Jenna Spinelle

Democracy Works Podcast Host

Jenna Spinelle is the Communications Specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. She is responsible for shaping all of the institute's external communication, including website content, social media, multimedia, and media outreach.

She holds a B.A. in journalism from Penn State and is an instructor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

Prior to joining the McCourtney Institute, Spinelle worked in Penn State's Undergraduate Admissions Office and College of Information Sciences and Technology.  

Frances E. Lee
Princeton University

ome of the most talked about issues in Congress these days are not about the substance of policies or bills being debated on the floor. Instead, the focus is on partisan conflict between the parties and the endless debate about whether individual members of Congress will break with party ranks on any particular vote. This behavior allows the parties to emphasize the differences between them, which makes it easier to court donors and hold voter attention.

The Fulcrum

  

Elections are the bedrock of any democracy. Without confidence in the process or the results, confidence in democracy itself is vulnerable. With the primary season underway and the general election just a few months away, conversations about election security are starting to enter the public conscience. 

David Karol
University of Maryland

The 2020 primary season officially begins today with the Iowa caucus, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11 and the South Carolina and Nevada primaries at the end of the month.

It's easy to forget that the primaries have not looked like they do now. In fact, it was not until 1968 that things really began to morph in to the system of state-by-state elections that we know today. Before that, nominees were largely chosen by party leaders in preverbal smoke-filled back rooms.

University of Maryland

The Women's March 2020 was held in cities across the country on Jan. 18. What began as a conversation on social media has evolved into a network of groups and organizations that are united in opposition to the Trump administration.

Theda Skocpol
Scholars Strategy Network

Since 2008, the Tea Party and the Resistance have caused some major shake-ups for the Republican and Democratic parties. The changes fall outside the scope of traditional party politics, and outside the realm of traditional social science research. To better understand what's going on Theda Skocpol, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Strategy at Harvard and Director of the Scholars Strategy Network, convened a group of researchers to study the organizations at the root of these grassroots movements.

This week, we begin a new year and a new season with a look ahead what 2020 will mean for democracy in the United States and around the world. We know that there will be a Census and an election, but will they be carried out in a democratic way? The escalating conflict with Iran is another unknown, but one that will no doubt have ramifications for democracy in the U.S. and abroad.

The Washington Post

While the Democracy Works team enjoys a holiday break, we are rebroadcasting an episode with E.J. Dionne that was recorded in March 2019. The McCourtney Institute for Democracy brought Dionne to Penn State for a talk on "making America empathetic again." After spending some with him, it's clear that he walks the walk when it comes to empathy.

Robert Talisse
Vanderbilt University

As we enter the holiday season, Robert Talisse thinks it's a good idea to take a break from politics. In fact, he might go so far as to say democracy is better off if you do.

Talisse is the W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and author of a new book called "Overdoing Democracy: Why We Must Put Politics in Its Place." The book combines philosophical analysis with real-world examples to examine the infiltration of politics into all social spaces, and the phenomenon of political polarization.

Rachel Franklin Photography/Draw the Lines PA

One of the things we heard in our listener survey (which there's still time to take, by the way) is that we should have more young people on the show as guests. It was a great suggestion and, after having this conversation, we're so glad to have received it.

Hedrick Smith

Hedrick Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of bestselling books The RussiansWho Stole the American Dream? and many others. Over the course of his nearly 60 years in journalism, he's interviewed some of the biggest politicians and power brokers on the national and international stage. Now, his reporter's curiosity has led him to places like Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Hartford, Connecticut to report on efforts to end gerrymandering, remove money from politics, and fight corruption through grassroots organizing.

The Politics Guys

This week's episode is a conversation between Michael Berkman, Chris Beem, and Michael Baranowski of The Politics Guys, a podcast that looks at political issues in the news through a bipartisan, academic lens.

Baranowski is an associate professor of political science at Northern Kentucky University. His focus is American political institutions, public policy, and media — which makes him a great match for our own Michael and Chris.

Burt Monroe
Penn State Department of Political Science

Ranked-choice voting has been in the news a lot lately. It was adopted in New York City's November 2019 election, used for the first time in U.S. Congressional elections last year, and will be the method by which at least a few states choose a Democratic primary candidate in 2020.

But, what is it? How does it work? And, is it more democratic than the single-vote method we're used to? This week's guest has answers to all of those questions.

A.K. Sandoval-Strausz
Penn State Latina/o Studies

We’ve talked about immigration several times on this show with good reason. The role that people coming to the United States play in our democracy is an important question and something states, cities, and towns across the country will continue to grapple with as demographics shift.

Vineeta Yadav
Penn State Department of Political Science

More than 600 million people voted in India's most recent election, but that does not mean all is well with democracy there. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP recently won re-election on a platform based on Hindu nationalism. As we've seen with other countries experiencing democratic erosion, the people and parties coming to power do not value the liberalism that's essential to liberal democracy.

Davidson College

Climate change one of the most pressing issues of our time, but it's so big that it can be difficult to imagine how you as an individual can make an impact — or even know how to talk about it with other people in a meaningful way. This episode offers a few creative suggestions for addressing both of those things.

Our guest is Graham Bullock, associate professor of political science and environmental studies at Davidson College. His work covers everything from public policy to deliberative democracy, and the ways those things interact when it comes to climate and sustainability.

Last week, we heard from Andrew Sullivan about the challenges facing the future of democracy in the United States and around the world. This week's episode offers a glimpse into what can happen when a country emerges from a political crisis with stronger democratic practices in place.

Open Primaries

In about a dozen U.S. states, the only people who can vote in primary elections are those who are registered with a party. Republicans vote in the Republican primary and Democrats vote in the Democratic primary. This leaves out independents, who make up a growing share of the electorate. This week's guest argues that's problem for democracy.

Andrew Sullivan
Royce Carlton

This is by far one of the most pessimistic episodes we've done, but it's worth hearing. Andrew Sullivan, New York magazine contributor and former editor of The New Republic, is a longtime observer of American politics who does not shy away from controversial opinions. In this episode, we discuss the tension between liberalism and democracy, and how that tension manifests itself around the world.

Penn State Department of Political Science

We bring you special episode of Democracy Works this week that's all about impeachment. Michael Berkman takes the lead on this episode and talks with Michael Nelson, the Jeffrey L. Hyde and Sharon D. Hyde and Political Science Board of Visitors Early Career Professor in Political Science and affiliate faculty at Penn State Law.

Shoba Wadhia
Penn State Law

Enforcing immigration law requires a complicated mix of government agencies whose direction can change from administration to administration.

Our guest this week, Penn State’s Shoba Wadhia, is an expert on immigration law and author of the new book “Banned: Immigration Enforcement in the Time of Trump.” She directs the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and has represented refugees and asylum seekers.

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia
Penn State Law

Immigration is one of the most complex issues of our time in the United States and around the world. Enforcing immigration law in the U.S. involves a mix of courts and executive agencies with lots of opportunities for confusion, miscommunication, and changes in approach from administration to administration. While these things are nothing new, they take on a new dimension when the lives of undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers are at stake.

Stanford University

We've wanted to do an episode on China for a long time and we are very excited to have Larry Diamond with us to discuss it. China plays an integral role in Larry Diamond's new book, Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency, and he's studied the region for decades.

Lee Ann Banaszak
Penn State Political Science Department

Pennsylvania is one of several states in the midst of a battle to ensure fair congressional maps are drawn after the 2020 Census. As we say in the episode, redistricting is one of democracy's thorniest problems. It's easy to say you want a map that's fair, but far more difficult to determine what that actually looks like.

Penn State Harrisburg

Last week, we heard from Aaron Maybin about the ways visual art relates to his conception and practice of democracy. This week, we are going to look at the relationship between art and democracy through the lens of music. Music has always been political, but what that looks like changes based on the culture.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Maybin

You might remember Aaron Maybin from his time on the football field at Penn State or in the NFL. These days, he's doing something much different. He's an artist, activist, and educator in his hometown of Baltimore and talked with us about the way that those things intersect.

Joyce Ladner
Joyce Ladner

Dr. Joyce Ladner was at the forefront of fighting for civil rights in Mississippi. She talked about racial inequality, voter suppression and what she makes of today’s social movements.

This interview is from the Democracy Works podcast, a collaboration between WPSU and the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. Our guest host for today’s interview is the McCourtney Institute's Jenna Spinelle.

From Pizzagate to Jeffrey Epstein, conspiracies seem to be more prominent than ever in American political discourse. What was once confined to the pages of supermarket tabloids is now all over our media landscape. Unlike the 9/11 truthers or those who questioned the moon landing, these conspiracies are designed solely to delegitimize a political opponent — rather than in service of finding the truth. As you might imagine, this is problematic for democracy.

Earl Wilson

The First Amendment and a strong Fourth Estate are essential to a healthy democracy. David McCraw, deputy general counsel of the New York Times, spends his days making sure that the journalists can do their work in the United States and around the world. This includes responding to libel suits and legal threats, reviewing stories that are likely to be the subject of a lawsuit, helping reporters who run into trouble abroad, filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and much more. 

Climate scientist Michael Mann
Bill Arden / Bill Arden

This episode is not about climate change. Well, not directly, anyway. Instead, we talk with Nobel Prize winner and Penn State Distinguished Professor of Meteorology Michael E. Mann about his journey through the climate wars over the past two decades and the role that experts have to play in moving out of the lab and into the spotlight to defend the scientific process.

On Democracy Works, we've had the opportunity to speak with several organizers, from Joyce Ladner in the Civil Rights movement to Srdja Popovic in Serbia to the students involved with the March for Our Lives. Today, we think of protests as a pillar of democratic dissent, but things didn't necessarily start out that way.

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