Meet the hosts of Vital Signs of Democracy

Megan Goldstein
Marketing and Communication Specialist
January 24, 2023
min read

We're excited to share a new podcast in the democracy space — Vital Signs of Democracy. Community Manager Megan Goldstein talked with hosts Debilyn Molineaux and David Riordan to learn more:

Tell me about your background

Debilyn: I have a 20 year history within the democracy ecosystem and also helped to found the Bridge Alliance which is a community of 600 organizations, who focus on democracy. I also co-founded Living Room conversations.

David: I have a long career in Hollywood doing films and TV and the last 20 years of that has been doing documentaries about what's going on in the world.

What is Vital Signs of Democracy?

David: It is an integrative  look at the question of “Is democracy threatened”? There are two ways we make sense of everything, through data and information and the other way is through subjective stories that we create about that data that gives us meaning. When we looked closer we found that two stories were being told in the mainstream, the Make America Great Again stories from both parties.

How did you team up and decide to start Vital Signs of Democracy?

Debilyn: We’ve been in touch for a couple of years, as David developed the Vital Signs meter, rating the strength of the U.S. system on a scale from 1-10.  Then in January of 2023 we teamed up. It’s hard to believe, we are about to record episode ten! We don’t repeat the news that everybody knows - we examine the news as stories shaping our future.

David: The idea of a meter for that “quick glance” about the health of the democratic republic needs nuance and a podcast seemed a good idea. Partnering with The Fulcrum, we wanted to help people answer their question “Am I crazy? Is democracy really being threatened?” We provide another kind of hope by sharing that they aren't crazy and that what is going on is unprecedented.

What would you say to someone who feels like they avoid the news, should they feel better about listening to your podcast?

Debilyn: I feel that way about the news myself! By stepping outside of the two narratives, we offer paths forward that are pragmatic.David: A listener would walk away with a sense of not only where we are, but what is influencing that. Particularly in a polarized political environment like we find ourselves, the stories we are telling influence how we think, feel and act. If we understand those stories there is a chance we can find a new narrative a majority of Americans can agree on.

One of The Democracy Group's goals is to “fix what is broken in our democracy." How do you feel your podcast will help with that goal?

David: Well we aren't talking about democracy as it was and saying that we should go back because what has been revealed in the system are things we thought were protected from bad actors. It turned out they were not.. Obviously democracy needs to evolve and that is the long term goal we are trying to achieve.

Debilyn: We offer citizens an idea of the role they can play in evolving democracy to a better future.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

David: Here is an invitation — we can offer the intelligence we collect every two weeks and we are happy to share. We will offer our intelligence freely to other people. So, consider us a resource!

Debilyn: We are really thrilled to know that there are so many subscribers to The Democracy Group taking actions toward healthy self governance because that is what it will take.

Zombie Democracy Epic Times

In this episode, David and Debilyn explore how they are managing their growing depression and anxiety based on the seeming uncertainty about the health of democracy in America.


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This is Megan Goldstein, The Democracy Group's Community Manager. This week I listened to a lot of podcast episodes and wanted to share my favorites with you!

Let's Find Common Ground: Broken Media? Restoring Trust in News Coverage. Mark Sappenfield, Story Hinckley

This episode is a re-release at the perfect time when news coverage is amping up due to the 2024 presidential election. It seems that when there is an influx in news, more people tend to avoid it rather than read it. In light of that, this episode discusses how the news industry can better serve their audience. During this episode I also got to hear from two great experts who had great insight.

Politics is Everything: ‘Just a Sideshow’: What the GOP Debate Tells Us About the Republican Party

About a week ago the Republican party held their first primary debate. I was happy to see this episode was released since I only have caught clips of it on TikTok. The focus of this episode was using this debate to make sense of what is happening in American politics and I think they accomplished just that. They also discuss Trump’s interview on X with Tucker Carlson - something I did not even know occurred! I found this episode very informative and engaging.

Democracy Paradox: Robert Kaplan on the Politics of the Past and Future of the Greater Middle East

On this episode of Democracy Paradox, Justin and Robert Kaplan had a great conversation on the Middle East. Though this episode required some extra thought, it was worthy it because I learned so much! From the greater middle east to developing political institutions Justin and Kaplan cover it all on this episode of Democracy Paradox


Politics in Question: Miles Taylor on Resistance to Donald Trump

Miles Taylor is a national security expert, and democracy reform leader. He is the author of Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump as well as a New York Times Op-Ed, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”. During his career he has worked for both the Trump and Bush administrations where he served in a variety of top national security posts

American Polarization: Political and Personal. Mónica Guzmán: How do we Fix it?

Mónica Guzmán is a bridge builder, journalist, and author who lives for great conversations sparked by curious questions. She is a senior fellow for Public Practice at Braver Angels and author of I Never Thought of it That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times. A Mexican immigrant, Latina, and dual US/Mexico citizen, she lives in Seattle with her husband and two kids and is the proud liberal daughter of conservative parents.


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