S2 Episode 3: Crazy Districts, Lopsided Elections

In the 2012 election, Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives nationally got 1.5 million more votes than Republican candidates but the Republicans emerged with a 33-seat majority in the House. Why? Because of gerrymandering. That’s when politicians draw voting districts to favor one political party or another.
 
The practice is nothing new; politicians were doing it back in the 1800s. But gerrymandering has reached a whole new level in recent decades. Computers have done more than simply streamline an old-fashioned process. Hedrick Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has studied the issue.
 
"The software of computers has now gotten so sophisticated that strategists for either party can go in and they can analyze the voting records or voting patterns literally neighborhood by neighborhood or street by street and they can figure out in great detail exactly where to draw the lines to their maximum advantage,” Smith says.
 
In this episode, we’ll hear about some stunning gerrymandering feats, and how reformers across the nation are trying to restore the power of your vote.

S2 Episode 2: Who is White?

Very often, we toss around the terms “black," “Latina,” and “white” as if we all agree on what they mean. Yet a look at history shows that ideas about our nation’s racial categories – what they are and who fits into them – are always changing. And in particular, answers to the question “who’s white?” have never been simple.

In the early 20th century, for example, many of the country’s new immigrants to the U.S. were from Finland. They had blonde hair, blue eyes and light skin. But the Finns, who some today might consider the epitome of whiteness, were not considered “white” at the time.

In this episode, we explore the shifting ideas about who is considered “white” in America – how it’s changed, what it means, and how it may be changing still.

Guests include journalist Pilar Marrero; Gunther Peck, associate professor of history and public policy at Duke University; and Sarah Gaither, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

Read the episode transcript.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture. Also, Chopin Waltz in A minor B.150 Opus Posth. P. Barton, FEURICH piano performed by Paul Barton. Licensed under Creative Commons.

S2 Episode 1: Can Government Really Change?

 

 

 

 

 

One thing remains constant in our political discourse: talk of how much we need to change. Every four years, candidates for office make their pitch to voters, including a laundry list of things they promise to change once elected. In this episode of Ways & Means, Dan Ariely, James. B Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, talks about what gets in the way of change in government, and what we need to know about ourselves to make something new work.

NOTE: Dan Ariely hosted an Ask Me Anything on Reddit as a part of our season premiere. Look at the questions he answered here.

We referenced this episode of the Glad You Asked" podcast in the story. We also referenced this essay, about an effort to start an innovation lab at the local level, in Durham, NC. If you're interested in local government innovation, here's a short conversation on the topic.

Read the episode transcript.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture.

Episode 5: The Extraordinary Search for Ordinary Politicians

On this episode of Ways & Means, we explore one of the most vexing issues in politics - how to get more ordinary people to run for office. We attend a school for wanna-be politicians, and follow teacher Jeremy Hachen as he launches a bid for state office.

Also: Nick Carnes, assistant professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, talks about his research into "white collar government."

"It really matters that almost none of our politicians come from the working class jobs that most Americans do every single day," says Carnes. "That made me want to understand what exactly is keeping ordinary Americans from getting into politics."

Episode 4: Sugar Fix

In this episode of Ways & Means: How yesterday's war on tobacco is shaping today's war on sugar.

Public health advocates are waging battle against added sugar in our foods. And they’re taking pointers from another public health battle: the campaign against tobacco.

New evidence suggests sugar, like tobacco, is addictive and harmful to long-term health. Kelly Brownell, the dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke, says the two fights have a lot in common.

Other guests include tobacco policy expert Ken Warner, professor of public health at the University of Michigan, and advertising executive Sajiv Panditha. His company Saatchi & Saatchi ran a campaign aimed at reducing diabetes in sugar-loving Sri Lanka.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture.

Episode 3: Women in Politics, A Shout or a Whisper?

On this episode of Ways & Means we look at how women gained a political voice in the U.S. and then - surprisingly - in some ways lost it. Guests include Pat Schroeder. Pat spent 24 years in the U.S. House.  Also, Duke Sanford Associate Professor Kristin Goss says women in the 1950s in some ways had more political influence than today.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture.

Episode 2: A Beautiful Death

What do seniors really want when they’re dying? Asking them, and listening carefully to what they say, could lead – surprisingly – to cost-savings for big government systems like Medicare. Guests include a Duke health policy expert, Donald H. Taylor, who asked terminally ill people: what if you had to choose between last-ditch therapies and the simple things? Their answers might surprise you.

Also, a Durham, N.C., woman describes how she faced hard choices as she comforted her dying mom.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture.

Episode 1: Pants on Fire

On this episode of Ways & Means we hear from the Daily Show's resident fact-checker Adam Chodikoff. Also, Pulitzer Prize winner Bill Adair tells us about a new movement of reporters going to great lengths to ensure we the people know the truth — especially when it comes to politics. We’ve got Republicans, Democrats and an upstart fact-checker from Iran, a country that has jailed numerous reporters.

Music by David Schulman and Sound of Picture. Also "12 Mornings" by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license