By Liz Hensler
Being stuck at home these last six months, like many of us, I’ve found myself obsessively consuming content about the upcoming US election, issues of social and racial justice, and increasingly tense politics in this country. Specifically, I’ve been endlessly streaming political podcasts (I’ve spent more time with Jon Lovett than with any friends or family during this quarantine).
The varied analysis and perspectives pumped in through my earbuds have had three purposes: first, to entertain and fill the long stretches of being indoors; second, to help me feel more in control and feel validated in the amount of emotional energy I’m putting into thinking about politics and society; and third and most importantly, to keep up-to-date and informed during a critical time in our history. With the election in under 50 days, now is the time to brush up on your knowledge and mobilize yourself and your loved ones to get to the polls.
If you, like me, find yourself hungrily seeking expert, and entertaining, political and social justice analysis, check out some of our favorite podcasts!
In all honesty, I’m a rabid fan of the entire Crooked Media suite of podcasts. Pod Save America, the original Crooked Media podcast, is hosted by former President Obama aides, Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. As far as political podcasts go, this is my quintessential go-to. This show breaks down current events in a way that feels like a behind-the-curtain peek at politics, while being funny, accessible, and solidly paced.
Is it cheating to pull from the same host of podcasts? Crooked Media also produces a Pod Save America spinoff, hosted by Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes, called Pod Save the World. While Pod Save America focuses heavily on US politics and climate, Pod Save the World deep dives into foreign policy and international news.
Mehdi Hasan, columnist for The Intercept, hosts a weekly podcast focusing on one important story each week. Being a Brit based in DC, Hasan provides a broader perspective to American politics. He (or for the last few weeks, Ryan Grim subbing in) manages to pack a lot of engaging content in under an hour.
I started listening to Native America Calling when trying to learn more about how Native American tribal leaders recommend fighting climate change, and have become a big fan. Hosted by Antonia Gonzales (news) and Tara Gatewood (host), Native America Calling is a call-in radio show focused specifically on current events and politics for Native American communities. Because the callers are a mix of preplanned conversations with issue/technical experts and questions/comments from listeners, this show gives a solid view into both understanding issues and public reaction.
In bite-sized daily chunks (meaning under a half hour… short in the world of podcasts), the Vox team unpacks an important current event. If you’re familiar with Vox’s video series, the production will feel very familiar and high quality. This is a go-to for real time coverage of important events with key interviews and soundbites.
FiveThirtyEight, organization run by famed pollster Nate Silver, hosts this podcast, featuring prominent analysts and political figures. If you’re into the numbers, modeling, and background reasoning behind polling and voter behavior, this one is for you.
Mother Jones is an independent investigative news source, with tons of in-depth stories about many of the biggest social justice issues plaguing society. The podcast brings in top-notch experts for interviews that dig deeper into many of the topics that are top of mind. Highly recommend.
8. Pantsuit Politics
Two friends/political analysts from either side of the political ideology sit down to have frank, compassionate conversations about politics. Sarah and Beth root their friendship in mindfulness and the conversations are balanced between politics and being a person existing within the country affected by politics. If you’re looking for a middle America and metered approach to politics, this is right up your alley.
9. Left, Right, & Center
Left, Right & Center has been around since the 90s and follows a more traditional political chat show format. Each episode features commentators from left, right and moderate perspectives for (mostly) civil conversation about current events. This show is a great way to get a full circle view of different political perspectives on the moment.
*Special mention: Lovett or Leave It
Lovett or Leave It brings a lot more humor and snarky joy to politics than the others in the Crooked Media suite and is truly a salve for the really rough days. I’m not officially including it here, as I’d categorize it as much as a comedy than political news (although it’s really both).
Any favorite political podcasts we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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Liz Hensler, MPA (she/her/hers) is the founder of Do Good, Better. She works in philanthropy in the humanitarian aid sector and has a background in NGO program management, corporate and community engagement, volunteer management, and communications. She is based in Brooklyn, NY.