Portland, OR, May 08, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Jefferson Smith, Portland, Oregon native and host of the weekly podcast Democracy Nerd, believes democracy is under siege all over the world. “The impact of anti-democracy movements has definitely been to weaken structures of democratic institutions not just in America, but everywhere,” Jefferson declares. “But I think the real, long-term damage is how these movements have successfully undermined the idea that democracy itself is a force for good. I believe this is where Democracy Nerd, and shows like it, have an important role to play.”
The discussions on Democracy Nerd do not endeavor to find a middle – false or otherwise, but Jefferson does seem to work to find the answer. “So much of the current political discourse whirls around anger,” Jefferson explained. “And while that anger is so often quite legitimate and justifiable – and can generate heat, clicks, views, and lights up our reptilian brain – it can freeze our frontal lobes. Political anger is useful to incite action but doesn’t always motivate answers. We’re not above anger, but mostly we try to help people understand.”
A key theme of the show – as the title makes clear – is democracy itself. The show does dive into issues, such as felon enfranchisement with Desmond Moore, whose work in Florida earned Moore a MacArthur “Genius Grant.” But much of the show digs into the process of democracy. For example, two deep dives (Episodes 4 & Episode 57) into redistricting reform with Katie Fahey, who led the charge to reform gerrymandering in Michigan.
Jefferson Smith and Democracy Nerd recently aired its 76th episode, a thoughtful discussion about the racial wealth gap and economic social justice, with Francisco Pérez, an economics professor at the University of Utah and former director of the Center for Popular Economics. “This episode is emblematic of the purpose behind the Democracy Nerd podcast,” says podcast producer Kyle Curtis. “Both Jefferson and Professor Perez came prepared to discuss an important issue, the racial wealth gap. Professor Perez’s thoughtful answers to Jefferson’s probing questions helped fill potential ‘blind spots’ while also allowing the opportunity to share relevant resources.
Jefferson Smith, based in Portland, is an accomplished public speaker, entrepreneur, and former lawmaker, who serves on the board of several organizations that further pro-democracy policies in his beloved home state of Oregon and beyond. He is the regular guest host for national talk show host Thom Hartmann, spent several years as the Executive Director of a non-profit progressive talk radio station, and currently hosts the Democracy Nerd podcast.
Intensely passionate about the future of the United States of America, Jefferson Smith uses the Democracy Nerd platform to interview and cultivate meaningful discussions with policy leaders, elected officials, journalists, authors, and other people involved in or connected to politics and public life. With a focus on the threats facing American democracy, Smith and his guests celebrate policy proposals and people-powered movements that can effectively respond to these challenges.
Jefferson’s colorful life and career inform the show, but it doesn’t dwell much there; instead, he applies his Harvard Law-trained brain to the ideas and the guests themselves. Former Ambassador, US trade negotiator, and multiple-time author (and Democracy Nerd guest) Ira Shapiro described Jefferson as “the best interlocutor I’ve come across.”
Other repeat themes are redemption and patriotism. Why celebrate the 76th episode? Answers Smith: “We aren’t patient enough to wait until 100.” But patriotism enters into the show; Jefferson sees the United States as a redemption story. “Just as to love ourselves, we have to come to grips with our own shadow…to love our country, we can’t just gloss over our sins. We need to come to grips with them and learn from them. To be real patriots, we need to help the nation do better.”
Whether or not reaching 76 episodes is a remarkable achievement for a boot-strappy operation, the number should resonate with Democracy Nerd’s growing audience of Democracy nerds, who regularly listen to hear the renewal of the 18th-century promise of a newborn nation standing up to the greatest tyranny of the time with a hopeful vision for the future.
As Jefferson signs off the show, “Thank you for being a Democracy Nerd.”