Breathing new life into the traditional civics lesson, Peter Sagal (host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me”) travels across the country on a Harley Davidson to find out where the U.S. Constitution lives, how it works and how it doesn’t; how it unites us as a nation and how it has nearly torn us apart. Sagal introduces some major constitutional debates today and talks with ordinary Americans and leading constitutional experts about what the Constitution actually says and what it means, the dramatic historical events and crises that have defined it, and why all this matters.
Constitution USA with Peter Sagal – Tuesdays at 8pm
A More Perfect Union – May 7, 2013
Sagal explores the Constitution’s most striking and innovative feature: its resilient brand of federalism. The framers created a strong national government while preserving much of the power and independence of the states. This delicate balance of power, seemingly hard-wired for disagreement and conflict, has served America well for more than two centuries. But it has also led to tensions throughout American history and still sparks controversy today over medical marijuana, gun control and “Obamacare.”
It’s A Free Country – May 14, 2013
Ask Americans what the Constitution’s most important feature is and most will say it’s the guarantees of liberty enshrined in the Bill of Rights. In this episode, Sagal explores the history of the Bill of Rights and addresses several stories — ripped from the headlines — involving freedom of speech, freedom of religion and right to privacy.
Created Equal – May 21, 2013
The high ideals of the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” didn’t make it into the Constitution in 1787. It took three-quarters of a century, and a bloody civil war, before the Fourteenth Amendment of 1868 made equality a constitutional right and gave the federal government the power to enforce it. The far-reaching changes created by that amendment established new notions of citizenship, equal protection, due process and personal liberty. Today, those notions are being used to fight for same-sex marriage, voting rights, affirmative action and immigration reform.
Built To Last? – May 28, 2013
In this last episode, Sagal travels to Iceland, where after the country’s economic collapse, leaders decided to create a new constitution, looking to the U.S. Constitution for inspiration. This prompts Sagal to consider why our own founding document has lasted more than 225 years. He looks at the systems that have kept the Constitution healthy — amendments, judicial interpretation, checks and balances — and also at the political forces that threaten to undermine the framers’ vision: excessive partisanship leading to gridlock, money in politics and gerrymandering.