Brennan Center Live










October 2015
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The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case that could radically change how legislative lines are drawn in America. In Evenwel v. Abbott, the Supreme Court might order states to draw boundaries using voters instead of total people. This change in the rule could have a significant impact on the future representation of America’s fast-growing urban and suburban communities, and of Latinos in particular.

In this candid discussion, experts and practitioners explore the implications of the Evenwel case, the tremendous impact it could have on the Latino community, and how other recent Supreme Court cases could fundamentally reshape the redistricting landscape.

Direct download: Evenwel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:47pm EDT

Despite representing a significant political constituency and large consumer base, Black women remain one of the most underrepresented groups in elected office today. The Status of American Women in Politics, a forthcoming report update from Higher Heights, reiterates this discrepancy, focusing on Black women’s candidacies at the state and federal level, analyzing state/regional differences, candidate status, and electoral outcomes.
The Brennan Center for Justice and Higher Heights discussed the state of representation for and by Black women in American politics today. Experts and insiders examined how underrepresented voices can make themselves heard through grassroots movements, political action, and civic engagement, ensuring that our democracy is truly and cohesively representative of the people being governed.
Direct download: Higher_Heights.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 1:01pm EDT

Political parties are a core ingredient of representative democracy, but in the age of super PACs there are serious questions about whether organized parties can still provide the many democratic benefits they have traditionally furnished to our political system. Today’s climate calls for new thinking about ways campaign finance law can be used to divert money back to the parties, without exacerbating the risk of corruption or further stratifying our already unequal politics. A new Brennan Center Paper, “Stronger Parties, Stronger Democracy: Rethinking Reform,” offers a set of proposals for doing so. 

This candid discussion explores how strengthening the parties can boost electoral participation and in turn, produce a more transparent and inclusive democracy. Speakers include:

Matea Gold
National Political Reporter, The Washington Post

Lee Goodman
Commissioner, Federal Election Commission

Spencer Overton
President, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

Daniel Weiner
Senior Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice

Direct download: Stronger_Parties_Stronger_Democracy_Podcast.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:49pm EDT

How did reducing mass incarceration become such a potent national political issue? Can recent controversies from Ferguson to Baltimore translate into broader policy goals? Why are presidential candidates calling for reform? How will the issue play out in lead up to the 2016 election? And – most importantly – can our leaders turn words into action? The Brennan Center’s  Michael Waldman and Inimai Chettiar and the Heritage Foundation’s John Malcolm discuss.

Direct download: Justice_Briefing.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 2:07pm EDT

Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden and published by multiple news organizations have brought new focus to some age-old questions: what role should journalism play in the balance between the public’s right to know and the government’s need to keep secrets in the name of national security? In the so-called “information age,” how have the tools of government secrecy affected journalism – and how are journalists responding? And what is the future of the delicate relationship between those American institutions that are in the business of keeping secrets and those that are in the business of exposing them?

This candid discussion about the relationship between secrecy and the fourth estate explores those questions and more. 

Direct download: Government_Secrecy.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:38pm EDT

What if most of what we think we know about reading the text of the First Amendment is just wrong? For years, the Supreme Court has treated the First Amendment like a laundry list of isolated words, stopping every once in a while to pull a couple of words out of the full text and claiming to be able to use the artificially isolated words as an infallible guide to what the First Amendment really means. In Madison's Music, Burt Neuborne argues that the Supreme Court has gotten the actual text wrong. If judges would only look at the First Amendment’s full text—all forty-five words—they would discover Madison’s music, a First Amendment that is democracy’s best friend.

Direct download: Burt_Neuborne__Book_Talk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:48pm EDT

America’s democracy is floundering, Congress is hopelessly gridlocked, and millions remain without gainful employment. Despite all this, longtime political strategist and polling expert Douglas E. Schoen remains optimistic. 

Democracy’s Problems And Prospects represents the best of Dr. Schoen’s distinguished career, which he has dedicated to ensuring that democratic societies reflect the consent and the will of their electorates, and that America defends its interests as well as its values.

Direct download: Douglas20E20Schoen20Book20Talk.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:46pm EDT

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications. Dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the FISA Court since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans. The report's authors explore the issues with the FISA court and reforms to fix it.

Direct download: FISA_Court_Report_Talk.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:42pm EDT

Darryl Pinckney’s new book, Blackballed: The Black Vote and US Democracy, is a meditation on the intersection between civil rights and the history of black participation in U.S. electoral politics. Fifty years after the first passage of the Voting Rights Act, Pinckney investigates the struggle for black voting rights from Reconstruction through the civil rights movement to Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. Mr. Pinckney is joined by Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Brennan's Washington D.C. office director, Nicole Austin-Hillery.

Direct download: The20Black20Vote20and20US20Democracy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:38pm EDT

What Caused the Crime Decline? This podcast examines the Brennan Center's new report that explores one of the nation’s least understood recent phenomena – the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades – and analyzes various theories for why it occurred, by reviewing more than 40 years of data from all 50 states and the 50 largest cities. It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline. In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in its effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years. Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000.

Direct download: Crime_Rate_Podcast_FINAL.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:20pm EDT

In the last decade, national security issues have increasingly faded from the political agenda, due in part to the growth of government secrecy. In his new book, Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America's Stealth Warfare, journalist and lawyer Scott Horton explains how secrecy has fundamentally changed the way America functions. Never before have the American people had so little information concerning the wars waged in their name, nor has Congress exercised so little oversight over the war effort. Horton reminds us that publicly addressing the country’s national security concerns is the right and responsibility of a free citizenry, and ultimately, the heart of any democracy.

Direct download: Scott_Horton_Podcast.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:29pm EDT