The past four years have cracked open the heart of the American experiment. Norms were flouted, laws were broken, and our democracy was pushed to the edge—revealing the fractures and blind spots in the ideals and stories we tell ourselves about the United States.
Today, WNYC Studios and The Atlantic introduce The Experiment: Stories From an Unfinished Country, a weekly podcast that will give listeners the context they need to understand our country right now. In each episode, released every Thursday, host Julia Longoria is joined by The Atlantic’s writers and editors to explore America’s promise through riveting, surprising, and even surreal stories that uncover powerful and sometimes invisible forces of history.
The Experiment debuts with a tale that illuminates the gap between the ideals of our country and its often messy reality. The story begins with an elk hunter capturing a trophy bull. He takes the shot on a stretch of land in Yellowstone Park where it’s possible to get away with murder, and a fretful scholar finds himself on a quest to close the legal loophole within the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment that allows this to happen. The challenge, however, isn’t as straightforward as it seems. The episode features the Atlantic staff writer Ed Yong—known most recently for his coverage of the coronavirus pandemic—making a connection between this Sixth Amendment loophole and the COVID-19 crisis in the United States.
Next week’s episode, on February 11, features a conversation with the Atlantic senior editor Vann R. Newkirk II on the perilous existence of the Voting Rights Act. Newkirk parallels the trajectory of the act to the life of his mother, born the year before the law was passed, and who died of breast cancer at the end of 2020.
Future episodes will bring listeners into the spaces where America’s story plays out—its hospitals and courtrooms and churches—as we explore the unfinished quality of the American experiment and the stories of people engaged in great questions of identity, national meaning, and purpose.
“Over the past year, we’ve lived through a big, confusing, and important moment in this country, but the 24-hour news cycle can be frantic, exhausting, and alienating,” said Longoria. “I crave a step back: something slow, deliberate, and, occasionally, delightful. Growing up, I heard the big questions of our country debated earnestly over tequila at my family’s dinner table in Miami. The Experiment will ask big legal and governmental questions through small, personal stories. Our country is messy, but I hope we can revel in its sometimes wonderful strangeness.”
Boston Consulting Group and Morgan Stanley are the exclusive launch sponsors for The Experiment.