michael Dorf, law professor at Cornell University. To fill out the Panoply survey, visit  
03/10/1714m 27s

Episode 61: The Attorney General

We're zooming in on the highest legal officer in the country and asking who, exactly, the Attorney General represents. If the AG is a member of the Executive Branch, does that make him the President's lawyer? And what happens when the U.S. government goes to court? Our guest is David Yalof, professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.
29/09/1717m 11s

Episode 60: Federalism

On this episode: what is Federalism? Who uses it? Why do we separate our powers between the states and the national government, and what are the benefits and challenges of such a system? Our guest is John Dinan, professor at Wake Forest University and editor of Publius, the Journal of Federalism.
26/09/1715m 53s

Episode 59: The Census

In this episode: What is the census, and why does it matter? How is it conducted? How are difficult to reach populations counted? What kind of questions are asked, and how are they determined? Our guest is Joseph Salvo, director of the population division at the New York City Planning Department. For more on the census, check out the segment "Save Our Census" from On The Media, and this episodefrom the podcast Code Switch.
22/09/1712m 9s

Episode 58: Government Shutdown

On this episode: What actually shuts down during a government shutdown?  Do federal workers still get paid? Who decides what government jobs are essential, and non-essential?  What can past government shutdowns tell us about the process? Our guest is Charles Tiefer, law professor at the University of Baltimore. 
19/09/1711m 35s

Episode 57: Commander in Chief

On this episode: What does it mean that the President is 'Commander-in-Chief'? What powers does the Constitution grant him? What is the difference between the President's power to conduct war, versus the power of Congress to declare it? Practically speaking, can the President order specific combat missions? How have the President's war powers changed since Vietnam and 9/11? Our guest is Michael Paulsen, constitutional scholar and professor of law at the University of St. Thomas. 
15/09/1712m 40s

Episode 56: The 1st Amendment - Freedom of Speech

On today's lesson: We take a broader look at the First Amendment, and then zero in on one of the freedoms it covers: the freedom of speech.  We'll cover the text of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, and why the framers chose to include so many important freedoms in one sentence.  Also, what constitutes 'speech', and how landmark court cases have outlined the importance of context when determining the meaning of our first amendment rights. Our guest is Lata Nott, Executive Director of the Newseum Institute's First Amendment Center. 
12/09/1714m 46s

Episode 55: The Federal Reserve

On today's lesson: What is the Federal Reserve? How important is it? What tools does the Fed use to manage the U.S economy, and why is it organized differently than other government agencies? Our guest isLouise Sheiner, policy director at the Brookings Institution's Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy. 
08/09/1714m 28s

Episode 54: Security Clearance

On today's lesson: How do people receive security clearance to see secret, or top secret government material? Who grants it, and how is that clearance revoked in cases of misuse?  Do people with security clearance have unfettered access to secret material, or is classified information compartmentalized? Also, does the President have any restrictions to his security clearance? Today's guest is Juliette Kayyem, national security analyst for CNN and Boston Public Radio, and host of the podcast The Scif. 
05/09/1714m 22s

Episode 53: Judges

On today's lesson: What does it take to become a judge? What does the job entail? Also, what are the schools of thought we hear about so much about in relation to Supreme Court justices: textualism, originalism, and the phrase, "the living constitution"?   Our guide is Behzad Mirhashem, from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. 
01/09/1716m 33s

Episode 52: State of Emergency

Natural disasters, civil unrest, widespread epidemics - these are just some of the unpredictable events that can  trigger a President or Governor to declare a special "state of emergency". But what exactly does that mean? Is it symbolic, or logistical?  What emergency powers does this special designation authorize?  Our guide this week is Kim Lane Scheppele, author of Law in a Time of Emergency. 
29/08/1714m 55s

Episode 51: Treason

For a serious crime, accusations of treason get thrown around a lot - which is why the framers  were very specific about what does and doesn't make you an actual traitor. In fact, treason is the only crime explicitly defined in the U.S. Constitution.  In this episode, University of California Davis law professor Carlton Larson explains the difference between treason and espionage, and why most of those guilty of treason will never be convicted. 
25/08/1714m 20s

Episode 50: Voting Systems

When you cast your ballot in a national election, you’re participating in a specific kind of voting system. But what about the other methods of choosing your candidate and counting your vote? There are systems that approach voting in very different ways… and ways of determining how fair a voting system really is. Producer Hannah McCarthy and Eric Maskin , Harvard Professor of Economics and Nobel Memorial Prize winner, guide us through majorities, pluralities and the ways we make our choices. 
22/08/179m 8s

Episode 49: Sanctions

From full trade embargoes to targeted sanctions and frozen assets, sanctions are an increasingly commonplace tool used in U.S. foreign policy.  Today, a primer on the purpose and design of economic sanctions, from one of the people who helped develop Obama-era sanctions against Russia: Sean Kane, Counsel at Hughes Hubbard and Reed's International Trade Practice. 
18/08/1712m 47s

Episode 48: Who Gets To Run For President

Forty-four people have become President of The United States - all men, and with one exception, all white. Despite that historic profile, and a clause in the constitution, the qualification about who can become President remain fuzzy. Here to explain the formal and informal rules that govern who is allowed to become Commander-in-Chief is Brady Carlson , author of Dead Presidents.
15/08/1712m 10s

Episode 47: Federal Grand Juries

The right to a Federal grand jury comes from the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, but what exactly are they, how are jurors chosen and how do they work? We asked Erin Corcoran to join us again to explain this judicial tool. Erin is a former Senate Committee staffer, law professor, and legal consultant. Read the transcript at this link.
11/08/1711m 40s

Episode 46: Ambassadors

What happens at a U.S. Embassy?  What does it take to become a diplomat?  And how do you celebrate the 4th of July in Africa? In this episode, we get a taste of how ambassadors represent U.S. interests in foreign countries.  Our guest is Johnnie Carson, a former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
08/08/1714m 55s

Episode 45: Speaker of the House

The Speaker of the House is second in the presidential line of succession, after the Vice President and ahead of the President pro tempore of the Senate. The person elected to the Speakership wields a fair amount of power not only in the House of Representatives, but also within their party, but what exactly does a Speaker do? And how does someone end up in that position? 53 men and one woman have held the Speaker’s gavel, and each individual has put their unique mark on Congressional history. We chatted with Matt Wasniewski, Historian of the United States House of Representatives to learn more.
04/08/1715m 17s

Episode 44: Intelligence Agencies

You've heard of the CIA and NSA... how about the NGA?  That's the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency by the way (formerly known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency) which is just one of the more than a dozen intelligence agencies operating in the United States. So how do all these agencies coordinate? Who is in charge? Today, an intelligent lesson guided by Amy Zegart, author and co-director of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University.
01/08/1716m 55s

Episode 43: Presidential Pardons

Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the President the power to grant pardons. Does this power have limits? Or did the founders give the the President an untouchable "get-out-of-jail-free" card? Does Congress get a say? And what purpose to pardons serve anyway? Today's guest lecturer is Andrew Rudalevige, Thomas Brackett Reed Professor of Goverment at Bowdoin College. 
28/07/1713m 42s

Episode 42: U.S. Territories

Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are all U.S. territories, but what does that mean? Is there political representation? What is the status of its citizens with regard to the Constitution and U.S. law? And what does the lack of full statehood status allow, or limit? Author Doug Mack leads today's lesson.   Email us your U.S. territories mnemonic device!
25/07/1715m 3s

Episode 41: Obstruction of Justice

“Obstruction of Justice” has been a term swirling around in the headlines lately, but what does the charge actually mean? And how do you prove it? We’re speaking with Brianne Gorod, Chief Counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center to learn about the many different ways one can be accused of obstructing justice – from witness tampering and retaliation to simple contempt and the many options in-between. 
21/07/1713m 27s

Episode 40: Church and State

The separation of church and state is widely considered to be a building block of American democracy,  but what did the founders really have in mind when they wrote "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” into the first amendment? And what's the deal with "one nation under God," and the whole swearing on the bible thing? Backstory's Ed Ayers and Brian Balogh lead today's civics lesson.  
18/07/1716m 45s

Episode 39: Lobbying

When discussing the political power of special interest groups, you can't help but talk about lobbying.  But what does a lobbyist actually do?  We know they hand over checks (lots of them) but how do they spend the rest of their time? What separates legal lobbying from bribery? And how is the food at all those Washington D.C. fundraising breakfasts anyway? Jimmy Williams, former lobbyist and current host of Decode D.C. spills the beans. 
14/07/1714m 2s

Episode 38: The 25th Amendment

When a monarch dies, power stays in the family. But what about a president? It was a tricky question that the founders left mostly to Congress to figure out later. In this episode, the National Constitution Center's Lana Ulrich explains the informal rules that long governed the transition of presidential power, and the 25th Amendment, which currently outlines what should happen if a sitting president dies, resigns, or becomes unable to carry out his duties. #civics101pod
11/07/1713m 52s

Episode 37: Autocracies and Oligarchies and Democracies, Oh My!

The United States is described as a republic, a federation, and a constitutional democracy. So, what is it? Are those terms interchangeable? And, while we're at it, what's the difference between totalitarianism, despotism, and dictatorship? Political science professor Seth Masket digs into the 'isms, 'cracies, and 'archies for a brief primer on different forms of government.  Sign up for the Extra Credit newsletter: civics101pod
07/07/1711m 51s

Episode 36: Approval Ratings

Presidential job approval. It seems we get a weekly report from news organizations on how citizen’s think the President is doing, so we're digging into how it gets calculated and how much that number really matters with Dan Cassino, Associate Professor of Political Science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. #civics101pod
28/06/1712m 26s

Episode 35: Party Whips

With more than 500 members of Congress, parties have to coordinate members and keep them on the same page. Enter: party whips. But what do they actually do? Several of you asked us to find out. We asked Larry Evans, the Newton Family Professor of Government at the College of William and Mary to help us out. #civics101pod
21/06/1714m 37s

Episode 34: Separation of Powers

In this episode we untangle two terms that are closely related, but not the same: Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. The framers envisioned a government structure that would consist of three separate branches, each with their own power, in order to avoid having one person or one branch from having full control of the country. University of Minnesota Law Professor Heidi Kitrosser joins us to explain how the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches are separated and once separated, how they ensure those powers are kept in check. #civics101pod
14/06/1713m 54s

Episode 33: Declaring War

War, what is it good for? For a country that’s spent a significant amount of its history engaged in conflict, the United States has only officially declared war 11 times – most recently in WWII. So what about all the other conflicts we’ve entered into as a nation? And how do we decide to set off into battle anyway? To learn more about how the US declares war, we’re speaking with Albin Kowalewski, Historical Publications Specialist for the US House of Representatives.
07/06/1713m 56s

Episode 32: Budget Basics

We've received a LOT of questions about how the budget process works and honestly, we had a lot of our own! It should come as no surprise that the budget process of the United States government is complex and difficult to explain in less than 15 minutes. We decided to cover some of the terminology that you hear when the budget is discussed to give us all a good foundation. Chances are you'll have more questions when you finish listening this week, but hopefully you'll have a better idea of what's supposed to happen. #civics101pod
01/06/1714m 14s

Episode 31: How a Bill Becomes a Law

Even if you slept through most of your Government classes in High School, there's a good chance you have a vague recollection of how a bill becomes a law thanks to Schoolhouse Rock! The series designed to teach kids about grammar, science, math, civics, and more, got its start in the mid 70s. In 1976, "I'm Just a Bill", introduced viewers to the inner workings of government legislation. We decided to give this topic a podcast update and asked award winning Social Studies teacher, Dave Alcox, to take us back to class and explain how a bill becomes a law. #civics101pod
24/05/1715m 36s

Episode 30: National Debt & The Deficit

The National Debt and The Deficit: two terms that are often used interchangeably, but take on different meanings when it comes to the government. Louise Sheiner is a Policy Director for The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution and she's here to help guide us through the differences between the debt and the deficit, and what the implications of carrying debt are. #civics101pod
17/05/1714m 44s

Episode 29: Political Speechwriting

We do our best to answer your questions about how American democracy works, but many of you have also told us you like to get the insider's view from people who work, or have worked in government. We asked Sarada Peri, former senior presidential speech writer for Barack Obama, about the art of political speech writing. #civics101pod
10/05/1711m 23s

Episode 28: Congressional Caucuses

We've received multiple questions about Congressional Caucuses, what are they, how are they formed, and what is their purpose? We asked Colleen Shogun, Deputy Director of Outreach at the Library of Congress to help us understand the approximately 800 Congressional Caucuses, from the Authors Caucus to the Civility Caucus. #civics101pod
05/05/1713m 6s

Episode 27: How a Case Gets to the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States hear about 80 cases each year, but how do lower court cases make their way to the highest court in the land, and how do they decide which ones to hear? We asked Behzad Mirhashem, Assistant Professor of Law at University of New Hampshire School of Law to help walk us through the process. #civics101pod
26/04/1713m 32s

Episode 26: The Cabinet

Kristen in California asked: "How exactly does the cabinet work? How much control do the secretaries have? And are they loyal to the president or the department." We asked Dean Spiliotes, Civics Scholar at Southern New Hampshire University to help guide us through the history and inner workings of a president's cabinet. #civics101pod
21/04/1713m 58s

Episode 25: Term Limits

Why are there no term limits on Congress, how long has it been that way, and what would it take to actually change how long someone can serve? In this episode we look into the long history of term limits for government officials from the President to the Vice President to Congress. #civics101pod
18/04/1714m 35s

Episode 24: The IRS

When Congress imposed the first personal income tax on Americans in 1861, nothing happened – because there was no agency to collect it! The following year saw the creation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, or as you know it today, the Internal Revenue Service. Today, the IRS is a massive federal bureaucracy charged with collecting taxes, doling out credits, and capturing and jailing tax cheats.  On this episode, Joe Thorndike, Director of the Tax History Project, walks us through the history and role of the IRS.  Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
14/04/1715m 22s

Episode 23: Emoluments

One of our listeners sent in a question asking about “the ethics clause”, which forbids presidents from receiving foreign gifts. As it turns out, there isn’t something in the constitution with exactly that title – but there is something called the “Emoluments Clause”, where the founders laid out some rules aimed at combating corruption. In this episode, we look at the language of the Emoluments Clause, and how the founders might have envisioned it working today.   Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
11/04/1710m 58s

Episode 22: Congressional Investigations

The Army-McCarthy hearings, Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, the Select Committee on Benghazi, the Russian hacking probe. Congressional investigations are a staple of American politics, but how do they work? When is it Congress' job to investigate an issue? And what the heck is the difference between a probe and an investigation, anyway? Professor of Government and Policy Linda Fowler guides us through the complicated world of congressional investigations. #civics101pod Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
07/04/1716m 11s

Episode 21: The Congressional Budget Office

When Republicans first submitted their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle anxiously awaited the release of the Congressional Budget Office's analysis—or "score"—for the bill. Determining the long and short-term cost for a specific piece of legislation is a complicated task, so we asked the founding director of the CBO, Alice Rivlin, to help explain the history of the office and how it manages to predict the financial outcome of a bill when there are so many moving parts. #civics101podcast Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
04/04/1712m 21s

Episode 20: Electoral College

We've received a lot of questions about The Electoral College from listeners, from how it works, to why it was set up, and whether or not it can it be changed or removed. So we asked Ron Elving from NPR to explain the basics of The Electoral College, from its formation to its current state. #civics101pod Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
31/03/1717m 27s

Episode 19: Senate Rules

When Senator Mitch McConnell barred Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking during the debate over Jeff Session’s nomination for Attorney General, he invoked Rule XIX. It's safe to say many people suddenly realized how little they knew about the rules of the Senate. There are in fact 44 standing rules of the US Senate, but what are they? Where do they come from? And who can Presiding Officers turn to when they have a question? Alan Frumin spent 35 years in the Office of the Senate Parliamentarian and he gave us a primer. #civics101pod Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
28/03/1715m 23s

Episode 18: The Office of Scheduling & Advance

If managing your personal appointment calendar is a struggle, imagine what it must be like for the President of the United States? From daily meetings, to promoting policies in speeches across the country, to elaborate trips abroad, the Office of Scheduling and Advance at the White House makes sure the president is in the right place at the right time. We wanted to know how the office works day to day and what their responsibilities are so we asked a former Director of the office, Alyssa Mastromonaco, to give us an inside look. #civics101pod
24/03/1714m 45s

Episode 17: Veto

The presidential veto is one of the cornerstones of the system of constitutional checks and balances the framers used to prevent the misuse or abuse of power within any branch of government. How has the veto been used historically and more recently? In this episode we cover the basics of the veto.
21/03/1713m 50s

Episode 16: Gerrymandering

Over the years, gerrymandering has become synonymous with weirdly-shaped maps of electoral districts, nefarious political maneuvering, and partisanship. But when did gerrymandering become the norm? Is it always used for political gain? And is there any way to stop it from happening? Our latest episode dives into the complicated history of the gerrymander. #civics101pod Submit your questions through our website:
17/03/1714m 23s

Episode 15: Department of State & Department of Defense

They are two of the most powerful positions in a president’s cabinet: the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. One has been around since the American Revolution, the other is relatively new. So what exactly do these two departments and their heads do? And are diplomatic efforts and military strategy natural opposites? In this episode, the history and interaction between two of the most powerful US agencies. #civics101pod Submit your questions through our website:
14/03/1716m 50s

Episode 14: The Office of Presidential Correspondence

George Washington received five letters a day, Theodore Roosevelt received so many letters it became a fire hazard at the White House, and Ronald Reagan loved reading mail from the country’s youngest citizens. In today’s super connected world, who’s in charge of handling all the correspondence addressed to the President? We look into the history of the Office of Presidential Correspondence and go behind the scenes of the Obama administration to see how mail of all kinds gets sorted. #civics101pod Submit your questions through our website: 
10/03/1714m 48s

Episode 13: Filibuster

From Jimmy Stewart's unyielding speech in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" to today's threats of using the nuclear option for approving Supreme Court nominees, the term "filibuster" gets thrown around a lot, but what is it? What are the rules governing this sanctioned form of unruliness? And is it effective? #civics101pod Submit your questions through our website: 
06/03/1714m 55s

Episode 12: The Nuclear Codes

What exactly does it mean when we say a president “has the nuclear codes”? Is it really as simple as pressing a button? And what happens after a president does order a nuclear strike? Retired Marine lieutenant colonel James W. Weirick explains. #civics101pod Submit your questions through our website: 
02/03/1712m 0s

Episode 11: The State of the Union Address

The State of the Union address is a longstanding tradition that involves bizarre, unexplained protocol and more applause than a high school graduation. It’s also mandated by the constitution. In this episode, we learn how the SOTU has changed since George Washington delivered the very first one to a joint session of Congress way back in 1790. #civics101pod 
01/03/1712m 56s

Episode 10: Impeachment

A number of listeners have asked about a consequential government procedure: How is a president impeached? And why is it that the presidents that have been impeached haven’t been removed from office? Our guide today is Julia Azari, Associate Professor of Political Science at Marquette University. #civics101pod Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
24/02/1712m 28s

Episode 9: Overturning a Supreme Court Ruling

We're staying on the federal court system beat with a deeper look into the Supreme Court. The word "supreme" is defined as: “an authority or office superior to all others.” So when the Supreme Court decides on a case, it’s final, right? Not exactly. In Episode 9, we cover the handful of ways a Supreme Court ruling can be overturned. #civics101pod Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
21/02/1712m 37s

Episode 8: Federal Courts

When a trio of judges on a federal appeals court in Washington state upheld a freeze on president Trump's Executive Order on immigration, some people celebrated, the administration protested - and at least a few people said: “Wait a minute... How *do* the federal courts work? Episode 8 looks into the structure and power of the federal courts - what they can do, how they do it, and why it matters. #civics101pod Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline: 202-798-6865
16/02/1713m 18s

Episode 7: Executive Orders

You may have heard of executive orders… but how about executive memoranda? Today, we talk about the different tools of executive action that the President uses to direct his administration, and enforce public policy. Are they laws? Can they be revoked by Congress? How are they vetted? Karen Hult, Chair of the Department of Political Scientist at Virginia Tech, fills us in. Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline 202-798-6865
13/02/1715m 50s

Episode 6: The National Security Council

What's the purpose of the National Security Council? When was it created? Who serves on it? And why is Steve Bannon's appointment to its principals committee such a big deal? Former NSC member Stephen Sestanovich helps answer those questions. Submit your questions: or call the Civics 101 hotline 202-798-6865
09/02/1714m 46s

Episode 5: Calling Your Congressperson

We're often urged to call our elected representatives to voice opinions on the issues, but what happens after that call is made? Where does the message go? And do those calls ever sway decisions? In this episode of Civics 101, we go into a congressional representative's office to find out. Send us your questions!
07/02/1717m 11s

Episode 4: How to Amend the Constitution

It’s been 25 years since the last constitutional amendment was ratified. How hard is it to change our most sacred document? We discover that there are not one, but two ways to amend the constitution – and one of them has never been used. Walter Olson, senior fellow of the Cato Institute explains that the founders didn’t exactly spell the process out clearly. #civics101pod
02/02/1713m 26s

Episode 3: The Comment Period

You've probably heard the term "comment period", but do you know what it means? What exactly happens when a government agency opens a proposed rule to public comment? And do these comments ever sway decision making? Today, a look into the notice and comment rule making procedure. Submit your questions at: #civics101pod
31/01/1710m 8s

Episode 2: White House Press Corps

What's it really like for a journalist stationed at the White House? We go inside the press briefing room with NPR's Senior White House Correspondent, Scott Horsley. Civics 101 is a production of NHPR #civics101pod
25/01/1714m 10s

Episode 1: Chief of Staff

We're all familiar with the title, but what does a White House Chief of Staff actually do? What does the daily routine entail? And how much power does the position hold? Our inaugural episode covers the basics of the President's gatekeeper. #civics101pod
19/01/1713m 2s

Trailer: Class Is In Session

Ever wonder what a White House Chief of Staff actually does? How about a Press Secretary? When did gerrymandering become a thing? The first 100 days of the Trump administration is the perfect time to bone up on civics you should have learned in school…but probably didn’t. Civics 101 is your guide to what you need to know, when it matters most. #Civics101Pod
13/01/171m 20s
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