Dismantling Democracy: Watch it on PBS

Lisbet Byler

September 9, 2020

Dismantling Democracy will stream on PBS online until October 16th, 2020.


Dismantling Democracy will be distributed by American Public Television to public media stations throughout the country during fall 2020. Check your local listings to find out when it’s coming to a PBS station near you.

Dismantling Democracy | A MAKE films original documentary - movie poster

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MAKE/FILMS in partnership with VPM and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics explores the past and critically examines the present to understand the risks to our democracy and the future of global politics.

Dismantling Democracy examines democratic structures of government in the United States and around the world. Narrated by Tara Setmayer and featuring interviews from across the political spectrum, the three-part series depicts the gradual deterioration of the democratic process. Through a critical look at the history and current state of democracies, it becomes evident that preserving democracy is a feat no less significant than its establishment. So, are we up to this pressing task of preserving democracy?

Dismantling Democracy: Part 1 – America, Land of the Free?

What is democracy? Who is free? Does it really matter if American democracy falls?

In the first of this three-part series, we dive into the history of democracy, its birth and the United States’ unique take on this form of government. The episode takes a look at some uniquely American challenges that limit American democracy such as hyperpartisanship, negative partisanship, institutional constraints (gerrymandering, the Electoral College, voter registration) public apathy and cynicism, influence of money in politics, and the public’s media consumption habits.

By looking at the recent past and failed democracies in other nations, the episode also explores what comes next if American democracy falls.

Dismantling Democracy: Part 2 – Democracy Around the World

Is democracy at risk abroad? Do other countries face similar problems with upholding democratic freedoms? What lessons can we learn from failed democracies?

In the second episode of this three part series, we step outside of the United States and explore democracies around the world. We look at issues facing American democracy and how those issues transpire in other democratic countries providing perspective for our own democratic success and weaknesses.

Dismantling Democracy: Part 3 – The Way Forward

What is needed for democratic societies to thrive? How has media and social media in the U.S. affected our democracy? Does a two party system and an electoral college still work today?

In the final episode of our three part series, we explore what is needed and what may need to change to preserve American democracy. By looking at the basic pillars of a democratic society — freedom of speech, free and fair elections and a focus on human rights — we are challenged to rise to the occasion, participate in civic discourse and take action.


Featuring interviews with Ann Dowd, Larry Sabato, Ted Cruz, Tim Kaine, Michael Abramowitz, Margaret Brennan, Rosa Clemente, Ian Bremmer, Jalane Schmidt, Steven Levitsky, Chris Sabatini, Jamelle Bouie, and more.


Director | Allen Clements, MAKE/FILMS

Executive Producer | Glenn Crossman, University of Virginia Center for Politics

Executive Producer | Larry Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics

Executive Producer | Derek Dienner, MAKE/FILMS

Director of Photography | Steve Buckwalter, MAKE/FILMS

Editor | Jordan Graff, MAKE/FILMS

Learn more about the docuseries here.