No matter how many high tech options we have available, sometimes the best way to communicate is in person. We've learned how to create events with impact, often reinforced by carrying the message across to other media. Featured here: our bipartisan "Saving Democracy" series, featuring national figures in politics, government, and media.

Saving Democracy

"Saving Democracy: The Way Forward" was a fascinating discussion with a bipartisan panel of national experts on the at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California on March 21, 2019.

You can hear the event as Episode 23 of "Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good" with any podcast app or at

This was the third in an ongoing series of Saving Democracy events.

You can also listen to the previous ones via Dastardly Cleverness in the Service of Good as Episodes 1, 2 and 3, which present the first Saving Democracy event in three parts, and Episode 16, which presents the second one in its entirety.


Amanda Renteria
Amanda Renteria

Former candidate for California Governor, senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, first Latina Chief of Staff to a U.S. Senator

Mike Madrid
Mike Madrid

National Republican consultant, Latino voting strategist, former California GOP Political Director, founder of Grassroots Lab

Debbie Mesloh
Debbie Mesloh

Senior adviser to Barack Obama & Kamala Harris, President of the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women


Dan Schnur
Dan Schnur

Former top GOP consultant (now an independent), USC & UC Berkeley professor, national media commentator

Kristin Olsen
Kristin Olsen

Former California Assembly GOP Leader & California GOP Vice-Chair, Stanislaus County Supervisor

Zach Friend
Zach Friend

Obama & Kerry campaigns alum, DNC veteran, national media commentator, Santa Cruz County Supervisor


Spencer Critchley
Spencer Critchley

Moderator: Boots Road Group Managing Partner Spencer Critchley, a communication consultant, producer and writer, a veteran of campaigns for President Obama and other candidates, and a national media commentator. Spencer has contributed to or been interviewed by NPR, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, Fox News, the AP, Sky News (UK), the Huffington Post, and others.

Saving Democracy was produced by Boots Road Group as a public service in partnership with Cabrillo College at Cabrillo's Samper Recital Hall.

It was co-sponsored by the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce.

References & Links Based on the Discussion

Mentioned in the discussion:

"Fault Lines" by Kevin Kruze and Julian Zelizer

"Love Your Enemies" by Arthur Brooks

"The Soul of America" by Jon Meacham

Recommended by panelists:

"The Big Sort" by Bill Bishop

— Mike Madrid uses this as a reference in one of the courses he teaches at USC.

"Amusing Ourselves to Death" by Neil Postman, along with:

"Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley

— Spencer says, "Postman said TV changed everything, and predicted we wouldn't have our freedom taken from us, like in Orwell's '1984.' Instead, we would give it up willingly, like in 'Brave New World,' in exchange for entertainment and relief from the burden of thinking."

"The Road to Serfdom" by F.A. Hayek

— Spencer says, "This is a bible for serious conservatives, but I especially recommend that my fellow liberals read it. If we want to have useful debates with conservatives, we should be familiar enough with Hayek's ideas to try to refute them — and you may be surprised to find yourself agreeing with some. The nice thing is, agree with him or not, Hayek's writing is a pleasure."

"How Democracies Die" by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

— Spencer recommends this a source of warning signs for us all to watch out for. One striking one: the failure of a party to defend basic norms and check destructive behavior by its candidates. From the book website: "Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have spent more than twenty years studying the breakdown of democracies in Europe and Latin America, and they believe the answer is yes. Democracy no longer ends with a bang—in a revolution or military coup—but with a whimper: the slow, steady weakening of critical institutions, such as the judiciary and the press, and the gradual erosion of long-standing political norms. The good news is that there are several exit ramps on the road to authoritarianism."

"More than 2,400 people lost their jobs in a media landslide so far this year" from Business Insider

— Debbie recommends this in connection with the concerns she raised about the weakening of news media as a defender of democracy.

"Countries Want to Ban ‘Weaponized’ Social Media. What Would That Look Like?" from the New York Times

— Debbie also talked about the divisive effects of social media and the challenge of what can be done about it while also preserving free speech.