Sortition, the Supreme Court, COVID-19, and the 1940 Census were all topics of the year's most popular episodes of the Democracy Nerd podcast. Revisit these episodes and the guests' interviews with host Jefferson Smith.

1. "Using Sortition to Solve Wicked Problems" -- Noted classicist Maurice Pope wrote "The Keys to Democracy: Sortition as a New Model for Citizen Power," a philosophically dense treatise making the case for sortition--or "democracy by lottery"--in the 1980s. But after being rejected for publication, this manuscript was feared all but lost of the author's passing. However, Maurice's son Hugh Pope re-discovered the manuscript, and helped edit the manuscript to be printed as part of Imprint Academic's "Sortition and Public Policy" decades after originally written. Maurice joins the podcast to discuss with Jefferson the process of re-engaging his father's work after so many years.

2. "Felix Frankfurter: The Most Dangerous Man in Supreme Court History?" -- Georgetown Law professor Brad Snyder discussed his book "Democratic Justice: Felix Frankfurter, the Supreme Court, and the Making of the Liberal Establishment," explaining how Justice Frankfurter's commitment towards legal restraint--how people should seek change through the political process opposed to the courts--helped allow the expansion of the liberal state in 20th century America.

3. "How the Supreme Court Divided America" -- Michael Waldman, President and CEO of the Brennan Center of Justice at New York University, discusses his book "The Supermajority: How the Supreme Court Divided America," about the Supreme Court's tumultuous 2021-22 term, which upended longstanding precedent regarding reproductive rights and the role of the administrative state, with these decisions having a political impact of the 2022 mid-term elections--and may continue to have a similar impact in 2024.

4. "The Constitution Should Not be a Suicide Pact" -- For Democracy Nerd's first episode of 2023, the podcast was joined by Rick Hasen, Professor of Law at UCLA who also runs the Election Law blog, to discuss his book "Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics--and How to Cure It" and issue a challenge to the Supreme Court to have their decisions regarding political speech balanced with the public's right for free and fair elections. In a year that saw multiple scandals resulting in the Supreme Court adopting its first ever code of ethics, along with the 14th Amendment of the Constitution used by some states to justify keeping Donald Trump off the presidential ballot, it is interested to re-visit this discussion with Professor Hansen from the beginning of the year.

5. "Moore v. Harper: Democracy is Saved (For Now)" -- Recorded days after the Supreme Court's Moore v. Harper decision against the so-called Independent State Legislature Theory, which posited that state lawmakers have the sole authority to determine how federal elections are run regardless of state laws or determinations by state courts, Eliza Sweren-Becker, Senior Counsel for the Brennan Center's Democracy program, discusses how this decision upholds democracy in the United States. Eliza also warns about the "carve out" the Supreme Court made for itself to intercede as necessary if they don't like how states are administering elections. Will this "carve out" be cited by the Supreme Court to challenges by the Trump campaign in response to Trump being removed from state presidential ballots?

6. "How Women Will Impact the 2024 Election" -- In response to the Supreme Court's repeal of Roe v. Wade, women voters mobilized and showed their force in the 2022 mid-terms, preventing a presumed "Red Wave" that would sweep the Republicans into large majorities in Congress, and instead the mid-term resulting in more of a "red trickle." Looking ahead to the 2024 election, Lauren Leader, the co-founder and CEO of All in Together, asserts that attacks on reproductive rights will continue to mobilize women voters, who may play a decisive factor in the 2024 election. With the results in favor of all pro-abortion ballot measures--including red states--in 2023, Leader's assertions appear to be correct.

7. "This Happened Here: The Trumping of America" -- Activist and author Paul Street joined the podcast to discuss his book "This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America." Playing against the title of Sinclair Lewis's classic "It Can't Happen Here," Paul considers the role of fascism in the rise of Donald Trump and his administration, asserting that when it comes to the appeal of Trump, the embrace of fascist tendencies is more of a feature than a bug. Under Trump, Sinclair's worst fears were materialized: fascism did happen here and considering Trump's adoption of Hitler-inspired rhetoric on the campaign trail, the ugly mask of fascism will darken the 2024 election.

8. "COVID and Inequality" -- One of the recurring threats to democracy is inequality, and the more stratified a society is economically, the more susceptible it is to potential forms of authoritarianism. Stephen Bezruchka, a professor at University of Washington's School of Public Health, joined the podcast to discuss his book "Inequality Kills Us All: COVID-19's Health Lessons for the World" and points how the COVID-19 global pandemic exacerbated various inequalities throughout the world. $42 trillion in new wealth was created during the first two years of the pandemic, with two-thirds of that going to the world's richest one percent as the rest of the world suffered either due to lost jobs or to inability to prevent exposure to COVID-19. Professor Bezruchka warns that if steps aren't taken to address systemic inequities--not only regarding public health, but also the need to address wealth inequality at an unprecedented scale--democracy runs the risk of backsliding into authoritarianism, both home and abroad. 

9. "Spotchecking the Enumerators to Prevent Curbstoning: Inside the 1940 U.S. Census" -- Dan Bouk, Professor of History at Colgate University, dived deep into the United State's 1940 census in his book "Democracy's Data: The Hidden Stories in the U.S. Census and How to Read Them." Dan joined the podcast to share the stories of those involved in conducting the U.S. census at a pivotal moment in the nation's history--the bureaucrats, the politicians, the census counters (i.e. "enumerators") tasked with conducting a country-wide "head count" for a country that was still mostly rural and agrarian but beginning to adopt new technology and progressive ideas to conduct this Constitutionally mandated exercise. One may not think that conducting a census is inherently political in nature, but as Professor Bouk makes clear--it absolutely is.

10. "What Do We Owe the Other Side?" -- Robert Talisse, Professor of Philosophy from Vanderbilt University, joined the podcast to discuss his book "Sustained Democracy: What We Owe the Other Side." At a time of pronounced partisanship & after the country has basically "sorted" itself culturally and politically--at this point, most Americans go through their lives without crossing paths with someone that has a differing political viewpoint--it is incredibly easy to view those that vote differently in a dismissive or even a pejorative manner. Professor Talisse argues that at such times of political stratification, it is even more essential to find common ground with those that think and vote differently than us and recognize the legitimacy of their views, to avoid viewing them as "others" or lesser. The famous quote "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," comes to mind. Failing to recognize the legitimacy of those that may think differently runs the risk of having the American experiment in democracy resulting in failure.