2022 Midterms: What's at Stake?

The Democracy Group

How will the 2022 midterms impact the health and stability of American democracy?


2022 Midterms: What's at Stake?

This series from The Democracy Group podcast network will explore how the 2022 midterms could impact the health and stability of American democracy. We’ll go beyond horse race politics to look at bigger trends in election administration, media, voting rights, and more. Each episode will come from one of The Democracy Group’s podcasts that focus on democracy, civic engagement, and civil discourse. Our network includes shows from Penn State, the University of Virginia, the Campaign Legal Center, and the Common Ground Committee.

Featured Guests

No items found.

Where To Start

How Do Previous Elections Challenge Democracy Now? with Lynn Vavreck

Our first episode of the series comes from the Democracy Paradox podcast, hosted by Justin Kempf, featuring Lynn Vavreck, the Marvin Hoffenberg Professor of American Politics and Public Policy at UCLA. She’s a contributor for The Upshot at The New York Times. She recently coauthored (with John Sides and Chris Tausanovitch) The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy.

How Does The U.S. Constitution Hold Us Back? with Melissa Schwartzberg and Joseph Fishkin

This episode of the series comes from the Democracy in Danger podcast, hosted by Will Hitchcock & Siva Vaidhyanathan, featuring Melissa Schwartzberg and Joseph Fishkin.

The U.S. Constitution is an 18th-century straitjacket. It’s almost impossible to amend, it gives outsize power to small states, and its meaning is subject to the whims of unelected and increasingly intransigent judges. So what’s new? Well, you might be intrigued to learn on this episode just how America might wrench itself out of that morass, short of trashing the Constitution altogether. With the 2022 midterms on the horizon, our two guests offer up a few ideas — some new, some as old as Athens.


Melissa Schwartzberg is a political theorist and the Silver Professor of Politics at New York University. Her work focuses on the historical origins of democracy and ancient Greek institutions. She is the author of Counting the Many: The Origins and Limits of Supermajority Rule (2014, Cambridge University Press). Schwartzberg is a frequent contributor to Vox and the Washington Post.

Joseph Fishkin is a professor of law at the University of California–Los Angeles, and a specialist in constitutional law. His new book, with William Forbath, is The Anti-Oligarchy Constitution: Reconstructing the Economic Foundations of American Democracy (2022, Harvard University Press). Earlier in his career, Fishkin clerked for Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. His work has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, the Columbia Law Review and the Supreme Court Review, among other leading journals. Fishkin also blogs at Balkinization. Follow him on Twitter @joeyfishkin.

How are Election Officials Preparing for the Midterms? with Jessica Huseman

This episode of the series comes from the Democracy Works podcast, hosted by Jenna Spinelle, Christopher Beem, Michael Berkman, featuring Jessica Huseman.

Think of it as an election administrator vibe check as we head into the midterms. Election officials are the backbone of our democracy, but also increasingly the face of fraud allegations from far-right groups and others who deny the legitimacy of elections that don't go their way.

Many of us watched Georgia election officials Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss testify before the January 6 committee about the threats they faced after becoming caught up in conspiracies about the 2020 election. Our guest this week says that stories like this are more common than many of us realize, and that things like erroneous record requests from election deniers are even more common. On top of that, social media platforms are making it more difficult local election offices to share accurate information with voters.


Jessica Huseman is the editorial director at Votebeat, a news outlet that does nonpartisan local reporting n elections and voting. She was previously the lead elections reporter for ProPublica, and helped manage the Electionland project for three federal election cycles, sharing information and tips with hundreds of newsrooms across the United States.


Jessica Huseman on Twitter

Power the Polls - poll worker recruitment nationwide

How Can You Use Voting To Fight for Democracy as an Everyday Citizen? with Steve Pierson

This episode of the series comes from the Future Hindsight podcast, hosted by Mila Atmos, featuring Steve Pierson . They discuss the nitty gritty of Get Out the Vote, phone banking, and a whole host of other boots on the ground politics as we head toward the midterms.

According to a recent NBC poll, threats against democracy are perceived to be the number one issue facing voters. Help fight for our democracy! Before the midterms, check your voter registration status, be an influencer in your circle about voting, and–if possible–volunteer to knock on doors. And finally: VOTE on election day!


Steve Pierson is the host of the How We Win podcast. He’s an activist, community organizer, and trainer, who started as a “class of 2016” volunteer. He’s currently an elected California Democratic Party Delegate and chairs their Organizing Committee.


Jessica Huseman on Twitter

Power the Polls - poll worker recruitment nationwide

How Can We Bridge Divides?

This episode of the series comes from the Village SquareCast podcast, hosted by Vanessa Rowse, featuring Pearce Godwin, Founder & CEO of Listen First Project; Kristin Hansen, Executive Director of Civic Health Project; and Liz Joyner, Founder and President of The Village Square.

Bridge building?!  (We’re not talking about the Golden Gate, people.)  An industry that was recently unknown and almost nonexistent has exploded in recent years, as average citizens begin to see the sharp growth in political divisions as an emergency that requires our attention. In the midst of a divisive election season, we’ll take a pause to chat with leaders in the bridge building field about the outlook for cooperation across political differences and potential improvements on the horizon that we can all reach for.

Is there hope of a tipping point where bridge-building is more prominent than the divide-and-(attempt to)-conquer approach of late?  Might average Americans like our heroic guests and listeners have to roll up their sleeves and show our politicians the way?


Listen First Project leads the collaborative movement to heal America by bridging divides. They elevate the impact, visibility, and voice of the bridge-building field by aggregating, aligning, and amplifying the efforts of 500 #ListenFirst Coalition partner organizations into large scale, national campaigns and strategies. Together these organizations transform division and contempt into connection and understanding.

Civic Health Project is dedicated to reducing America’s toxic partisan polarization and enabling healthier public discourse and decision-making across our citizenry, politics, and media. Through grantmaking, advocacy, and convenings, Civic Health Project supports the most promising research and interventions to reduce political division and foster social cohesion across the country.

How Can We Restore Trust in a Broken Media? with Mark Sappenfield and Story Hinckley

This episode of the series comes from the Let's Find Common Ground podcast, hosted by Richard Davies and Ashley Milne-Tyte, featuring Mark Sappenfield, Editor of The Christian Science Monitor, and Story Hinckley, the paper's National Political Correspondent.

The United States has one of the highest news avoidance rates in the world. Tens of millions of Americans don't read, watch or listen to the news each day. The media are held in low regard by the public. So, is there a better way to report and analyze current events that satisfies readers' interests?

We're releasing this podcast less than two weeks before the midterm elections— a time when many news outlets have amped up their coverage, speculated about winners and losers, and put additional emphasis on the nation's deep partisan divides.

We discuss evolving news values with The Monitor and how reporters and editors are striving to highlight constructive solutions that unite rather than divide. We also hear about election coverage and why the media need to challenge readers, build trust, and report the news truthfully.

In this episode, we mention Common Ground Scorecard— a tool that helps voters learn which elected officials and candidates are seeking common ground on vital issues. The President, Vice President and every Senator, Member of Congress, and governor has a personal rating. Learn more: commongroundscorecard.org.

How will Gen Z influence the Midterms? with Maxwell Alejandro Frost & Trymaine Lee

This episode of the series comes from the Our Body Politic podcast, hosted by Farai Chideya, spotlighting a powerful voting bloc: Generation Z. First, Farai interviews Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Democratic nominee for Florida’s 10th Congressional District, about how his Afro-Cuban identity and work as an organizer and musician help shape his political platform and views. Then Farai is joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and host of MSNBC’s “Into America” Trymaine Lee who shares what he’s learned about the political interests of young Black voters attending historically Black colleges and universities in his new series, “The Power of the Black Vote.”

What Are Midterms Candidates Doing On Criminal Justice Reform? with Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, & Satana DeBerry

his episode of the series comes from the 70 Million podcast, produced by LWC Studios.

Weeks before the 2022 midterm elections, 70 Million creator and executive producer Juleyka Lantigua digs into the subject of criminal justice reform with three candidates from different parts of the country: Maxwell Alejandro Frost, Carolyn “Jiyoung” Park, and Durham County District Attorney, Satana DeBerry. All three spotlight inequities in policing and the courts, and call out areas in need of serious reform in the criminal justice system.

Find a resource guide and annotated transcript at our website here.

What to Watch in the 2022 Elections

This episode of the series comes from the Politics is Everything podcast, hosted by Carah Ong Whaley & Kyle Kondik.

The Senate is coming down to a jump ball situation. Candidates need to avoid a bad toss, and can’t miss a foul or violation. Sabato’s Crystal Ball is still projecting a Republican gain in the House in the high teens or low 20s.

In this episode, we share our live discussion initially held on Twitter Spaces with resident experts Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Miles Coleman, Associate Editor. We talk about our latest projections, what to watch, and the state of play in key Senate, House and Gubernatorial races in the final days of Election 2022.

Links in this episode:

Center for Politics on Twitter

Sabato’s Crystal Ball

Secretary of State and Attorney General: What to Watch for Next Week in Key Statewide Contests

Direct Democracy is on the Ballot this Fall

This episode of the series comes from the When the People Decide podcast, hosted by Jenna Spinelle.

Many state leaders are fighting to restrict access to this tool of democracy—or get rid of ballot initiatives altogether. While challenges to voting rights in states across the country captured the news cycle throughout much of the last two years, those same forces also seek to make it more difficult to engage in direct democracy.

With 12 states battling restrictive bills to limit citizen-led initiatives, the “democracy reform movement” is stepping up across the country to save them. If legislators are successful in making it harder for people to use ballot initiatives, will politics still be within reach of the everyday citizen? Follow along as these campaigns play out in Idaho and Missouri.

Learn more about the podcast at thepeopledecide.show and follow us on Twitter @PeopleDecidePod.


Show Me Integrity

The Fairness Project

David Daley's books Unrigged and Ratf**ked

Lasting Political Power in Texas Beyond The Election

This episode of the series comes from the The Great Battlefield podcast, hosted by Nathaniel Pearlman.

Lana Hansen and Sri Kulkarni join The Great Battlefield podcast to talk about their project 2 Million Texans, which is the first attempt to relationally organize the whole state.

Democracy: The Voters Verdict with Layla Zaidane and David Meyers

This episode of the series comes from the How Do We Fix It podcast, hosted by Richard Davies and Jim Meigs.

We have a 2022 post-election show with a twist. Instead of focusing on which party is up or down, we open the hood and examine the engine of our democracy. Voters delivered a clear verdict: Most election deniers were defeated as many voters, especially independents, split their ballots, and shunned the extremes.

Our guests are Layla Zaidane, President and CEO of Millennial Action Project— the nation's largest nonpartisan organization of young lawmakers— and David Meyers, founding Executive Editor of the democracy newsletter, The Fulcrum.

In the days before the election, the media was full of warnings, and perhaps some hyperbole, about the perilous state of American democracy. Both of our guests and podcast co-hosts agree that many of the results were reassuring for the guardrails of the electoral system.

"I think when the dust settles we're going to feel pretty good about this election," Layla told us. "Things went really well," said David. "The continued use of voting-by-mail and early voting has gone a long way towards making sure more people had the opportunity to vote and not wait in very long lines."

We also examine the arguments over Ranked-Choice Voting, open primaries, and the need for a quicker vote account in some states where results took well over a week to come through.

In their conversation after the interview, Jim and Richard debate voting-my-mail, early voting, reforming the primaries, and how to encourage states to make improvements in vote tabulation. Richard favors limited action by Congress, but Jim is vigorously opposed to any federal reforms or interference in how states conduct their elections.

Meet The Hosts

Jenna Spinelle

Founder, McCourtney Institute Communications Specialist

Jenna Spinelle is the Founder of The Democracy Group and Communications Specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. She is responsible for shaping all of the institute’s external communication, including website content, social media, multimedia, and media outreach. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Penn State and is an instructor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Prior to joining the McCourtney Institute, Spinelle helped market Penn State to prospective students and families in the University’s Undergraduate Admissions Office.

Where To Listen

Apple Podcasts listen button spotify listen buttongoogle podcasts  listen button


all The Latest & Greatest Democracy Podcasts.
Delivered to Your Inbox.