The United States of Anxiety

By WNYC Studios

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 Mar 4, 2020

 Feb 15, 2020
A well-researched looked into what makes America America.


The United States of Anxiety: The United States of Anxiety is a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future. Many of the political and social arguments we’re having now started in the aftermath of the Civil War, when Americans set out to do something no one had tried before: build the world’s first multiracial democracy. The podcast gives voters the context to understand what’s at stake in this election. WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other great podcasts including Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, and On the Media.

Episode Date
Juneteenth, an Unfinished Business

Juneteenth marks a triumphant moment for not just Black Americans, but all people who have sought liberation globally. On June 19th, Kai Wright hosted a special episode of “The Brian Lehrer Show” with a series of conversations about the history of the national holiday, classical music and Black politics - then and now. Guests include WQXR's Terrance McKnight, historian Dr. Daina Ramey Berry and calls from listeners about their family histories of emancipation.

Listen to Terrance McKnight's Juneteenth special, "The Black Experience in the Concert Hall," at

Jun 26, 2020
Rage, Grief, Joy

After months of fear and mourning amid a global pandemic, we’re now in the streets. This week, we talk about catharsis and the ways we gather to fight, to grieve and to show up for each other. We hear from Shanika Hart, First Lady of The Gathering Harlem, on being a Black mom, fighting for Black lives. And we learn about the life of beloved Brooklynite Lloyd Porter, who died of Covid-19, and the unique way his community gathered to mourn him.

Jun 18, 2020
'Community' Is a Verb. And It’s Hard

As the nation faces the dual brunts of the pandemic and the on-going brutality against black bodies, people more than ever are finding ways to “do the work” in their communities. This week our reporter Jenny Casas takes us to a neighborhood in Chicago where Mexican residents are confronting anti-black violence. Anjali Kamat reports a dispatch from her neighborhood in New York, one of the American epicenters of Covid-19 cases, Jackson Heights. 

Read more coverage of what happened in Chicago from the South Side Weekly.

Jun 12, 2020
Keeping Released Prisoners Safe and Sane

It’s hard enough when there’s no pandemic to keep mentally ill inmates from falling through the holes in a patchwork system when they come out. Now it’s harder than ever. A huge number of people who are locked up in this country are mentally ill or addicted to drugs or both. This episode, we go to Cleveland, Ohio to follow a psychiatrist and a social worker as they, first, try to find and, then, support recently released inmates, all while social distancing.

The United States of Anxiety’s health coverage is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Working to build a Culture of Health that ensures everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. More at

Jun 04, 2020
'I Did Not Watch the Video'

The week Ida B. Wells’ reporting on lynching received a Pulitzer Prize, a video of 25 year-old Ahmaud Arbery being chased and killed began to circulate on social media. It was one of the few news stories that have grabbed widespread attention amid the coronavirus pandemic. But how do we all process such horrible violence, even as we continue to face the daily tragedies of a pandemic?

To answer that question, host Kai Wright sat down for a video chat with a writer whose debut collection of dystopian short stories has won widespread acclaim for reimagining America's responses to anti-black violence. In this episode, Kai and Friday Black author Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah reflect on how they each deal with the spectacle of anti-black violence, what they learned from their elders, and the mind-scrambling experience of living through a pandemic at the center of global capitalism.

May 21, 2020
The Life and Work of Ida B. Wells

Journalist and activist Ida B. Wells was in some ways, a forgotten figure, overlooked even in black civil rights history. But her reporting on lynchings across the South was unwavering in its mission: calling America out on racial injustice. And this week, that work received a special Pulitzer Prize Citation.

Also, in 2018 we recorded a live episode remembering the life and work of Ida B. Wells at The Greene Space. Watch the whole event here.

May 08, 2020
Inside the Prison Pandemic

Three months ago, Kai Wright joined The New Yorker Radio Hour's David Remnick, for a special episode about the effects of mass incarceration and the movement to end it. And now, as the coronavirus pandemic puts inmates in acute and disproportionate danger, that effort gains new traction. Wright and Remnick reconvene to examine the COVID-19 crisis in prison and its political effects.

Kai Wright interviews Udi Ofer, the head of the A.C.L.U.’s Justice Division, who notes that “the communities that the C.D.C. has told us are most vulnerable to COVID-19 are exactly the communities that are housed in our nation’s jails and prisons,” including a disproportionately older population among inmates. And David Remnick speaks with Phil Murphy, the governor of New Jersey, who has signed an executive order to release certain at-risk inmates from states prisons — the sort of measure that would once have been deeply unpopular and risky.

May 01, 2020
Why Covid-19 Is Killing Black People

As black people die from Covid-19 at disproportionate rates, the disease is highlighting health disparities we’ve long known about. Kai Wright speaks with Arline Geronimus, a public health researcher, about what happens to black people’s bodies — on a cellular level — while living in a racist society. Plus, we hear from senior producer Veralyn Williams’ dad, an essential worker in New York who’s doing his best to weather the pandemic.

Apr 24, 2020
Questions to Ask While Waiting

Right now, many of us are sheltered in our homes — alone or with company — finding ways to connect in our “new normal.” And as we grapple with how COVID-19 has reshaped our day-to-day, all most of us can do is wait it out. So in this episode, we’re going to turn to a poem, 45 Questions to Ask While Waiting. Our reporter Jenny Casas looks to it when she wants to get to know the people around her. The poem was written by Chicago-based artist, educator and activist, Benji Hart. The list has questions that range from the mundane (2. Where is the least-visited corner in your home?) to the romantic (5. What is the cruelest thing you have done in love?) to the deeply personal (20. What hypocrisy in yourself have you yet to amend?) — and this week, Jenny and Benji talk about how the questions have helped them think and listen while waiting.

Additional resources:

- Hear about Benji Hart’s work in progress, World After This One

- Read one of the main inspirations for 45 Questions To Ask While Waiting, Dean Spade’s Questionnaire.  

Apr 13, 2020
A History of Style in a Pandemic

When health officials ordered everyone to wear face masks during the 1918 influenza pandemic, black women in Chicago got creative and crafted jewel-studded veils to stay safe. Kai Wright speaks with The Undefeated’s Soraya Nadia McDonald about seeking joy — and staying fly — in times of crisis. Show us how you’re staying safe and stylish: Get your look together and send us a selfie with the hashtag #USofAnxiety2020.

Read Soraya's full article at The Undefeated.

Apr 08, 2020
Dispatches from People Stranded in Place

We’ve got two dispatches from communities where "social-distancing" is not an option. And where decisions we made long ago about homelessness and immigration policy are getting in the way of our ability to protect against Covid 19. WNYC Investigative Reporter Matt Katz brings us calls from inside immigration detention centers. And our reporter Marianne McCune checks in with a homeless advocate, Sam Dennison, who lives and works inside San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood, with the highest number of people sleeping in tents in the city.

The United States of Anxiety’s health coverage is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Working to build a Culture of Health that ensures everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. More at

Apr 03, 2020
Keep Calm and Check Your Bias

Our current situation has left many of us asking fundamental questions about our work, about our relationships, and the meaning of home. This week, we're checking in on one another and taking stock. Host Kai Wright calls reporter Jenny Casas on her drive from New York to Chicago. Then, he and Dr. Gail Christopher, an expert in public health and founder of the Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature, connect for a conversation about Kai's "Katrina Feeling," how racism is poised to affect us all in the face of COVID-19, and why it's important to spend some time among the trees. 

The United States of Anxiety’s health coverage is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Working to build a Culture of Health that ensures everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. More at

Mar 26, 2020
Presenting: White Lies
The United States of Anxiety presents: White Lies
On the United States of Anxiety, we explore the unfinished business of American history and its grip on our future.  Our friends at NPR's White Lies share that interest. Today, we’re bringing you the first episode of their series.
In 1965, Rev. James Reeb was murdered in Selma, Alabama. Three men were tried and acquitted, but no one was ever held accountable. Fifty years later, two journalists from Alabama return to the town where it happened, expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt and memory that says as much about America today as it does about the past. Hosted by Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley. Subscribe here.
Mar 24, 2020
Last Chance at Justice

History tells us that, in a time of crisis, we have to be careful about how we respond. At the start of the Iraq War in 2003, Salah Hasan Nusaif al-Ejaili was working as a journalist when the U.S. military detained him inside Abu Ghraib, a prison that would become notorious for American abuses committed in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Only a handful of people were ever held responsibleall of them military personnel. But the private contractors who oversaw interrogations at Abu Ghraib have yet to be held accountable. In this episode, one man's pursuit to get justice 17 years after the war began. 

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Seth Freed Wessler, in partnership with Reveal and Type Media Center. Produced and edited by Christopher Werth.


Mar 19, 2020
Alone Together During COVID-19: Live Call-in

Part of the mission of our show is to address our collective anxieties. The COVID-19 pandemic has already drastically reshaped our lives, our politics, and our health -- both physical and mental. Right now, it's not clear if or when things will feel normal again. In this bonus episode, host Kai Wright teams up with Anna Sale of Death, Sex & Money to take listener calls, and to talk about how everyone is coping so far.

Mar 13, 2020
Black Power at the Polls

A lot of people have a lot of opinions about the choices black people are making in the Democratic primary. But as we've seen in other election cycles, when the dust settles, the country seems to move on. This week, host Kai Wright sits down with Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, to discuss the Reconstruction-era origins of today's coalition between black voters in the South and liberal white voters in the North... and why this relationship often precludes a conversation about actual black political power. 

LeeAnna Keith is author of When it was Grand

Normalizing Injustice is a study of scripted crime TV shows by Color of Change and the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center

Mar 12, 2020
Keeping White Power at the Polls

The United States of Anxiety presents: What Next

"One person, one vote" has not always been a given in America. After the Civil War, there was some debate over who should be counted in a congressional district: every person, or every person eligible to vote? The 14th Amendment aimed to settle this question forever, but as the demographics of our country have shifted and changed over the course of our nation's history, so too have the politics of how we count the people who live within our borders. This week, our friends at Slate's What Next podcast team up with reporter Ari Berman to tell a story about how the Trump Administration has revived the debate, and the GOP's quiet plan to redefine political representation and maintain white minority rule in America.

- Mary Harris is host of What Next. Hear the original version of this story here.

- Ari Berman is author of Give Us the Ballot. Read his original reporting on this issue at Mother Jones.


Mar 05, 2020
A Secret Meeting in South Bend

Mike Jackson, like many descendants of the Great Migration, has a family home that was built from protest, resilience and ingenuity. In the spring of 1950, his parents met in secret with 25 other families to create Better Homes of South Bend. Their efforts would later become a collection of homes on the 1700 and 1800 blocks of N. Elmer St. But today, the value of those houses doesn’t match the work it took to put them there. This week: what these family stories of housing in the “heartland” say about inequity in home ownership today.

Gabrielle Robinson is the author of Better Homes of South Bend: An American Story of Courage. Robinson is currently working with a Washington D.C. based playwright to adapt the Better Homes story into a play. 

- Andre Perry is a Fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and the author of The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods and the forthcoming book Know Your Price

- The full interview with Leroy and Margaret Cobb, as well as other interviews about South Bend life during the time Better Homes organizing, can be heard through the Oral History Collection of the Indiana University South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Jenny Casas.

The United States of Anxiety’s health coverage is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Working to build a Culture of Health that ensures everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. More at

Feb 27, 2020
Fragility in Liberty

Many of us associate the Statue of Liberty with the poem mounted on her pedestal: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The monument has become a symbol of immigration. What fewer of us know is that Lady Liberty was originally conceived as a tribute to the abolition of slavery. In fact, what we find as we look into history is that our country's immigration policy is closely intertwined with the end of Reconstruction and rise of Jim Crow. In this episode, we tell the story of one undocumented immigrant—Carlos Aguirre-Venegas—and trace the origins of a little-known law that's now being used to prosecute tens of thousands of people who crossed the border, separate some from their children, and lock them away in federal prisons.

- Jim Elkin is a National Park Ranger at Statue of Liberty National Monument

- Eric Foner is author of The Second Founding

- Kelly Lytle Hernandez is a professor of History, African American Studies, and Urban Planning at UCLA and author of City of Inmates

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Seth Freed Wessler, in partnership with Type Investigations. Produced and edited by Christopher Werth. For more on Seth's reporting about Carlos Aguirre-Venegas and the privately-run prisons used exclusively to incarcerate non-citizens convicted of crimes, see his 2016 investigation in The Nation.

Feb 20, 2020
Paralysis at the Crossroads

As primary season kicks off, Democratic voters around the country face a deeper choice than electability: Is the best response to Donald Trump a return to comity and unity in our politics, or must they embrace the ugly conflict that fundamental change will likely require? We get advice on confronting the enormity of the choice from Deidre Dejear, a voting advocate in Iowa. Plus, a look back at another election in which voters faced a similar choice--and when politics collapsed into outright warfare.

- Deidre Dejear became the first black candidate to win a statewide primary in Iowa when she ran for Secretary of State in 2018. She later became Kamala Harris' Iowa campaign chair.

- LeeAnna Keith is author of When It Was Grand.

Hosted by Kai Wright. Produced by Jessica Miller. Special thanks to the Public Policy Center at the University of Iowa.

Feb 13, 2020
Two Schools in Marin County

Last year, the California Attorney General held a tense press conference at a tiny elementary school in the one working class, black neighborhood of the mostly wealthy and white Marin County. His office had concluded that the local district "knowingly and intentionally" maintained a segregated school, violating the 14th amendment. He ordered them to fix it, but for local officials and families, the path forward remains unclear, as is the question: what does "equal protection" mean?

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Marianne McCune.

Feb 06, 2020
40 Acres in Mississippi

Elbert Lester has lived his full 94 years in Quitman County, Mississippi, on land he and his family own. That’s exceptional for black people in this area, and some family members even say the land came to them through “40 acres and a mule.” But that's pretty unlikely, so host Kai Wright goes on a search for the truth, and uncovers a story about an old and fundamental question in American politics -- one at the center of the current election: Who are the rightful owners of this country’s staggering wealth?

- John Willis is author of Forgotten Time

- Eric Foner is author of The Second Founding

The United States of Anxiety’s health coverage is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Jan 30, 2020
Can We Finally Build a Multiracial Democracy in 2020?

When the Civil War ended, America set out to do something no other country had tried before: to build the world's first multiracial democracy. More than 150 years later, we’re still trying to pull it off. Will the 2020 election bring us closer to that goal?

Follow Kai Wright on Twitter @Kai_Wright.

Jan 16, 2020
Welcome to 'The Stakes'

From host Kai Wright and the team that brought you The United States of Anxiety, a new show about what's not working about our society, how we can do better and why we have to. In episode one, we investigate one of the longest-running public health epidemics in American history and the ongoing fight for accountability. 

Follow Kai on Twitter at @kai_wright.

Support for WNYC reporting on lead is provided by the New York State Health Foundation, improving the health of all New Yorkers, especially the most vulnerable. Learn more at Additional support for WNYC’s health coverage is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Jane and Gerald Katcher and the Katcher Family Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Apr 23, 2019
Kirsten Gillibrand's Path to Power

The junior senator from New York has quickly developed a reputation as a political firebrand - one who's willing to challenge men who abuse their power, even when they're among her closest allies. Think Al Franken and Bill Clinton. Over the past decade, she went from being a newly-elected U.S. Representative appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat to become one of the Democratic Party's most-likely contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination. What does Kirsten Gillibrand's rise tell us about the relationship between gender and power in American politics?

Nov 15, 2018
¡Sí Se Puede!

Before “Yes we can!”, there was “¡Sí se puede!” – the workers’ rallying cry coined by lifelong activist Dolores Huerta. In this episode, Huerta (now 88) is interviewed by her daughter Juana about the role gender played in her work and family life. Plus, what the midterm results mean going forward.

This episode was produced in partnership with Latino USA, a weekly Latino news and culture program from NPR and the Futuro Media Group. Check out their version of this story here.

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

This report is produced with support from Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from WNET reporting on poverty, jobs, and economic opportunity in America.

Nov 09, 2018
What Does the Right Kind of Woman Sound Like?

Shrill, strident, bossy. These are the misogynistic slurs women often face when they run for elected office. In this episode, we meet Rena Cook, a voice coach in Oklahoma who’s training progressive, female candidates on how to subvert our inbuilt biases about women’s voices. Plus, we look back on what the 1977 National Women’s Conference did (and didn’t) do for feminism.

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

Nov 05, 2018
The Right Kind of Woman

Women running for office are often forced to play by different rules. We look at two candidates: Stacey Abrams in Georgia and Mikie Sherrill in suburban New Jersey. Both are Democrats fighting their way into Republican territory, but in very different ways. Plus, Michigan’s first female governor weighs in on all the “don’ts” for women politicians.

This episode is a collaboration with Death, Sex, and Money, another WNYC Studios podcast. Check out their full episode on Jennifer Granholm, former Governor of Michigan. 

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

This report is produced with support from Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from WNET reporting on poverty, jobs, and economic opportunity in America.
Oct 31, 2018
The Women of Texas's Secret Resistance

Rural Texas has a reputation as solid Republican territory, but hidden within those large swathes of red are small, individual flecks of blue. In this episode, we bring you the story of a group of progressive, Texan women who are organizing — in secret — out of fear of retaliation from their neighbors.

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

Special thanks to Professor Shannon McGregor in the Department of Communication at The University of Utah and to Caroline Covington for her reporting in Burnet, Texas.

Additional thanks to Emily Van Duyn, whose full study "Hidden Democracy: Political Dissent in Rural America" is available in the Journal of Communication, a publication of the International Communication Association.



Oct 25, 2018
Ida B. Wells

Journalist and activist Ida B. Wells is in some ways a forgotten figure, overlooked even in black civil rights history. But her reporting on lynchings across the South was unwavering in its mission: calling America out on racial injustice. And, why black women are no longer willing to play the role of “Magical Negro” in U.S. politics.

The United States of Anxiety recently recorded a live episode remembering the life and work of Ida B. Wells at The Greene Space. Watch the whole event here.

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White. 

This report is produced with support from Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from WNET reporting on poverty, jobs, and economic opportunity in America.


Oct 18, 2018
Women in the Senate

When we began this season of The United States of Anxiety, we wanted to get an up-close view of the role gender plays in politics. One of the indicators of that struggle are the numbers. First, we looked to Congress:

As you can see, women have been underrepresented in our legislature since it first convened in 1789. Back then, there were no women in Congress. Women didn't even have the right to vote. Fast forward to today and only 107 out of 535 members of both the House and Senate are women. Over the course of US history, 61% of all women who have ever been in Congress were elected between the 1991 "Year of the Woman" and today, which means the rate is accelerating. Yet, we have not come close to parity. We were especially interested in tracking the history of women in the Senate.

Just 52 women have made it into the US Senate. However, most of those early women were appointed to office, not elected, and the first female US Senator, Rebecca Latimer Felton, only officially served for 24 hours. It wasn't until 1978 when Nancy Landon Kassebaum, a Republican from Kansas, was elected in her own right, without prior appointment. We wanted to hear from these women who have made it into this rarified enclave of power: What motivated them to run? How did they make space for themselves in their workplace, which was designed around male power? What are they looking forward to in this 2018 "Year of the Woman"?

We reached out to all 37 living women Senators past and present. Here are some of their stories and words of advice for future leaders. You’ll also hear some of them reflect on why they feel a need for more women to be elected. Highlights include Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois describing her experience as the first black woman to be elected to the Senate; Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire talking about how fighting for her son with severe disabilities catalyzed her political career; Jean Carnahan of Missouri reflecting on how becoming a US Senator helped her overcome the grief of losing her husband, who died three weeks before election day (she ended up taking his seat); and Patty Murray of Washington, who was told by political consultants to downplay her gender on the campaign trail.



Interviews by Brigid Bergin, Jessica Miller, Kai Wright and Elizabeth Ucles. Animation and illustrations by Clarisa Diaz. Additional audio engineering by Cayce Means.

Oct 11, 2018
The Original Nasty Woman

Jeannette Rankin had a belief: That women were essential to the health of our democracy. She became the first woman elected to Congress over a century ago. Now, Kathleen Williams is vying to follow in her footsteps. Plus, what if we filled all 435 seats in the House with women? Would it make a difference?

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

Oct 10, 2018
The 'Indoor Man' and His Playmates

Playboy was never just about the pictures or the articles. The magazine helped create a men's liberation movement, founded on the notion that men could have anything they wanted. From Donald Trump to Harvey Weinstein, Hugh Hefner's concept of the "indoor man" has had a lasting influence.

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.



Oct 02, 2018
The Pedestal

Paula Casey is on a mission. She wants to erect a statue in Memphis dedicated to those who fought for a woman’s right to vote more than a century ago. The problem: There’s a Confederate monument in the way. And… meet the woman who vowed to shut down women’s suffrage forever.

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

Sep 25, 2018
We've Been Here Before

When Barbara Mikulski arrived in the Senate, all the podiums were built for men… and so was Washington's power structure. So she changed it. In this episode, Mikulski and three of her female Senate colleagues look back at Anita Hill's testimony and the 1992 elections that followed it, the last “Year of the Woman.”

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson CollectiveThe New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

Sep 18, 2018
The Dream Was Not Mine

Jennifer Willoughby was in an abusive marriage. Saily Avelenda was unhappy with her congressman, who'd held office for over two decades without facing a serious contender. They didn’t know they were about to topple two political giants. Plus, want to know the real reason the 2018 midterms could make history? It has to do with a number political scientists call the "gender gap."

Note: WNYC made several attempts to reach Rob Porter for comment. He did not respond before this episode was released. 

The United States of Anxiety is supported in part by the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Additional support for WNYC’s election coverage is provided by Emerson Collective, The New York Community Trust, and New York Public Radio Trustee Dr. Mary White.

Sep 17, 2018
The United States of Anxiety Season Three: There's an Election Coming

Women gained the right to vote nearly a century ago. Yet, power is still concentrated in the hands of men. In a year that’s seen a surge of female candidates, the question at the heart of the 2018 midterms is: Who is our democracy for?

Sep 14, 2018
The US of Anxiety Wants to Hear from You

A record number of women are running for office this primary season, which means there's a groundswell of energy around targeting female voters with campaign ads.

For our next season of the United States of Anxiety, we’re focusing on power and gender, and we’ve partnered with ProPublica to look at how political advertising targets people of different genders differently on Facebook.

Unlike broadcast television ads, which are heavily regulated, we have no idea how individual voters are micro-targeted on Facebook. It’s still the Wild West. Nor do we know about potentially unethical or misleading advertising that may be happening.

We do know from the Cambridge Analytica scandal that much of the misinformation spread in 2016 targeted people based on their race and gender. And we know that this is an election in which gender is expected to be a decisive factor.

What can you do?

  1. Download the ProPublica Ad Tracker Extension - You can download the Facebook Political Ad Collector from the Chrome Web Store or the Mozilla Add-ons Store. NOTE: ProPublica is NOT collecting any private information from you. The plugin simply copies the ads you are seeing in your unique feed. You can read more about how ProPublica is protecting your privacy here.
  2. See the ads that other people are seeing - take a look through ProPublica’s database of political ads
  3. Send us tips - Have you seen any political ads that appear to target you by your gender? Or target you by your race? Have you seen any political ads that appear to celebrate women? Or any ads that seem misogynistic? Take a screenshot and email us at to tell us what you’re seeing. 

By doing this, you'll be part of groundbreaking research — remember this is the first election cycle since Facebook changed its policies. And you'll also be helping WNYC and ProPublica bring you reporting and analysis about these campaign ads.

To get started, visit


Aug 09, 2018
Introducing ‘Caught’: Our New Podcast

America incarcerates more people than any country in the world. It starts with kids. On any given night, roughly 53,000 young people are in some form of lockup. Nearly 60 percent are black or Latino. We all make dumb mistakes in our youth. But for these kids, those same destructive choices have a lasting impact. Mass incarceration starts young.

From the team that brought you The United States of Anxiety, Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice tells the stories of young lives forever changed by collisions with law and order. In this episode, meet Z, a kid who had his first encounters with law enforcement when he was just 12 years old. Now, at 16, he’s sitting in detention on an armed robbery charge. Z's story introduces the questions: What happens once we decide a child is a criminal? What does society owe those children, beyond punishment? And what are the human consequences of the expansion and hardening of criminal justice policies that began in the 1990s – consequences disproportionately experienced by black and brown youth?

Caught: The Lives of Juvenile Justice is supported, in part, by the Anne Levy Fund, Margaret Neubart Foundation, the John and Gwen Smart Family Foundation, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Subscribe on iTunes.

Mar 20, 2018
How Ivanka Trump And Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment

This article is a collaboration between WNYC, ProPublica and The New Yorker.

In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell. Despite the best efforts of the siblings’ defense team, the case had not gone away. An indictment seemed like a real possibility. The evidence included emails from the Trumps making clear that they were aware they were using inflated figures about how well the condos were selling to lure buyers.

In one email, according to four people who have seen it, the Trumps discussed how to coordinate false information they had given to prospective buyers. In another, according to a person who read the emails, they worried that a reporter might be onto them. In yet another, Donald, Jr. spoke reassuringly to a broker who was concerned about the false statements, saying that nobody would ever find out, because only people on the email chain or in the Trump Organization knew about the deception, according to a person who saw the email.

There was “no doubt” that the Trump children “approved, knew of, agreed to, and intentionally inflated the numbers to make more sales,” one person who saw the emails told us. “They knew it was wrong.”

In 2010, when the Major Economic Crimes Bureau of the D.A.’s office opened an investigation of the siblings, the Trump Organization had hired several top New York criminal defense lawyers to represent Donald, Jr. and Ivanka. These attorneys had met with prosecutors in the bureau several times. They conceded that their clients had made exaggerated claims, but argued that the overstatements didn’t amount to criminal misconduct. Still, the case dragged on. In a meeting with the defense team, Donald Trump, Sr., expressed frustration that the investigation had not been closed. Soon after, his longtime personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz entered the case.

Kasowitz, who by then had been the elder Donald Trump’s attorney for a decade, is primarily a civil litigator with little experience in criminal matters. But in 2012, Kasowitz donated $25,000 to the re-election campaign of Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., making Kasowitz one of Vance’s largest donors. Kasowitz decided to bypass the lower-level prosecutors and went directly to Vance to ask that the investigation be dropped.

On May 16, 2012, Kasowitz visited Vance’s office at One Hogan Place in downtown Manhattan — a faded edifice made famous by the television show, “Law & Order.” Dan Alonso, the chief assistant district attorney, and Adam Kaufmann, the chief of the investigative division, were also at the meeting, but no one from the Major Economic Crimes Bureau attended. Kasowitz did not introduce any new arguments or facts during his session. He simply repeated the arguments that the other defense lawyers had been making for months.

Ultimately, Vance overruled his own prosecutors. Three months after the meeting, he told them to drop the case. Kasowitz subsequently boasted to colleagues about representing the Trump children, according to two people. He said that the case was “really dangerous,” one person said, and that it was “amazing I got them off.” (Kasowitz denied making such a statement.)

Vance defended his decision. “I did not at the time believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime had been committed,” he told us. “I had to make a call and I made the call, and I think I made the right call.”

Just before the 2012 meeting, Vance’s campaign had returned Kasowitz’s $25,000 contribution, in keeping with what Vance describes as standard practice when a donor has a case before his office. Kasowitz “had no influence and his contributions had no influence whatsoever on my decision-making in the case,” Vance said.

But less than six months after the D.A.’s office dropped the case, Kasowitz made an even larger donation to Vance’s campaign, and helped raise more from others—eventually, a total of more than $50,000. After being asked about these donations as part of the reporting for this article—more than four years after the fact—Vance said he now plans to give back Kasowitz’s second contribution, too. “I don’t want the money to be a millstone around anybody’s neck, including the office’s,” he said.

Kasowitz told us his donations to Vance were unrelated to the case. “I donated to Cy Vance’s campaign because I was and remain extremely impressed by him as a person of impeccable integrity, as a brilliant lawyer and as a public servant with creative ideas and tremendous ability,” Kasowitz wrote in an emailed statement. “I have never made a contribution to anyone’s campaign, including Cy Vance’s, as a ‘quid-pro-quo’ for anything.”

Last year, The New York Times reported the existence of the criminal investigation into the Trump SoHo project. But the prosecutor’s focus on Ivanka and Donald, Jr. and the email evidence against them, as well as Kasowitz’s involvement, and Vance’s decision to overrule his prosecutors, had not been previously made public. This account is based on interviews with 20 sources familiar with the investigation, court records, and other public documents. We were not able to review copies of the emails that were the focal point of the inquiry. We are relying on the accounts of multiple individuals who have seen them.

Requests for interviews with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., were referred to Alan Garten, the chief legal officer of the Trump Organization. In an emailed response, Garten did not address a list of questions about the criminal case. Instead, he quoted the company’s filings in civil litigation relating to the Trump SoHo, which described complaints as “a simple case of buyers’ remorse.”

But even a lawyer in the Trump camp acknowledges that the way the case was resolved was unusual. “Dropping the case was reasonable,” said Paul Grand, a partner at Morvillo Abramowitz who was part of the Trump SoHo defense team. “The manner in which it was accomplished is curious.”

Grand, who was a partner of Vance’s when the district attorney was in private practice, said he did not believe that the D.A.’s office had evidence of criminal misconduct by the Trump children. But the meeting between Vance and Kasowitz “didn’t have an air you’d like,” he said. “If you and I were district attorney and you knew that a subject of an investigation was represented by two or three well-thought-of lawyers in town, and all of a sudden someone who was a contributor to your campaign showed up on your doorstep, and the regular lawyers are nowhere to be seen, you’d think about how you’d want to proceed.”

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In June 2006, during the season finale of “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump, Sr. unveiled the Trump SoHo as a visionary project. The luxury development was intended to mark the ascension of Ivanka and Donald, Jr.—then 24 and 28 years old, respectively—as full players in the Trump empire. They signed the licensing deal alongside their father, and photographs of Ivanka were featured in the Trump SoHo’s advertising, under the tagline “Possess your own SoHo.”

Their partners on the project included two Soviet-born businessmen, Felix Sater and Tevfik Arif, who ran the Bayrock Group, a real estate development firm. Sater had a history of running afoul of the law. In 1993, he was convicted of assault and spent about a year in prison for attacking a man with the stem of a margarita glass in a bar fight. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering for his role in a $40 million securities fraud scheme.

The Trump SoHo was beleaguered from the start: Named for one of Manhattan’s trendiest neighborhoods, the development wasn’t really in SoHo, but located just west of it, near the entrance ramp to the Holland Tunnel. Zoning laws wouldn’t allow a residential tower at the location, so the Trumps fell back on an alternative: a “condo-hotel,” in which buyers got a hotel room rather than an apartment, and were legally prohibited from staying there more than 120 nights per year. Worse, the high-priced condos hit the market in September 2007, just as the global economy began to crater in what became the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Business was slow, but the Trump family claimed the opposite. In April 2008, they said that 31 percent of the condos in the building had been purchased. Donald Jr. boasted to The Real Deal magazine that 55 percent of the units had been bought. In June 2008, Donald, Jr. and Ivanka, alongside their brother Eric, gathered the foreign press at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where Ivanka announced that 60 percent had been snapped up. “We’re in a very fortunate position,” she said, “where we have enough sales and now we are strategically targeting certain buyers.”

None of that was true. According to a sworn affidavit by a Trump partner filed with the New York Attorney General’s office, by March of 2010, almost two years after the press conference, only 15.8 percent of units had been sold.

This was more than a marketing problem. The deal hinged on selling at least 15 percent of the units. By law, the sales couldn’t close with anything less. The Trumps and their partners would have had to return the buyers’ down payments.

Some buyers concluded that they’d been cheated. In August 2010, some sued the Trump Organization and others involved in the project in New York federal court. “This action seeks to redress the substantial and ongoing pattern of fraudulent misrepresentations and deceptive sales practices” by the Trumps and the other defendants, the suit charged. The plaintiffs argued that there’s a vast difference in value between a unit in a building that is fifteen percent sold and one that is sixty percent sold. Their complaint accused the sellers, including the Trumps, of “a consistent and concerted pattern of outright lies.”

After the civil suit was filed, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office opened a criminal investigation. Prosecutors are often wary of getting involved in a dispute between wealthy litigants. But in this instance, according to a person familiar with their thinking, the lawyers in the Major Economic Crimes Bureau quickly concluded that there was enough to warrant an investigation. They believed that Ivanka and Donald, Jr., might have violated the Martin Act, a New York statute that bans any false statement in conjunction with the sale of a security or real estate. Prosecutors also saw potential fraud and larceny charges, applying a legal theory that, by overstating the number of units sold, the Trump were falsely inflating their value and, in effect, cheating unsuspecting condo buyers.

Peirce Moser, an assistant district attorney known for his methodical, comprehensive investigations, soon took over the case. “He is not a cowboy,” Marc Scholl, who spent almost forty years as a prosecutor in the district attorney’s office, said. “He is certainly not out to make headlines for himself or to advance himself.”

On the other side, the Trumps’ defense team included Gary Naftalis and David Frankel, of the law firm Kramer Levin; Paul Grand represented one of the real estate brokers who had worked with the Trumps.

As the investigation progressed, Vance suffered an embarrassing setback in one of his highest profile cases. In the summer of 2011, his office had abandoned a sexual-assault case against the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Vance, who was pummeled in the press afterward, denied in his interview with us that the case made him reluctant to take on another prominent defendant.

A few months later, on Jan. 11, 2012, Marc Kasowitz contributed $25,000 to Vance’s campaign, unbeknownst to prosecutors in the Major Economic Crimes Bureau, who continued their work. Moser was particularly focused on email correspondence, according to seven people familiar with the case.

The prosecutors began considering impaneling a special grand jury, according to a person familiar with the investigation. That would have represented a significant escalation in the case, because it is often a prelude to indictments. With a grand jury in place, defense lawyers knew the risk of indictment was high.

The defense team offered a deal to stave off this possibility, floating the possibility of a settlement of some kind, including a deferred prosecution agreement, which would have meant the corporate equivalent of probation for the Trump Organization. With the investigation appearing to gather momentum, Naftalis and Grand, who had already met with the prosecutors twice, began to step up their campaign against the case. Grand calls this the “internal appellate process.” Particularly when well-heeled or high-profile defendants are involved, there can be a multi-month advocacy process that slowly makes its way up the hierarchy inside the Manhattan D.A.’s office.

Grand and Naftalis decided that it would be unwise to go over the heads of the staff prosecutors. Instead, on April 18, 2012, they sent a letter to Adam Kaufmann, then chief of the investigative division (he’s now in private practice), outlining their arguments.

The next day, the defense lawyers met with Moser, Kaufmann, and others from the prosecution team. The defense team acknowledged that the Trumps made some exaggerated statements in order to sell the units. But this was mere “puffery”— harmless exaggeration. Such language, they contended, didn’t amount to criminal conduct. The Trumps weren’t selling useless swampland in Florida. The condos existed. And the buyers’ money was in escrow the entire time.

The defense lawyers argued that bringing such a case to trial would be wasteful and that resources would be better spent on more serious offenses. As Grand put it to us during our recent interview, “I guess in a world that is completely pure and where there is no deviation between propriety and the law, that kind of exaggeration and deliberately concentrated exaggeration can be pursued. But is that the kind of criminal law enforcement the D.A. should be doing?”

Moser’s answer seemed to be “yes,” and he found support among his supervisors. Moser had prepared an elaborate PowerPoint presentation, featuring dozens of emails that prosecutors believed showed that Ivanka and Donald, Jr. had repeatedly lied to buyers. “You couldn’t have had a better email trail,” a person familiar with the investigation told us.

At the meeting, Kaufmann peppered the defense team with questions, at one point raising his voice, according to a person who was there. “I believed in the case,” Kaufmann told us, though he declined to discuss the evidence. “But believing in the case doesn’t mean we had reached the point when [I had] settled on what should happen with the case.”


White-collar criminal cases are often challenging to bring because of their complexity. And, by the time of the April meeting, prosecutors knew that they faced another impediment, this one created by legal maneuvers in the Trumps’ civil case. Five months earlier, the Trumps and their partners had reached a settlement with the disgruntled buyers. The defendants agreed to return 90 percent of the buyers’ deposits, plus their attorneys’ fees. But they extracted a rare concession in return: The plaintiffs agreed not to cooperate with prosecutors unless they were subpoenaed. (Garten, the Trump Organization’s chief legal officer, noted that the settlement terms were confidential and declined to comment on them.)

Adam Leitman Bailey, the attorney for the buyers, had been helping prosecutors. Now he provided aid to the Trumps, writing a letter to the district attorney that stated: “We acknowledge that the Defendants have not violated the criminal laws of the State of New York or the United States.” In our interview with Vance, he said he had never before seen a letter where plaintiffs in a civil case asserted that no crime had been committed. “I don’t think I’d ever received a letter like it,” Vance said. He calls it a “significant and important” communication.

Certainly, prosecutors could subpoena the buyers of Trump condos. But they feared the witnesses would undercut the criminal case by claiming they weren’t victims of a fraud.

Still, Moser, backed by his supervisors, persisted. “Peirce believed in his case,” Grand said. “We did not succeed in talking him out of it and didn’t succeed in talking one or two levels above him into dropping the case.”


Finally, in the spring of 2012, Kasowitz joined the case. His involvement “came from out of the blue,” Grand told us. He and the other lawyers assumed Kasowitz intervened at the request of Donald Trump, Sr.

In early May 2012, Kasowitz asked to see the District Attorney. Vance told us such meetings aren’t unusual — but his investigations chief at the time, Kaufmann, characterized Kasowitz’s request as “a little premature.” The Trump lawyer was going over the heads of everyone who had been working on the case. The gathering, on May 16, lasted 20 to 30 minutes, according to Vance. Kasowitz repeated the arguments the defense team had made before.

Afterwards, Kasowitz didn’t seem to think his clients were in the clear. On August 1, he suggested a settlement, proposing that the Trump Organization would not admit to wrongdoing but would agree not to mislead people in the future and would submit to outside monitoring. The offer proved unnecessary. Two days later, on August 3, 2012, Moser called the Trumps’ defense attorneys and told them prosecutors were dropping the investigation. (Moser, who  still works for Vance, now as senior investigative counsel, did not respond to requests for an interview made over multiple months. Shortly before this article was published, he sent an email stating that Vance’s ultimate decision in the case “was not unreasonable” and that throughout the process, the D.A. asked “smart questions” and expressed “reasonable skepticism.”)

In his interview, Vance defended his decision to drop the case with no conditions, even after Kasowitz offered a deal. “This started as a civil case,” Vance said. “It was settled as a civil case with a statement by the purchasers of luxury properties that they weren’t victims. And at the end of the day, I felt if we were not going to charge criminally, we should leave it as a civil case in the posture in which it came to us.”

In September 2012, within weeks of the case being resolved, Kasowitz contacted Vance’s campaign about hosting a fundraiser, according to a spokesperson for the campaign. Kasowitz held the event that January. He personally donated almost $32,000 to Vance’s campaign, and 20 of his law firm’s partners and employees kicked in at least another $9,000. Then, in October 2013, as Election Day approached, he hosted a breakfast —“Republicans for Cy Vance” — which raised an additional $9,000.

Vance defended his decision to accept the money Kasowitz sent his way. “We did the right thing,” he said, referring to the decision to drop the case. “Another five and a half months go by. Marc Kasowitz has no matter pending before the office for the Trumps or anybody else. It’s 2013 and it’s an election—and I welcome his support.” Vance noted that New York law allowed him to accept such a contribution. Still, he now intends to return the money to Kasowitz.

Ivanka Trump is now an adviser to the President, with an office in the West Wing. Donald, Jr., is running much of the family empire while his father is in the White House. Kasowitz attained national prominence when he was retained to represent the president in the Russia investigation, only to be supplanted as lead counsel. Vance is running unopposed for reelection in November. The Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2014 and was taken over by a creditor. Only a hundred and twenty-eight of the three hundred and ninety-one units in the building have sold. That comes out to around thirty-three percent.

Derek Kravitz and Leora Smith of ProPublica contributed reporting to this article, as did Keenan Chen, Alex Mierjeski, Inti Pacheco and Manuela Andreoni of Columbia Journalism Investigations.

This article is a collaboration between WNYC, ProPublica and The New Yorker

Oct 10, 2017
The Counter-Jihad Movement & the Making of a President

President George W. Bush, speaking at a mosque on Sept. 17, 2001: "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace."

Donald Trump, campaigning for president on March 9, 2016: "I think Islam hates us."

David Yerushalmi was living in an Israeli settlement near Jerusalem speaking on the phone with his father when the planes hit the towers on Sept. 11, 2001. "We got it wrong," Yerushalmi remembers telling his father. Before Sept. 11th, Yerushalmi thought terrorism was about nationalism, a fight over land. Afterward, he decided terrorism committed by Muslim extremists was driven by Islam itself -- and underpinned by Islamic Shariah law.  

So he packed up his family and moved to New York to become part of a fledgling community of conservatives who would come to be known as counter-jihadists. They had an uphill battle to fight: In the aftermath of Sept. 11, President Bush and most Americans, according to polls, did not equate Islam with terrorism. 

But 16 years later, even though there hasn't been another large-scale terrorist attack on American soil committed by a Muslim, America's perspective on Islam has changed -- evidenced most notably by the election of a president who believes the religion itself hates the country.

Yerushalmi is a big reason for this change of heart. He's a behind-the-scenes leader of the counter-jihad movement, filing lawsuits pushing back against the encroachment of Islam in the public sphere and crafting a series of anti-Sharia laws that Muslims and civil rights groups decry as Islamophobic.

"Do I think that the United States is weak enough to collapse either from a kinetic Jihad, meaning war, or even a civilizational Jihad that the Muslim Brotherhood talks about? No. At least not in my lifetime. But do I think it's an existential threat that allows for sleeper cells and the Internet-grown Jihadist that we see day in and day out wreaking so much havoc here and in Europe? Yes. Do I see it as a threat to our freedoms and liberties incrementally through their so-called civilizational Jihad where they use our laws and our freedoms to undermine our laws and our freedoms? Absolutely."

Matt Katz speaks to Yerulshami about what he thinks is the creeping threat of Sharia law.

Episode Contributors

Kai Wright

Matt Katz

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Sep 11, 2017
Video: Living in Between Worlds

One Brooklyn woman's complicated relationship with the hijab and the experience of living in between worlds.

Sep 11, 2017
Help Us Map the Confederate Flag

In the wake of the recent violence in Charlottesville, where a protester was killed by a white supremacist, dozens of monuments to the Confederacy are being taken down.

It's an extraordinary moment in American history, and in this episode, we stop to ask: When did the Confederate flag start showing up in the North?

The story brings together segregationists like Strom Thurmond with Southern rock icons Lynyrd Skynyrd and TV's The Dukes of Hazzard. All of them helped bring the flag to a national audience in the 20th century, as white Americans struggled to make sense of the civil rights movement, and in many cases, pushed back.

Additionally, WNYC is mapping the locations of Confederate flags in New York state. If you've spotted one, please let us know here!

Aug 23, 2017
America's Fourth: Beyond Pie and BBQs

This fourth of July, one year after the podcast began, we look back at a culture that’s made us so anxious, but also what holds us together, and where we’re going as a nation. Since nothing seems to bind Americans more together than food, we’re starting off with a key marker of American culture--pie. Kai Wright and Karen Frillmann spend some time partaking in a key American tradition-baking a cherry pie.They’ll talk pie-making with food writer Kathy Gunst, coming together in the kitchen and what gets passed down along with a recipe. 

Then we’ll turn to Nancy Solomon, who's having a BBQ on a very diverse block in New Jersey where everyone from Donald Trump supporters to liberal lesbians live. We’ll hear about their anxieties, and see just what they’re doing to alleviate any potential tensions as the state gears up for a gubernatorial election later this year. Jim O’Grady delves into what exactly the Declaration of Independence means today. Finally, we’ll be listening in to you, and your thoughts and fears, about the cultural wars in America.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Jim O’Grady

Arun Venugopal

Nancy Solomon

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.


Professor Andrew Shankman, Rutgers University, author of Original Intents

Professor Andrew Schocket, Bowling Green State University, author of Fighting over the Founders

The New York Public Library and it's original copy of The Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's hand

Jul 04, 2017
The Drug War

As the opioid epidemic continues to increase, we take a look back at the Sixties when the War on Drugs, a federal effort to decrease illegal drug use, was beginning to take shape. It was a decade of intense change in America as political assassinations took place, the Black power movement rose, and the Vietnam War intensified. It was also a time that conservatives, scared about the future of their country, were beginning to fight back. No one understood this more than Richard M. Nixon during his second run for president in 1968. Nixon knew that many people, especially southern whites, were afraid of the social progress that the country was making at the time. He also knew that drug use and crime were going up and that tapping into the fears and anxieties, while tying them to race, may have been just the strategy he needed to win. “The wave of crime is not going to be the wave of the future in the United States of America,” Nixon said in 1968 as he accepted the Republican nomination, becoming the law and order candidate.

It worked, and when he was elected he decided to make good on his promise, focusing not only on crime, which is often a state issue, but drugs. Drugs were a federal issue that was gaining traction among the public and in the political realm, as heroin use spread among both Americans at home and US soldiers in Vietnam.

Christopher Johnson looks at the beginning of the War on Drugs in America, from it’s roots with the Southern Strategy, to the strange support for methadone treatment centers, to the so-calledRockefeller Drug Laws in New York. “America’s public enemy number 1 in the US is drug abuse,"declared Nixon in 1971 as he launched the War on Drugs. “In order to defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” Though he didn’t utter the phrase, Nixon's "War On Drugs" was a costly offensive whose long-lasting impact on drug policy, law enforcement and American culture continues today.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Christopher Johnson

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Jul 03, 2017
Nixon's Enemies

This week we’re looking at a President Richard M. Nixon, a man obsessed with winning. Whether it was an election or becoming a great leader, he would go to great lengths to ensure his success. But Nixon felt he was surrounded by enemies, so to make sure he triumphed, he had his staff create an “Enemies List:” a document with hundreds of people he thought could do him harm. It was part of the White House "Political Enemies Project," and included people ranging from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars to members of the media to business and labor leaders.

“It just so unpresidential for presidents to have enemies," said John Dean, Nixon’s White House Counsel who disclosed the existence of the list when he testified before the Senate Watergate committee. “I mean, theoretically, the President is the President of the United States, not the President of the Republican or Democratic Party, or the President of the people who voted for him. We don't like to think of our leaders as being that narrow-minded that they think everybody is their enemy who isn't their friend.”

Beyond it’s existence, the list was also remarkable because Nixon and his aides considered using it to try and find ways to use the power of the federal government to go after their enemies. How? One way was through the IRS.

Charlie Herman looks at Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List,” an unprecedented step taken by an embattled President who worried about being betrayed by everyone around him.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Charlie Herman

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Jun 23, 2017
These 'Witches' Are Empowering the Next Generation

In 2016, the campaign promise to “Make America Great Again” highlighted an important cultural shift. It represented the idea that the country needed to return to its traditions in order to be as prosperous as it was once before.

But groups like Brujas, a radical youth collective in New York City, is using art, politics and skateboarding to reject these traditional ideas of America. Brujas, which means witches in Spanish, is part of a new generation of revolutionaries who are unafraid to blur the lines between culture and activism. They are all for disrupting the patriarchy, trans-liberation and prison abolition — and are doing it unapologetically.   

Sophia Paliza-Carre takes us inside the group, formed in a skatepark in the Bronx, to learn about their ideas on politics, activism and what it means to be young activists in 2017.


Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Sophia Paliza Carre

Karen Frillmann 

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Music contributed by Princess Nokia, Tabby Wakes, Arianna Gil, Tony Seltzer, and Calvin Skinner. 


Jun 20, 2017
In Jesus' Name... We Legislate

There’s been much progress for the LGBTQ community over the past decade: the legal debate over same-sex marriage has been resolved, popular culture has largely embraced gay and lesbian people, and transgender people are gaining legal recognition. But as LGBTQ people make these strides, other groups have begun to claim that their religious rights are threatened by these cultural and political shifts. Now, these religious groups are asking for protections too. This year alone, dozens of bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country, aiming to restore or protect the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment. There have been fights over a bakeries refusing to bake a cakes for same-sex wedding ceremonies, doctors who wish to refuse services to transgender folks because of religious beliefs, and more.

In this episode, we travel to the state of Mississippi, where a bitter fight against a religious freedom bill called HB 1523 is being waged between the state and a group of people who say the bill violates their civil liberties -- even their religious freedom itself. The bill, aimed to protect people of faith from “government discrimination,” defines marriage as a heterosexual union, says that sex belongs only within a marriage between a man and a woman, and calls gender a fixed trait at birth. Mississippi governor Phil Bryant said HB 1523's goals do not include discrimination or harm, but said of its opponents, “If they’re interested in protecting people’s rights and also understand that people of faith have rights.” 

One of those opponents is Brandiilynne Mangum-Dear, a lesbian pastor who ministers to an LGBT welcoming church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She, her wife, Susan Mangum, and her church, Joshua Generation MCC, have joined in a class action lawsuit against Gov. Bryant and the state. She feels that when most people hear about a piece of legislation claiming to protect religious freedom, they're all for it. The problem is, she adds, most people don't fully understand what it does. “It is discrimination in a pretty little religious box," she says. "We're good at putting things in religious boxes here in the south.” 

In many ways, this battle between religious freedom and civil liberties isn't anything new. We'll speak with Rims Barber, a minister and veteran civil rights activist in Jackson, Mississippi, and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against HB 1523. He says that the culture wars we're witnessing today mirror those of the Civil Rights Movement. Barber officiated the first interracial marriage in the state of Mississippi, and helped desegregate its schools, all while other citizens said they shouldn't have to comply because of their religious liberties. Then, Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer will show us how those fights helped galvanize a powerful political force in America: the religious right. And, we'll hear the origin story of religious freedom bills like HB 1523.


Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Jessica Miller

Karen Frillmann

Jillian Weinberger

Reniqua Allen

Matt Boynton

Bill Moss

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Jun 13, 2017
The New, Old White Supremacist Movement

At the height of the election season last September, Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump’s supporters a “basket of deplorables.”

“We are living in a volatile political environment," she said. "You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million.”

The comments spread like wildfire. The next day, Clinton walked them back, noting that she had been “grossly generalistic” and she regretted saying “half.”  Yet the sentiment behind the statement is true: a new movement of white nationalists is growing.

Kai Wright takes a look at the so-called “basket of deplorables” and the alt-right movement that has emerged in recent years, from neo-Nazis to people fighting in the so-called “war on men.” 

He also chats with Manoush Zomorodi and Kat Aaron from Note to Self about how white supremacists are arming themselves online. “The goal is just chaos. The goal is to shut down civic discourse, to make spaces where people are discussing important topics just so toxic that most people shut down,” said Aaron.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Jessica Miller

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Jun 06, 2017
“Would you debate gravity?”: climate change in the classroom

While reporting on the Birth of Climate Change Denial, an episode for the United States of Anxiety podcast, we asked listeners and science teachers across the country to tell us about the challenges of teaching climate change. Below is some of what they had to say.

For over a hundred years, the teaching of evolution has been the subject of debate in pockets of the U.S. And within the last decade or so, climate change has emerged as another area of science that is societally controversial, though scientifically established.

Every year, about a dozen states consider proposals that allow or encourage teachers to present the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories. The bills usually include a list of subjects that warrant this treatment: specifically, evolution and climate change.

“Which, when you think about it, is a very odd thing to put in legislation,” said Ann Reid, executive director of the National Center for Science Education. “You’d never, for example, see the periodic table listed as something that students should think critically about.”

Some teachers prefer, though, to let students decide. Here's John, an environmental science teacher at a Catholic school in Louisiana: 

"Debate is good"


Kathryn, a science teacher at a public middle school in Massachusetts, had some concerns about that approach. 

"Both sides aren't equal."


Academic freedom bills like these have appeared in Ohio, Texas and Indiana, among others. While the majority fail to pass, both Tennessee and Louisiana enacted theirs into law. 

And last month, the Florida legislature passed a bill allowing residents to challenge instructional material that they deemed offensive. While climate change isn’t mentioned in the bill, advocates for the measure complained that global warming and evolution were taught as facts. Florida governor Rick Scott hasn’t signed the bill into law yet.

Even without an official process, parents do voice their opposition in other ways. This is what Valerie, a public high school teacher of earth science in Michigan, told her class after she got a call from a parent upset that she was teaching climate change:

"Whether you believe it or not is irrelevant"


Brandon Haught, an environmental science teacher at a high school in central Florida, has heard from parents indirectly:

"They don't understand the question"


Most science teachers say no one has pressured them not to teach climate change. According to a 2016 survey by the National Center for Science Education, less than 5% of teachers reported any overt effort by parents or school administrators to avoid the topic.

In some places, it's their colleagues with whom teachers have to avoid the topic. Jenny, a science teacher at a public school in Wyoming, says half her department doesn't accept that human-caused climate change is real:

"We kind of stay away from each other"


Perhaps because passions run so high on this topic, teachers try to appease both sides, even if one side lacks any scientific backing. In the NCSE survey, about 30% say they teach that “many scientists” believe that recent temperature increases are natural, while at the same time emphasizing the scientific consensus about human causes.

Christina, an AP environmental science teacher at a charter school in Tallahassee, Florida, says it's important that students "make their own opinion." 

"It's just playing devil's advocate"

While the classroom may be the first time kids are formally learning about climate science, they don't usually come in with a blank slate. So can a teacher really change someone's mind? Here's what Lee Anne Eareckson, a high school honors biology teacher at a public school in Idaho, had to say:

"If their family is just anti-climate change"


Is it less enjoyable to teach in an area where families might not readily accept the science behind climate change? Not at all, says Daniel Mayer, who just finished his second year of teaching in Grant Parish, Louisiana.

"Where progress can be made"


If you're a parent and want to talk about climate change with your kid, here are some resources:


May 31, 2017
How Politics Turns Violent

The culture wars of the Boomer generation still shape our politics today. In this episode we look at those culture wars from another vantage point. Instead of focusing on the debates themselves, we ask the question: How do people move from radical politics to political violence?

On June 7, 1970 the group of young radical leftists known as the Weathermen, accidentally detonated bombs in a Greenwich Village townhouse. Their goal was to bomb an officers' event at the Army Base Fort Dix in New Jersey to protest the Vietnam war, but instead the bombs exploded in the basement and killed three of the five activists. Two fled. One was Cathy Wilkerson.  

WNYC producer Paige Cowett talks to Wilkerson 47 years later about what caused her to believe that bombing soldiers was justified. “The sad thing is I don't think we did think about it very much," said Wilkerson. “You think about the political impact. I think that's the way it is with warfare. You don't think about the life of the people that you're hurting or killing.”

Cowett also speaks with historian Michael Kazin, a radical leftist who did not resort to violent tactics, as well as Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and terrorism expert, who discusses the psychology of political radicalization. 

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Paige Cowett

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

May 30, 2017
Music, McCarthy, and the Sound of Americana

How can music — even music without lyrics — be political? We explore that question in episode 4 of "Culture Wars."

In the 1920s, composer Aaron Copland took off for Paris. His search for a distinctive American sound in classical music resulted in some of the most familiar and patriotic music written in the 20th Century — including the famous 1942 piece "Fanfare for the Common Man."

WNYC's Sara Fishko ("Fishko Files") follows Copland’s story through the 1930s and '40s in America, when the wealth-obsessed ethos of the '20s had given way to a more collective, activist spirit. The Great Depression, the rise of Fascism and the unprecedented collective effort during World War II united Americans against a common enemy.

Copland's art was transformed during that "Popular Front" period. He "simplified" his concert music, as well as his scores for ballets, plays and films, into a more accessible style that appealed to that era's common man philosophy.

Fishko sits down with the distinguished contemporary composer John Corigliano ("The Red Violin") to deconstruct the sound of the "Americana style." The departure from European traditions created a new and remarkable connection between music and the American politics of the time. Artists of all kinds were more involved in world events than ever before.

But Copland's activism and creative output — and that of many artists and intellectuals — would be threatened and dramatically altered by the swing to the right in American politics in the 1950s.

The idea of America changed — and so did its music and culture.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Sara Fishko

Karen Frillmann

Olivia Briley

Bill Moss

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

May 23, 2017
America's Allergy to Intellect — Why It Keeps Flaring Up

Talking to Trump voters during the campaign, we'd sometimes hear what felt like a unified sentiment bubbling up beneath the popular, and populist, reasons for supporting their candidate. Retired truck mechanic Fiore Napolitano from Long Island put it this way: "You talk to these idiots, supposed to be doctors and this and that, scientists, they got [expletive] for brains," he said. "They have no common sense.” Trump was Napolitano's man because he did not speak like a credentialed expert or someone with an Ivy League degree — the type of person whose depth of learning might actually make them dumb. About those kinds of people, Napolitano added, "I got more brains in my little thumb."

What's up, America? Why the qualms about erudition and expertise? Where does this wariness spring from, and what role did it play in the rise of Donald Trump — opposed by just about every intellectual associated with either party but whose supporters simply did not care about that?

In this episode, we tell the story of anti-intellectualism in America life.

We talk to the learned and those who loathe them, including writers and commentators, a neuroscientist and a gun shop owner in a red-voting part of upstate New York. We quote a fiery pamphlet penned by a yeoman farmer from the Revolutionary Era, and we delve into the book that describes and frames this issue better and more enduringly than any other. We also explore insights by the author of that book, a Columbia University professor who wore a bow tie and Clark Kent glasses and whose grad students recalled that "he was continually hitching up his sagging trousers."

A real egghead, in other words.

Susan Jacoby is author of the 2008 book, "The Age of American Unreason," which she is revising for republication this fall. "New examples of unreason keep cropping up every minute," she quipped to WNYC Studios. She says the current tensions in our politics would surprise no one with a grasp of this country's history. "When people talk about two Americas today, wide-eyed, as though this were something new or we are more culturally divided now than we were 150 years ago or after the American Revolution, they're wrong," she declared before talking about the Puritans and their love of books.

Jim O’Grady walks us through the centuries-long debate about intellectualism, elitism, and our reverence for the common man.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Jim O'Grady

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

May 16, 2017
The Birth of Climate Denial

Starting with the 1925 Scopes Trial — also known as the "trial of the century" — we look at one of the most controversial topics in our time: the debate over evolution versus a Fundamentalist understanding of the Bible.

It started with a substitute teacher in Tennessee who believed that evolution should be taught in the classroom. What followed was a fiery debate that rocketed around the world.

The Scopes Trial reminds us that science has often upset the establishment. Kai Wright explores how the powerful have tried to convince us that science gets it wrong.

Then Amanda Aronczyk looks at just when we began to doubt the whole idea of climate change. She’ll take us back to that day in 1988 when NASA scientist James Hansen warned the United States Congress that climate change was real. And she reminds us that Republican President George H.W. Bush touted himself as being pro-environment.

“I’m an environmentalist... And I always will be," he said. "And that is not inconsistent with being a businessman. Nor is it with being a conservative.” She then brings us to to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, when action on climate change led to a political divide within the Republican party.

Today, President Trump considers climate change a "hoax" and is considering withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. It's a radical change in 25 years. We'll tell you how we got there.

While reporting this story, we also asked listeners and science teachers across the country to tell us about the challenges of teaching climate change. Read what they had to say. 

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Amanda Aronczyk

Elaine Chen

Karen Frillmann

Jillian Weinberger

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

May 11, 2017
Whose Kansas Is it Anyway?

The city of Olathe, Kansas, has been shaken since February, when a man gunned down two Indian immigrants in a bar there. Witnesses say the shooter yelled,  “Go back to your country!It was the first hate-crime killing after the 2016 presidential election.

WNYC’s Arun Venugopal traveled to Kansas to speak with members of the Indian community about how they’re dealing with the deaths, and with their changing status in America. Indian Americans enjoy the highest household income of any ethnic group in America. Their socioeconomic success and status as a ‘model minority’ has increasingly been reflected in American popular culture, as well as Bollywood films, and has played into arguments that America is a meritocracy, rather than one defined by white supremacy. But increasingly, members of the community argue that their wealth will not insulate them from racial bigotry.

We hear from Professor Raj Bhala, a specialist in international law who is half-Indian and half-Scottish, along with his wife Kara, a Chinese-American woman from Malaysia. The couple is dreading July 1, when a law allowing the concealed carry of weapons on college campuses goes into effect. Kara Tan Bhala even wrote her U.S. Senators and congresswoman about concerns for her husband's safety. The congresswoman, the only one to reply, sent a defense of the Second Amendment. “It just made me feel as if my voice wasn't being heard in a very conservative state and that perhaps it was time to just take a break from the country and come back when things get better," Tan Bhala said. "I know things go in cycles so the pendulum has swung really one way to quite an extreme. We're waiting for it to swing slowly back.”

But for the first time since the couple arrived in 2003, they are seriously considering leaving the state — and the country. 

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Arun Venugopal

Karen Frillmann

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

May 09, 2017
VIDEO: What Are You Willing to Fight For?


From activists in the current resistance movement to a McDonald's worker just trying to survive, get to know Americans fighting for what they believe in and shaping the future of the country's political culture.

The United States of Anxiety: Culture Wars introduces listeners to people who have been battling to shape America’s political culture for decades. We profile culture warriors, past and present, who have shaped debates over race, religion, science, sexuality, gender and more. We connect those debates to real people, with real stakes in the outcome. We’re filling in the blanks—hopefully answering questions you didn’t even know you had—and we’re asking, what are you willing to fight for? Because if you want to control American politics, you’ve first got to capture American culture.

Beginning May 9, join us in The United States of Anxiety: Culture Wars.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

May 03, 2017
Welcome to The United States of Anxiety: Culture Wars

Donald Trump understands something very important about American democracy: We don’t debate public policy, we fumble our way toward a shared political culture. So if you want to control the debate over how to build a health care system, you first have to capture our political culture -- our values, norms, shared assumptions, what we feel and believe about ourselves. Trump gets that. So he's waging a culture war, tweet by tweet.

But the battle to capture America’s political culture has a long history. On race and gender, science and religion, matters of sex and media and war and peace — all of it — there's a backstory, starring somebody like Donald Trump. Somebody who went all in to change what Americans feel and believe about a given issue. So over the next several weeks, we're going to meet some of those people and tell the stories that brought us to this juncture in our political culture.

The United States of Anxiety: Culture Wars introduces listeners to people who have been battling to shape America’s political culture for decades. We profile culture warriors, past and present, who have shaped debates over race, religion, science, sexuality, gender and more. We connect those debates to real people, with real stakes in the outcome. We’re filling in the blanks--hopefully answering questions you didn’t even know you had--and we’re asking, what are you willing to fight for? Because if you want to control American politics, you’ve first got to capture American culture.

Beginning May 9, join us in The United States of Anxiety: Culture Wars.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

May 03, 2017
Call-In Special: Across the Aisle

With The United States of Anxiety, WNYC Studios and The Nation brought forth the ideas and concerns that made up part of the coalition bringing President-elect Donald Trump from his midtown Manhattan

But with Hillary Clinton besting the President-elect in the popular vote by over one million votes to date, and protests of "Not My President" erupting across the country, it remains a question if the tides of discontent will ever pacify in the country.

In the midst of this turmoil Anna Sale, host of WNYC's Death, Sex & Money, questions the perceived differences that so many voters feel after this divisive election cycle.

But this is the fourth time the popular vote has diverged from the Electoral College's ultimate choice of President of the United States and "Not My President" signs previously emerged in 2001 at the Inauguration of similarly-elected George W. Bush and then again in 2005.

Therefore, we explore the notion of what keeps this country united following elections leaving us only feeling divided.

Nov 22, 2016
Call-In Special: Culture Shock

In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain dubbed then-Senator Obama the "biggest celebrity in the world" in a scathing campaign commercial.

But after this most recent election, it seemed like America had moved beyond mere fame and instead was on the path to elect which candidate would serve best as Entertainer-in-Chief.This notion of campaigning for the Political People's Choice Award pulls to the very strings of American society today.

Throughout The United States of Anxiety, we saw that in many communities, shifting demographics and economic realities caused residents--old and new--to question if they had now become embattled in the middle of a culture clash.

WNYC's Ilya Marritz is joined by drag performer Lady Bunny and author Jeff Chang, as he fields calls from individuals to find out how they are utilizing culture during the post-election season.

And after calls for self-reflection from protesters and actors' during Vice President-elect Mike Pence's visit to the hit Broadway show 'Hamilton' recently, we examine elements in the cultural zeitgeist be deployed to express politically-based emotions and what effects that films, books, music and other cultural touchstones have on us following this election.

Plus, while Hillary Clinton had 'Fight Song' and President-elect Donald Trump played 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' blasting on the campaign trail, we look to find a unifying anthem for the country and maybe even the world for the Trump Administration.

Nov 21, 2016
Call-In Special: Pass the Politics

Whether you prefer dark meat, white meat, Tofurky or just mashed potatoes, most Americans can agree that the 2016 presidential election was contentious. With neither candidate managing to garner 50-percent of the vote and in a world of charged media outlets, families coming together for Thanksgiving Dinner face the likely prospect of heated political conversation landing on their holiday platters.

And, as The United States of Anxiety found, the caustic nature of politics not only wears away one's patience but also one's health.

So to ensure that the hardest thing you will be between this holiday season is a poorly baked dinner roll, WNYC's Brian Lehrer takes counsel from humorist Henry Alford and Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, PhD, on how to avoid the pitfalls of cross-party dinner conversation. 

Plus across the hour, Brian will be joined by Mary Harris of WNYC Studios's Only Human podcast to provide insights on how to actually listen to those who may have divergent views.

Nov 18, 2016
Call-In Special: An Electoral Industrial Revolution

In a campaign season marked by sharp differences between major party candidates, one unifying issue arose: the dismal nature of the nation's infrastructure and industrial landscape. In the end, the billionaire builder was selected to tackle this problem.

Throughout the series, we have asked about the placement of White America and its positioning against the American Dream. With returns in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania turning red after years of being Democratic strongholds, the present economic anxiety weighs heavy in the post-election air.

Kai Wright of The Nation opens the floor to pinpoint the actual state of poverty and jobs in America, and how the patterns around these issues may have led to the Electoral College tipping in favor of the GOP-nominee.

Plus, after a candidacy running against decades' old trade deals, the insurgence of China on the global economic field, and traditional neoliberal economic policies favored by the right, we examine what will be the economic ideology of a Trump Administration.

Nov 17, 2016
Call-In Special: Where Technology Takes Us

For Hillary Clinton, that private email server was an Achilles heel. For Donald Trump, late night tweet-storms and the echo chamber of the alt-right were rocket fuel. And for American voters, the power of technology was inescapable.

Manoush Zomorodi, host of WNYC's Note to Self, has seen the good, bad and ugly of tech this election cycle. Farhard Manjoo, New York Times technology columnist, joins her to look back on how social media shaped the Presidential race, and how companies like Twitter and Facebook are responding as vitriol and fake news flood our feeds. 

Plus Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, breaks down how digital privacy might look under the Trump administration.  

Nov 16, 2016
Call-In Special: Examining the 'Women's Vote'

Throughout The United States of Anxiety, Long Island-resident Patty Dwyer acted as a gateway to the perspectives of individuals forming the wave that swept Donald Trump from New York billionaire to President-elect.

And with exit polling suggesting that Democratic nominee-Hillary Clinton gained the support of only 54-percent of women voters, it appears that gender in the voting booth was not deeply intertwined with gender on the ticket.

All Things Considered host Jami Floyd discusses the women who helped vault Donald Trump into the White House and what motivates them.

In particular, we delve deeper into what conditions allowed female voters to disregard President-elect Trump's previous comments on women and charge directly into this year's electoral rabbit hole.

Nov 15, 2016
Call-In Special: Hopes and Fears for the Next Four Years

In this election cycle, anxiety emerged as a dominant theme for voters across the political spectrum. 

This is where The United States of Anxiety began--documenting the experiences and perspectives which informed voters as they selected their candidate for President of the United States and caused them to grapple with the idea of their lives if the other side prevailed.

But following a campaign season built on divisiveness from both sides of the aisle and an election results split between the popular vote and the Electoral College, the anxiety that permeated the election has not dissipated with the determination of the 45th President.

The Takeaway's John Hockenberry fields the accounts of individuals preparing for a Trump Administration, and asks what hopes or fears they are carrying into the next four years.

Plus, what can the President-elect do--if anything--to assuage the concerns of Americans and live up to his campaign promise to 'make America great'?

Nov 14, 2016
Episode 9: Where Are We Now?

So, here we are. The race is over and Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States.

WNYC Studios and The Nation take the temperature of the country following the unprecedented election of a consummate political outsider.

WNYC’s Arun Venugopal checks-in with Trump supporter Patty Dwyer and gauges her reaction on a come-from-behind political victory that shook the world. The Nation's Julianne Hing reports from Arizona, where the defeat of long-standing anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio is nonetheless tempered by the elevation of Donald Trump.

Plus, Matt Katz and Chris Arnade return to the white working-class voters who propelled Trump to the White House. And Stephen Nessen returns to Patchogue to find out how a community that was nearly torn apart by anti-immigrant violence learned to heal and what they're bracing for in Donald Trump's America.

Listen to The United States of Anxiety on WNYC, airing Thursday evenings at 7pm, and stay tuned for a live call-in.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Arun Venugopal

Stephen Nessen

Julianne Hing

Matt Katz

Karen Frillmann

Joseph Capriglione

Nov 10, 2016
Episode 8: What Is This Election Doing to Us?

This election certainly feels stressful. As Amanda Aronczyk from WNYC's Only Human podcast told us in Episode 7, it's possible to measure the election's effect on us biologically. This bonus episode explains more about Only Human's experiment with the stress hormone, cortisol. 

Every day another article comes out about how voters are stressed by this election. But we wanted to know: what is the election doing to our biology?

The American Psychological Association recently found that more than half of all Americans — 52 percent — say this year’s presidential election is a “somewhat” or “very significant” source of stress in their lives. The survey was self-reported, meaning respondents answered a few questions online and the APA took their self-assessments at face value. Anecdotally, those assessments probably ring true for many of us, but it turns out there’s a way to measure the physiological effects of election stress.  

Over the last few years, a group of neuroscientists and political scientists have pioneered a new field called biopolitics, the study of biology and political behavior. Professor Kevin Smith is a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a co-author of the book, "Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences.” He often collaborates with Dr. Jeffrey French, who runs a lab at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and studies cortisol, a hormone we release when we’re stressed.  

One of Smith and French’s recent studies looked at stress and voting. They wanted to know if cortisol levels influence whether people vote. The easiest way to test cortisol is through saliva, so they collected spit samples from a bunch of participants and got their official voting records for the past six elections.

The researchers found that people with higher cortisol levels vote less. And that finding correlates with another one of their studies, which found that people who voted absentee experienced less stress than people who went to the polls.

So we asked French and Smith to help us design an experiment of sorts. We’d use the presidential debates as a proxy for the election. Our team would go to debate watch parties and collect saliva samples from viewers to measure their cortisol levels. We’d also ask the participants to fill out a survey about themselves: their party affiliation, age and self-reported stress level. And we’d see who had the biggest changes in their cortisol over the course of the debate.

During the first two presidential debates, we went to watch parties in Times Square, Midtown Manhattan and Northern New Jersey. Participants spat three times into tiny tubes: before the debate, to get a baseline sample, midway through the debate and after the debate.

We over-nighted the samples to Omaha, where Dr. French processed them in his lab. A few weeks later, he had the results.

We all agreed that the debate watch parties seemed stressful. At a bar in Times Square, we talked to young Republicans unhappy with their nominee and worried about their party’s future. Others were terrified at the prospect of a Clinton presidency. In Midtown, a group of Democrats had gathered to watch at the Roosevelt Institute, a left-leaning think tank. A few of them brought their own alcohol, to temper their anxiety (French and Smith took alcohol and caffeine intake into account in their analysis) and a number of them worried about Trump’s popularity.

But the results surprised us: cortisol levels stayed close to normal levels throughout the debates. Clinton supporters had a small spike at the midway point, but not by much. Overall, the stress levels for liberals and conservatives didn’t really change — with one exception.

The researchers looked at cortisol levels based on whether participants had someone close to them who planned to vote for the opposing candidate. And for Trump supporters who had a conflict with a person close to them — a parent, a sibling, a spouse — cortisol levels actually went up after the debate. They probably found the debate more stressful.

French and Smith warned us that this wasn’t a pristine study. In fact, both professors laughed when we asked if they’d submit our work to a peer-reviewed journal. But they agreed that this finding was statistically significant. And they didn’t find it for Clinton supporters, or voters who supported a third party candidate.

The other significant finding related to baseline cortisol levels — the participants’ stress level before the debate. The researchers found that Trump supporters had much higher baseline levels compared to Clinton voters.

Smith, the political scientist, couldn’t tell us why Trump voters had two times as much cortisol in their saliva compared to Clinton supporters. But he did say that our experiment served as an interesting pilot study — one that made him think differently about what he hopes to study next: tolerance.

Here, Smith made a comparison to same-sex marriage. Opposition to it shifted when researchers found some biological or genetic basis for being gay — when it started to be considered innate. Smith wonders if the same is true for political difference. As he told one of our reporters, “If you're a liberal and I'm a conservative and I believe you're a liberal because you're genetically predisposed to be, then am I more tolerant of you or less tolerant of you?”

In other words, if political difference is related to our biology, maybe we’ll be more tolerant of each other. And therefore less stressed. And therefore more likely to vote. At least, that’s the hope.

If you liked Amanda Aronczyk's piece on this week's episode of "The United States of Anxiety," be sure to check out "Only Human," the health podcast from WNYC Studios.

Nov 04, 2016
Helping Immigrants Put Down Roots

Only 17 miles from the Hamptons, Catholic nun Sister Margaret Smyth found a booming Latino immigrant population in need of community.

Listen to United States of Anxiety from WNYC and The Nation Magazine:

Nov 03, 2016
Episode 7: This Is Your Brain on Politics

Stress is a part of everyday life. But in this election filled with bombast, disregard of all sorts of political norms, and multiple October Surprises, the road to November 8th often appears overwhelming.

Join WNYC Studios and The Nation as we explore the burgeoning field of biopolitics and uncover how our bodies respond to 2016’s political circus.

WNYC’s Amanda Aronczyk sits down with neuroscientist Jeffrey French and political scientist Kevin Smith, as we perform an unusual test to find out just what in this election is causing voters’ stress. Plus, learn how our bodies’ natural response systems can indicate where we locate ourselves along the political spectrum.

Afterwards, Kai Wright and Arun Venugopal sit down with political scientist Jonathan Weiler, co-author of the book "Authoritarianism & Polarization in American Politics," to talk about voter psychology, and why certain personality types are allured by authoritarian leaders.

Listen to The United States of Anxiety on WNYC, airing Thursday evenings at 7pm, and stay tuned for a live call-in

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Arun Venugopal

Amanda Aronczyk

Karen Frillmann

Joseph Capriglione

Nov 03, 2016
Episode 6: The Kids Are Not Alright

Gang violence and a drug epidemic might not be the first things one thinks about when they picture the American suburbs, but they have become prominent facts of life for many residents in Suffolk County, Long Island. In fact, the leafy New York suburb led the Empire State in opioid and heroin overdose deaths in 2014. 

WNYC Studios and The Nation set out to explore how these problems emerged in the first place.

WNYC’s Arun Venugopal sits down with Anthony, a former-drug user who recounts how he became addicted while growing up in the environs of Long Island's South Shore.

We talk to two individuals on the front lines of treatment to gain their insight into what has caused the uptick in drug use, and how Donald Trump figures into the conversation.

Then, The Nation’s Julianne Hing goes to Brentwood, NY, a Long Island town where the remains of five murdered teenagers tied to gang violence have been discovered in the past six weeks.

Listen to The United States of Anxiety on WNYC, airing Thursday evenings at 7pm, and stay tuned for a live call-in

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Arun Venugopal

Julianne Hing

Karen Frillmann

Joseph Capriglione

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation.

Oct 27, 2016
Episode 5: White Like Me

Once again, race has become a central issue in a presidential campaign. But this time, it's not all about people of color. It's also about white Americans, and what their place is in 21st century America.

This week, WNYC Studios and The Nation examine the history of what it means and has meant to be white in the United States of America.

WNYC’s Jim O’Grady accompanies journalist Chris Arnade to Long Island. What they find is that as the economy has transitioned away from manual labor, it's struck at the very heart of the way many working-class Americans define masculinity, and, in turn, themselves.

Plus, The Nation’s Kai Wright explores this notion with a group of Italian Americans who document their families' journey from immigrant scapegoats to full-fledged "whiteness."

Listen to The United States of Anxiety on WNYC, airing Thursday evenings at 7pm, and stay tuned for a live call-in

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Jim O'Grady

Karen Frillmann

Joseph Capriglione

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation.

Oct 20, 2016
Episode 4: Down the Rabbit Hole

So how did we get to this point? Where a nominee for a major party has been heard bragging about assaulting women. The United States of Anxiety has been listening carefully to Trump supporters in an effort to understand this election season.

This week, WNYC Studios and The Nation turn once again to Patty Dwyer. We then go down the rabbit hole with WNYC reporter Matt Katz and take a look at the media landscape that helped create this moment. 

Finally, we visit with another Long Island resident, Joselo Lucero. Just after Election Day in 2008, Joselo’s brother, Marcelo Lucero was murdered during the course of a hate crime.

Though separated by years, these two events—the rise of Donald Trump and the murder of Marcelo Lucero—may have arisen from a single reality: individuals listening to inflammatory language.

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Arun Venugopal

Matt Katz

Julianne Hing

Karen Frillman

Joseph Capriglione


Listen to WNYC's call-in show, airing Thursday evenings at 7:30 after each episode of The United States of Anxiety.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation.

Oct 13, 2016
Episode 3: This Land Is My Land, That Land Is Your Land

Tom McCarthy, a retired NYPD detective and lifelong Long Island resident, has spent much of his adult life straddling two very different worlds. Each day he would leave the calm of his suburban community to patrol the notorious Queensbridge housing projects. This was in 1989, at the height of the crack epidemic, and what Tom saw in New York's public housing felt worlds away from his suburban Eden.

But now, the line that once separated Tom’s home from his work feels like it's dissipating. It's exemplified by leafy Suffolk County leading all of New York state in heroin overdose deaths last year.

Join WNYC Studios and The Nation, as we look into what's brought about this change in the suburbs. For many, the problems seem to stem not from within, but from the outside, coming over our southern border. Donald Trump has repeatedly bemoaned the crime and drugs that he says Mexican immigrants who are here illegally are bringing into the United States. He has said he'll deport this population and send them to "the back of the line."

But of all the controversial things the Republican nominee has said, sending immigrants here illegally to the back of the line is actually quite mainstream. In fact, it's been advocated by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The idea projects order, fairness and a sense of process. There's only one problem, according to Celinda Lake, a Democratic strategist who helped to workshop "the back of the line" phrase in the early-2000's: the line doesn't exist, leaving the country's immigration process a hopeless hall of mirrors for people trying to do the right thing and enter the country legally.

Listen to WNYC's call-in show, airing Thursday evenings at 7:30 after each episode of The United States of Anxiety

Episode Contributors:

Arun Venugopal

Julianne Hing

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation

Oct 06, 2016
Episode 2: Who Owns the Deed to the American Dream?

The idea of an idyllic 'suburbia' has been a touchstone along the cultural landscape of America for over 70 years. From Norman Rockwell's 1943 Freedom from Want to the printed pages of Martha Stewart's Living, the trimmed hedges, white picket fences and—most importantly—families who live behind them, have become the consummate symbol encapsulating the American Dream.

For Patty Dwyer's mother — Mrs. Johnson — Long Island was the American Dream and she's called the village of Patchogue on the Island's South Shore home for nearly 50 years. In fact, Long Island had always been a refuge for her, after spending summers at her uncle’s house in Farmingville throughout her youth. So when a mysterious figure appeared outside her doorway in Jamaica, Queens in 1958, Mrs. Johnson left the city for the 'burbs.

Suburbia was a Garden of Eden for people like Mrs. Johnson. Apolitical for much of her life, she does not fully recall her voting record but experiences genuine pain towards the racial divisions she sees in America, including the death of Eric Garner. Yet, she also believes that Trump’s projection of strength, and prioritization of American citizens is the best antidote to her view of a faltering nation. 

Plus, WNYC Studios and The Nation speak with University of Boulder’s Kwame Holmes to decipher the so-called “White Flight” movement that brought millions of Americans out of cities and into the suburbs. Following World War II, a massive housing shortage found itself intermingling with growing white anxiety spurred from the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education; a combination that would initiate one of the most significant alterations to American society and how Americans live. Following World War II, the suburbs offered three key attractions for the residents moving to them in droves.

According to Lawrence Levy of Hofstra University: they were safe; they were secure; and, they were segregated.

Episode Contributor:

Arun Venugopal

Listen to WNYC's call-in show, airing Thursday evenings at 7:30 after each episode of The United States of Anxiety

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation

Sep 29, 2016
Episode 1: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?

For many voters, this election is not simply about deciding the next President of the United States, or even setting the landscape of national politics. Instead, it serves as a referendum on what it means to be innately American.

Join WNYC Studios and The Nation as we travel to East Long Island to embark on a new journey beyond the constant churn of daily headlines. There we will begin the journey documenting not only what Americans are thinking, but what events transpired that brought them to their current state of mind.

First we meet Patty, a one-time Obama supporter who now can be found protesting on highway overpasses, and skeptical of the president for whom she once voted. Patty had high hopes for the Obama Presidency; she thought he could heal a nation still grappling with its racial history. Instead, she says he's only made those divisions worse. Patty's dealt with her own hardships over the past decade as well: She was forced to sell her dream home after a divorce, her son battled addiction to prescription drugs, and she had her hours cut at her job. In short, Patty thinks the country is changing, and not for the better, and she thinks that Donald Trump is uniquely qualified to turn the tide.

In time, we turn our attention to Leni, a woman attempting to keep her family from unraveling, as her fiancé fights deportation.

Episode Contributors:

Arun Venugopal

Julianne Hing

Listen to WNYC's call-in show, airing Thursday evenings at 7:30 after each episode of The United States of Anxiety

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation

Sep 22, 2016
Welcome to The United States of Anxiety

The United States of Anxiety is an in-depth look at the human stories underlying this year's presidential election.

Too often, political reporting tells us how voters feel about the issues, but now why they feel that way. And in this election, just about everybody is feeling anxious about something.

Poll after poll shows the vast majority of Americans feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. And for many of them, those frustrations are rooted in economic anxiety. They feel that they're losing their grip on what's left of the American Dream. Donald Trump has emerged as the vessel through which they believe the country can turn back the clock and that they and the country can regain its greatness.

But another group of people are here specifically because they think that America remains the best chance they've got to build better lives for themselves and their families, and they're willing to break the law and risk everything to build new lives here. But immigrants aren't always welcome in their adopted communities, and with immigration front and center during the 2016 campaign, they're feeling anxious about their ability to remain in the country and continue to seize their destiny in a land of opportunity.

This is the story of the people whom the Trump campaign targets: both through outreach and scapegoating. And it just so happens that on Eastern Long Island, they're living side by side.

Beginning September 22nd, join us in The United States of Anxiety

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Listen to more from The Nation

Sep 19, 2016