The political deluge you can’t beat back. You might just as well enter it. We have compiled the best, sharpest, and most enjoyable political podcasts with that in mind, podcasts to keep you updated, amused, and, hopefully, to remind you that there are other sane, intelligent people out there.
Before we begin, a few notes: We have made an effort to fill this list with podcasts that, instead of those that are specifically progressive or conservative, consider various political points of view. And while an effort was made to concentrate on podcasts born and raised as podcasts, there was no way around the fact that many of the best shows come from public radio, as opposed to radio programs that are also available as podcasts.
The best political podcasts
1. Slate’s Political Gabfest
Political Gabfest, a freewheeling, entertaining debate from the often-contrary online magazine Slate, was released in 2005, which qualifies it for AARP membership by podcast standards. But all those years have allowed an easy partnership to be established by the three hosts, former Slate editor, and current Atlas Obscura head David Plotz; New York Times Magazine staff writer and senior research fellow Emily Bazelon at Yale Law School; and CBS News political analyst, Face the Nation host, and Slate political correspondent John Dickerson. Plotz, Bazelon, and Dickerson debate, dissect and quibble each week about some of the big political news stories of the week. It’s kind of like listening to the fun but sometimes heated, cocktail hour conversation of three longtime political journalists, except with sponsorship from Stamps.com. -Patrick Caldwell
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2. Women Rule
Politico’s podcast is all about women leaders, how they achieved, and their advice to those who want to make similar strides. Host Anna Palmer interviewed former presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, co-host Meghan McCain of The View, and women political activists from five of the presidential campaigns in 2016. This is an excellent podcast to hear at this time, considering the female effect lawmakers are likely to have in the midterm elections of 2018. J.K.
3. John Dickerson’s Whistlestop
Initially, this podcast started as tales of “campaign curiosities,” as John Dickerson, host of CBS’s Face The Nation and the aforementioned Political Gabfest, tackled stories from past presidential campaigns that included the 2004 Howard Dean scream and how the love child of Grover Cleveland almost lost him the election of 1884. But the podcast has pivoted to chats about how the modern political environment compares to the past now that Donald Trump has been elected. For starters, Dickerson talked about the riches of former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in an episode released just a few days after Trump’s inauguration and how the nation was then concerned about his “economic entanglements.”
4. NPR Politics Podcast
A counterpart of sorts to the dearly missed NPR’s It’s All Politics podcast, the NPR Politics Podcast features a rotating cast of political reporters from NPR holding court on the major political news items of the week, with sometimes brief 10-minute episodes offering rapid new developments. It has a certain loose irreverence and a light touch like its predecessor; if you could overhear NPR’s political correspondents speaking with a D.C. It would sound a lot like the NPR Politics Podcast, and luckily, old It’s All Politics host Ron Elving frequently stops by to provide insight into the newsmakers’ follies and foibles of the week. -P.C.
5. The Axe Files with David Axelrod
As a long, in-depth interview shows politicians a forum for a career retrospective, no podcast has entirely emerged as the WTF with Marc Maron of politics. (If there is any sign of the great Barack Obama episode, WTF with Marc Maron himself may someday become the WTF of politics with Marc Maron, if Maron cares about going in that direction.) But perhaps the closest thing yet is The Axe Files. David Axelrod, former Obama campaign strategist and current director of the Institute of Politics of the University of Chicago, interviews vital political figures in a series of low-key, insightful conversations, ranging from Jon Stewart to Eliot Spitzer Bernie Sanders to Lindsey Graham. -P.C.
6. Crooked Media’s Pod Save America
Keeping It 1600, former Barack Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor created a significant follow-up for their previous podcast. But now that Trump is in office, they’ve launched Crooked Media, their own media firm, and they’ve changed the scope of their two-week podcast. Trump’s decisions are railed against, but they still want to take action and encourage others to do the same. As the trio wrote in their mission statement, “We are not journalists, we are not impartial, we are not always serious, and we are not always correct.” But we promise a no-bullshit policy dialogue where you can laugh, cry, yell, mock us regularly, express your opinions, and hopefully decide that you want to help fix this mess, too. When he visited the show in his last interview as president, the podcast scored a massive guest. .J.K.
7. Dan Carlin’s Common Sense
It’s time for Dan Carlin’s Common Sense when you’ve had enough of sober centrism and can accept the cynicism and anger that sometimes accompanies becoming a political junkie. Carlin is the grumpy-but-too-often-right uncle in the world of political podcasts. A former radio host, the weekly podcast of Carlin sees the political independent looking at modern left and right politics. Carlin is a fierce and fiery critic, but with a sharp sense of humor, tempers his often-blistering criticism, especially of partisan gridlock, growing federal power, and the corrupting effect of money in politics. If you’re the kind of political junkie grumbling at both Fox News and MSNBC and disappointed with both candidates shutting off the presidential debate, then you’re likely to resonate with Carlin’s grumblings and frustrations. -P.C.
8. Intelligence Squared
As a London organization that staged sharply framed debates on major political controversies, Intelligence Squared started in 2002. Conducted in Oxford style, Intelligence Squared attracted some prestigious celebrities, including Tony Blair, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, with a panel of two or three experts on either side of a given question. For Australia, Hong Kong, Nigeria, and others, the format has since been adapted. Through podcasts, both the original and the United States versions are available. Participants and audience members answer weighty questions, ranging from’ Does the government ration end-of-life care? to “Does China do better than America with capitalism?” In-depth and sometimes pointed debates make for exciting listening, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. And, like a proper competitive debate, in the end, a winner is selected, adding to the proceedings a pleasant touch of deception. -P.C.
9. KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center
A less formal, more leisurely take on political debates is provided by the left, right, and Middle. As the title suggests, the show offers someone from the center every week (moderator and columnist Josh Barro of the New York Times), the left (Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of liberal magazine Truthdig) and the right (Rich Lowery, editor of the conservative National Review), as well as occasional guests, all engaged in a robust half-hour debate that discusses the big news items of the week. Left, Right, and Middle, recorded at the end of the workweek, does a consistently excellent job condensing, investigating, and parsing the political goings-on of the week, helping listeners navigate the ever-changing world from every perspective, typically mainstream. -P.C.
10. Vox’s The Weeds
Three of the smartest contemporary political analysts are Vox’s Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, and Sarah Kliff. Their podcast, as the name implies, leans into the nitty-gritty of economics and political science. It takes deep, analytical dives into some of the most critical topics in politics instead of wasting its time genuflecting on the most recent blunders. Recent episodes have discussed issues such as the battle to digitize health records, the land value levy, and the effect of Obamacare on jobs. It’s a smart but seldom dry show that is, inexplicably, very rarely actually spoken of on the program’s crucial details. -P.C.
11. Crooked Media’s Pod Save the World
As Crooked Media continues to expand, its podcast offerings are also growing. The party, founded by three alums of the Barack Obama administration, now hosts a podcast called With Friends Like These by political analyst Ana Marie Cox, which focuses on what divides us (and what does not) and one called Pod Save the People by Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson. But Tommy Vietor, one of Pod Save America’s co-hosts, focuses on global problems in Pod Save the World, which will encourage listeners to be involved. It is dubbed “a no-bullshit conversation about foreign policy” by Crooked Newspapers, and Vietor interviews guests ranging from senators investigating Russia to Middle East experts debating Syria’s crisis. Vietor is Obama’s former spokesperson for the National Security Council, so he knows foreign policy. While many of his guests lean liberal, he has started to branch out and speak to more conservative writers and columnists, including Glenn Greenwald and Eli Lake of Bloomberg.
12. New York Times’ The Daily
Started in February 2017 by the New York Times, only a few weeks after President Donald Trump took office, this podcast aims to send you bite-sized portions of what is happening regularly in politics, globally and internationally (each episode is released early every weekday morning). As the Times writes, “This is how it should sound in the news.” “Twenty minutes a day, five days a week.” Listening to it is a speed-learning practice. One of the fascinating aspects of this podcast is that host Michael Barbaro interviews times reporters to give us a bit of color about how they do their work. For instance, when reporters Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush interviewed Trump in the Oval Office in April 2017 and then spoke about their experiences to the Daily. .J.K.
13. Washington Post’s Can He Do That?
For better or worse, Donald Trump has brought us a presidential administration as we’ve never seen before. Norms were broken, 200-year-old conventions were defied, and new precedents were created. So, it makes sense that someone continually asks, “Can he do that?” “Allison Michaels strives to address the question every week, talking about the behavior of the Trump administration to political operatives, historians, and other Washington Post reporters. For instance, they wonder whether Trump will bring back the American jobs he’s promised or whether a president will expose sensitive data.
14. The Federalist Radio Hour
For those that are more conservative, maybe the daily Federalist podcast is for you. Federalist publisher Ben Domenech interviews writers, authors, and academics while taking on “controversies from the opposite point of view in America.” It allows conservative political figures such as Charles Murray to defend himself against allegations that he is a white nationalist. It will enable hosts to ask whether urbani should be concerned with others on the right side of the political spectrum.
15. Stay Tuned With Preet
In September, a podcast was released on WNYC by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whom President Donald Trump infamously dismissed after reportedly telling him he wanted him to stay on. With Bharara gliding through topics effortlessly and with authority, the podcast is intimate. Bharara goes into excruciating depth about the events following his ouster by Trump in his first episode and has a reflective conversation with former Defense Secretary and former CIA Director Leon Panetta. -Andrew Wyrich
BONUS: We’re All Gonna Die
We’d be amiss not to mention the podcast on Daily Dot and We’re All Gonna Die. Every Saturday, with an incisive wit and positive perspective, our Layer 8 team and assorted guests break down the week’s biggest headlines, from the latest Donald Trump tweetstorm to the fake news crisis and battle between the far-right and Antifa. It’s more relaxed than covering our daily news as if we’re catching up after work at the bar and need a drink because, honestly, we do most days.
16. Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes
In May 2018, Chris Hayes, the liberal MSNBC host, began his podcast to ask “the big questions that keep him up at night.” Hayes met with reporters and analysts in his first few episodes to discuss what is currently happening in the Middle East and how it could have an era-defining impact. He also discusses topics such as the conservative movement and how Donald Trump has led us for the past few years. Don’t be surprised if, on this podcast, you don’t hear any Trump praise. ..J.K.
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