Civics 101

Civics 101

Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College? How do congressional investigations work? What does the minority whip actually do? Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.

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News & Politics

Start listening to Civics 101

Episode 116: Infrastructure - Roads!

Civics 101

Highways, bridges, culverts, and more... Who pays for infrastructure, and who benefits?

18 Min

Apr 17, 2018

Episode 114: The CIA

Civics 101

What is the role of a foreign intelligence service in a democracy?

15 Min

Apr 10, 2018

Episode 113: The Americans with Disabilities Act

Civics 101

One of our broadest, and least appreciated, civil rights laws.

16 Min

Apr 6, 2018

Episode
Podcast
Time
Released
15 min
Apr 3, 2018
i

What does it mean to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment?

15 min
Mar 30, 2018
i

What exactly does the Department of Justice do?

14 min
Mar 27, 2018
i

It's official title is an "Act To Prevent Pernicious Political Activities."

17 min
Mar 23, 2018
i

It protects against searches and seizures... but only those that are unreasonable.

18 min
Mar 20, 2018
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What goes on inside the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

17 min
Mar 16, 2018
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How we treat prisoners of war, and what it says about us.

14 min
Mar 13, 2018
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The two most powerful positions in the cabinet.

17 min
Mar 9, 2018
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The unwritten rules that make or break democracy.

27 min
Mar 6, 2018
i

The history of the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. Also, four Supreme Court cases about the flag and free speech.

16 min
Mar 2, 2018
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The Constitution doesn't explicitly guarantee the right to vote. So, who gets to vote and how did it get that way?

16 min
Feb 27, 2018
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A look into the history and effects of the last reconstruction amendment

17 min
Feb 23, 2018
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The source of due process, equal protection, and citizenship, all in one place.

15 min
Feb 20, 2018
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A look into the history and effects of the first of the reconstruction amendments

15 min
Feb 16, 2018
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A primer on DACA - the Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals.

16 min
Feb 13, 2018
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What is expected of the First Lady, and who defined the role?

15 min
Feb 9, 2018
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We have the firepower to end it all. How do we wield it?

15 min
Feb 6, 2018
i

A closer look at the internal watchdogs that oversee various government agencies.

16 min
Feb 2, 2018
i

Who plays referee in U.S. elections?

17 min
Jan 30, 2018
i

How our voting method came out of voting madness.

18 min
Jan 26, 2018
i

Have super PACs changed the way American elections work?

15 min
Jan 23, 2018
i

The [contentious] history of welfare and its role today

11 min
Jan 20, 2018
i

What happens when the government shuts down?

19 min
Jan 19, 2018
i

We tear through a whole lot of little questions.

20 min
Jan 16, 2018
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A principle called Duverger's law explains why two major political parties dominate American politics.

15 min
Jan 12, 2018
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Who's behind those cigarette package warning labels?

15 min
Jan 9, 2018
i

What happens after the leader of the free world leaves office?

17 min
Jan 5, 2018
i

How the Federal Government reorganized itself in the wake of September 11th.

11 min
Jan 2, 2018
i

Where does our national anthem come from?

13 min
Dec 29, 2017
i

What is Camp David and what do presidents use it for?

14 min
Dec 26, 2017
i

What do lobbyists do day-to-day, and how much power do they have?

15 min
Dec 22, 2017
i

Earthquakes, hurricanes and nuclear war... how well is FEMA prepared to handle out nation's disasters?

17 min
Dec 15, 2017
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What does it mean to be an ally of the United States?

13 min
Dec 5, 2017
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The document that outlines how American flags should and shouldn't be handled.

10 min
Dec 1, 2017
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When the cameras are off, Congress gets down to work.

14 min
Nov 28, 2017
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A look into the background of one of the nation's oldest and most formative institutions

24 min
Nov 24, 2017
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From Tinker to Frederick : Four Supreme Court cases on free speech in public schools.

15 min
Nov 10, 2017
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What role does the Vice President play in running the country?

14 min
Oct 31, 2017
i

The long history of what the press can and cannot publish.

15 min
Oct 27, 2017
i

What are the Federalist Papers, and summaries of the important ones.

11 min
Oct 24, 2017
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What exactly is Populism and how can you identify a Populist candidate?

15 min
Oct 20, 2017
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A closer look at our constitutional right to "peaceably" assemble.

15 min
Oct 17, 2017
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We take a tour through the multi-faceted Environmental Protection Agency.

15 min
Oct 13, 2017
i

What role does the Secretary of Education play in U.S. schools?

11 min
Oct 10, 2017
i

A primer on footballs, biscuits, and the truth behind "the nuclear codes".

13 min
Oct 6, 2017
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The agency that protects people from health, safety, and security threats

14 min
Oct 3, 2017
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Demystifying the debt ceiling.

17 min
Sep 29, 2017
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What does it mean to be the lawyer for the U.S. government?

15 min
Sep 26, 2017
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How do we manage power between the national government and the states?

12 min
Sep 22, 2017
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How and why we count every person living in the United States of America.

11 min
Sep 19, 2017
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What happens when the government shuts down.

12 min
Sep 15, 2017
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We investigate one of the President's most important roles: as head of our armed forces.

14 min
Sep 12, 2017
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A broader look at the often referenced First Amendment of the Constitution - and a deeper dive into what it means to have freedom of speech.

14 min
Sep 8, 2017
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A look at the central banking system of the United States.

14 min
Sep 5, 2017
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The process that aims to keep classified material out of the wrong hands.

16 min
Sep 1, 2017
i

The people at the heart of our judicial system: judges.

14 min
Aug 29, 2017
i

What happens when a President, or a Governor, declares a State of Emergency?

9 min
Aug 22, 2017
i

How many ways are there to cast your vote? And how do they all work?

12 min
Aug 18, 2017
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A look at an increasingly commonplace tool of U.S. foreign policy.

12 min
Aug 15, 2017
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The formal and informal rules that govern who is allowed, and not allowed, to run for the President of the United States of America.

11 min
Aug 11, 2017
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How do Federal grand juries work and how are they used?

14 min
Aug 8, 2017
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What does it mean to be the top U.S. representative in a foreign country?

13 min
Jul 28, 2017
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Who can the President pardon? And for what?

15 min
Jul 25, 2017
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What is a U,S. territory? What is the status of its citizens with regard to the Constitution and U.S. law?

13 min
Jul 21, 2017
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“Obstruction of Justice” has been a term swirling around in the headlines lately, but what does the charge actually mean? And how do you prove it?

16 min
Jul 18, 2017
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Today's civics lesson looks into the separation of church and state.

14 min
Jul 14, 2017
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Where we discover what a lobbyist actually does all day - besides hand over checks.

13 min
Jul 11, 2017
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A primer on what happens if a president dies, resigns, or is no longer able to carry out his duties.

11 min
Jul 7, 2017
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A brief primer on different forms of government.

12 min
Jun 28, 2017
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Presidential job approval. It seems we get a weekly report from news organizations on how citizen’s think the President is doing, so we're digging into how it gets calculated and how much that number really matters with Dan Cassino, Associate Professor...

14 min
Jun 21, 2017
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With more than 500 members of Congress, parties have to coordinate members and keep them on the same page. Enter: party whips. But what do they actually do? Several of you asked us to find out. We asked Larry Evans, the Newton Family Professor of Gover...

13 min
Jun 14, 2017
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In this episode we untangle two terms that are closely related, but not the same: Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. The framers envisioned a government structure that would consist of three separate branches, each with their own power, in o...

13 min
Jun 7, 2017
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War, what is it good for? For a country that’s spent a significant amount of its history engaged in conflict, the United States has only officially declared war 11 times – most recently in WWII. So what about all the other conflicts we’ve entered into ...

14 min
Jun 1, 2017
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We've received a LOT of questions about how the budget process works and honestly, we had a lot of our own! It should come as no surprise that the budget process of the United States government is complex and difficult to explain in less than 15 minute...

15 min
May 24, 2017
i

Even if you slept through most of your Government classes in High School, there's a good chance you have a vague recollection of how a bill becomes a law thanks to Schoolhouse Rock! The series designed to teach kids about grammar, science, math, civics...

14 min
May 17, 2017
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The National Debt and The Deficit: two terms that are often used interchangeably, but take on different meanings when it comes to the government. Louise Sheiner is a Policy Director for The Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings...

11 min
May 10, 2017
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We do our best to answer your questions about how American democracy works, but many of you have also told us you like to get the insider's view from people who work, or have worked in government. We asked Sarada Peri, former senior presidential speech...

13 min
May 5, 2017
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We've received multiple questions about Congressional Caucuses, what are they, how are they formed, and what is their purpose? We asked Colleen Shogun, Deputy Director of Outreach at the Library of Congress to help us understand the approximately 800 C...

14 min
Apr 26, 2017
i

The Supreme Court of the United States hear about 80 cases each year, but how do lower court cases make their way to the highest court in the land, and how do they decide which ones to hear? We asked Behzad Mirhashem, Assistant Professor of Law at Univ...

14 min
Apr 21, 2017
i

Kristen in California asked: "How exactly does the cabinet work? How much control do the secretaries have? And are they loyal to the president or the department." We asked Dean Spiliotes, Civics Scholar at Southern New Hampshire University to help guid...

15 min
Apr 18, 2017
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Why are there no term limits on Congress, how long has it been that way, and what would it take to actually change how long someone can serve? In this episode we look into the long history of term limits for government officials from the President to t...

15 min
Apr 14, 2017
i

When Congress imposed the first personal income tax on Americans in 1861, nothing happened – because there was no agency to collect it! The following year saw the creation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, or as you know it today, the Internal Revenue...

11 min
Apr 11, 2017
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One of our listeners sent in a question asking about “the ethics clause”, which forbids presidents from receiving foreign gifts. As it turns out, there isn’t something in the constitution with exactly that title – but there is something called the “Emo...

16 min
Apr 7, 2017
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The Army-McCarthy hearings, Watergate, the Iran-Contra affair, the Select Committee on Benghazi, the Russian hacking probe. Congressional investigations are a staple of American politics, but how do they work? When is it Congress' job to investigate a...

12 min
Apr 4, 2017
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When Republicans first submitted their alternative to the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle anxiously awaited the release of the Congressional Budget Office's analysis—or "score"—for the bill. Determining the long and short-te...

19 min
Mar 31, 2017
i

We've received a lot of questions about The Electoral College from listeners, from how it works, to why it was set up, and whether or not it can it be changed or removed. So we asked Ron Elving from NPR to explain the basics of The Electoral College, f...

15 min
Mar 28, 2017
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When Senator Mitch McConnell barred Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking during the debate over Jeff Session’s nomination for Attorney General, he invoked Rule XIX. It's safe to say many people suddenly realized how little they knew about the rules o...

15 min
Mar 24, 2017
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If managing your personal appointment calendar is a struggle, imagine what it must be like for the President of the United States? From daily meetings, to promoting policies in speeches across the country, to elaborate trips abroad, the Office of Sched...

15 min
Mar 21, 2017
i

The presidential veto is one of the cornerstones of the system of constitutional checks and balances the framers used to prevent the misuse or abuse of power within any branch of government. How has the veto been used historically and more recently? I...

14 min
Mar 17, 2017
i

Over the years, gerrymandering has become synonymous with weirdly-shaped maps of electoral districts, nefarious political maneuvering, and partisanship. But when did gerrymandering become the norm? Is it always used for political gain? And is there any...

17 min
Mar 14, 2017
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They are two of the most powerful positions in a president’s cabinet: the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. One has been around since the American Revolution, the other is relatively new. So what exactly do these two departments and thei...

15 min
Mar 10, 2017
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George Washington received five letters a day, Theodore Roosevelt received so many letters it became a fire hazard at the White House, and Ronald Reagan loved reading mail from the country’s youngest citizens. In today’s super connected world, who’s in...

15 min
Mar 6, 2017
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From Jimmy Stewart's unyielding speech in "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" to today's threats of using the nuclear option for approving Supreme Court nominees, the term "filibuster" gets thrown around a lot, but what is it? What are the rules governing t...

12 min
Mar 2, 2017
i

What exactly does it mean when we say a president “has the nuclear codes”? Is it really as simple as pressing a button? And what happens after a president does order a nuclear strike? Retired Marine lieutenant colonel James W. Weirick explains. #civi...

13 min
Mar 1, 2017
i

The State of the Union address is a longstanding tradition that involves bizarre, unexplained protocol and more applause than a high school graduation. It’s also mandated by the constitution. In this episode, we learn how the SOTU has changed since Geo...

13 min
Feb 24, 2017
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A number of listeners have asked about a consequential government procedure: How is a president impeached? And why is it that the presidents that have been impeached haven’t been removed from office? Our guide today is Julia Azari, Associate Professor ...

13 min
Feb 21, 2017
i

We're staying on the federal court system beat with a deeper look into the Supreme Court. The word "supreme" is defined as: “an authority or office superior to all others.” So when the Supreme Court decides on a case, it’s final, right? Not exactly. I...

13 min
Feb 16, 2017
i

When a trio of judges on a federal appeals court in Washington state upheld a freeze on president Trump's Executive Order on immigration, some people celebrated, the administration protested - and at least a few people said: “Wait a minute... How *do* ...

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