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Story Publication logo November 19, 2022

How Democracy Survived the Midterm Elections

people vote at a polling booth on U.S. election day

This project examines a national network of far-right sheriffs who subscribe to false beliefs in...


Editor's Note: In the podcast, Pulitzer Center-supported content begins at 26:51. Read about it in bold in the paragraph below.

Reveal host Al Letson talks with leading academics and journalists to take the temperature of American democracy: What did we expect from the midterms, what did we get, and what does that mean for 2024? 

Reveal’s Ese Olumhense and Mother Jones senior reporter Ari Berman discuss how gerrymandering, abortion rights, election denial and fear of voting crimes played out in contentious states like Arizona, Wisconsin and Florida.

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Next, Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, who report on threats to democracy for ProPublica and are hosts of the podcast Will Be Wild, join Letson to discuss how the violence and disinformation that sparked the Jan. 6 insurrection continues to shape the country’s political landscape. The reporters tell the story of how the Department of Homeland Security backed off efforts to identify and combat false information after Republican pundits and politicians accused the Biden administration of stomping on the free speech rights of anyone who disagrees with them.

Then, reporter Jessica Pishko delves into the world of a group called the constitutional sheriffs. This association of rogue sheriffs claims to be the highest law in the land and has increasingly come to see themselves as election police. Pishko attends a meeting in Arizona, where Richard Mack, a leader of the movement who has also been involved with the far-right Oath Keepers, extols the rights of sheriffs to get involved in monitoring elections. In recent years, this right-wing group has grown from a fringe organization to one with national power and prominence. Pishko discusses the chilling effect these sheriffs have on voting.

In his time as president, Donald Trump bucked the norms and mixed presidential duties with personal business, refused to release his tax returns and pardoned his political allies. He has announced he’s running for president again in 2024. Letson speaks with two lawyers who have spent the past two years identifying how to rein in presidential power and close loopholes Trump exposed: Bob Bauer, former White House counsel for President Barack Obama, and Jack Goldsmith, former assistant attorney general in President George W. Bush’s Office of Legal Counsel. They’re also co-authors of the 2020 book “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency.”





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