13 Political Podcasts to Help You Keep Up With & Actually Understand the World Around You
From (mostly) marginalized voices.
If it feels like the entire world has gotten political overnight, that’s because it has. It’s not just your friendly neighborhood geek site that can’t (and doesn’t want to) rest on escapism. Everyone I know is more engaged, and consuming more news than ever before. And that’s a beautiful thing! Our rights and our lives are under attack every day, but knowledge and political engagement are powerful weapons. Still, it can be hard to keep up with our current political
hellscape landscape. It’s not just the unrelenting pace at which news moves; it’s also the context required of that news.
Making it even harder to connect with what’s happening, both the political world and the podcast world are dominated by white cis men. Some truly fantastic podcasts come out of those spheres (we’ll get to that below), but for many of us, it can make us feel like outsiders, like our voices aren’t central to these conversations. Are you struggling to keep track of Trump’s many scandals or revolving door of staff members? Or maybe you want to understand, say, what exactly constitutes obstruction of justice or why every Trump family member isn’t in prison? And do you want those answers from someone who doesn’t ignore the intersections of race, culture, gender, and politics in the process? If so, here are 13* podcasts to help you keep up with and actually understand current politics.
*Sorry, it’s more than 13. I’ll mention now that with so many podcasts to listen to, I listen to each at 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 speed. It’s a total gamechanger and also incredibly frustrating if you’re ever in a position to then have to listen at regular speed.
I avoided this one for a long time because I couldn’t stand the thought of listening to a podcast with Trump in the title, especially not three times a week, which Trumpcast averages. Once I got over that reservation, though, I never looked back.
The episodes rotate through three hosts, Jamelle Bouie, Virginia Heffernan, and Jacob Weisberg, and tend to be around half an hour each. If you’re looking for brief but in-depth commentary on the big issues of the week, from knowledgeable hosts who in no way hide their disdain of the Trump administration, this is a great resource.
Honorary mention: If you like Trumpcast, check out Political Gabfest, also from Slate. It’s self-described as “the kind of informal and irreverent discussion Washington journalists have after hours over drinks.”
In the Thick
Co-hosted by Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela–both of NPR’s Latino USA, another fantastic podcast/radio show worth checking out–In the Thick aims to fill in the holes left by the mainstream media, specifically through the lens of race. They give invaluable and often otherwise absent context to Trump-era issues, from DACA to the response to Puerto Rico’s devastation to white supremacy and anti-Semitism. The episodes are short (around 30 minutes each) and I’ve never heard one that didn’t teach me a lot.
Pod Save America
I know the entire premise here is to promote resources from marginalized voices, but if you’re looking to understand current political dealings, you need to be listening to Pod Save America. Jon Lovett, Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor all worked as aides to President Obama and therefore are able to provide some much-needed context to the current political happenings. This podcast has guided me through a lot of this year’s events, and is largely responsible for how much I understand about pretty much everything I write about when it comes to politics. Pod Saves America is like a news podcast mated with an in-depth civics lesson. Also, literally no one is better at podcast ad breaks than Jon Lovett.
Everything else from Crooked Media
We talk a lot around these parts about the role of allies. No one can fault the hosts of Pod Save America for their white cisdom, but they use their privilege in the way we always like to celebrate: namely, by amplifying marginalized voices. They regularly have women and POC on the pod, and Crooked Media puts out a number of other podcasts. Pod Save the People, hosted by DeRay McKesson, provides historical and social context to deepen our conversations around race and social justice. With Friends Like These is hosted by one of my favorite frequent PSA guests Ana Marie Cox is a show about having “difficult conversations.” It’s “a show about listening instead of arguing,” but it actually does so that doesn’t devolve into bland, placating both-sidesism. And Lovett or Leave It is a delightful weekend podcast recapping the week’s stories with games and awesome guests.
Furthering their dedication to showcasing diverse voices, Crooked Media also just launched the Crooked Contributors Network. These brilliant, funny people serve as guests on the podcasts and now also write articles on current political happenings, which can be found on the Crooked website.
NPR Politics Podcast
NPR has a number of great political news podcasts, but let’s start with the aptly named NPR Politics Podcast. Hosted by NPR’s reporters, the episodes are concise, informative, and super helpful in keeping up with the week’s news, even in the Trump era, when it seems impossible to keep up with the ever-moving WFTery.
It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders
Another recommendation from NPR, It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders is a fantastic recap with incredible guests like (just speaking recently) Full Frontal‘s Ashley Nicole Black and my own personal favorite satirical writer, The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri.
One more from NPR! Code Switch comes from a team of journalists of color who refuse to accept the claim that America is “post-racial.” They describe themselves as being “fascinated by the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.” They look at current news through a lens of race and identity, and they also do deep dives into larger stories, like a current multi-part series on America’s education system.
On 1 With Angela Rye
Are all of these suggestions for podcasts with smart hosts and awesome guests discussing news, politics, race, and cultural identity starting to get overwhelming? Well, too bad because there’s more! Angela Rye is a commentator for CNN and NPR, an attorney and the head of a political advocacy firm in DC. Her guests on On One have ranged from Al Sharpton to Gabrielle Union to Jesse Williams to two appearances by “Queen Maxine” Waters. If you want any insight at all into
Veering away from the strictly political podcasts, Another Round isn’t just about politics. Buzzfeed’s Tracy Clayton and Heben Nigatu are brilliant voices discussing race, gender, and pop culture. When they do talk strict politics, though, they do it so well. Immediate recommendations include their interviews with Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and Cory Booker, aka The Anne Hathaway of Politics.
The Bossy Show
The Bossy Show is hosted by two hilarious and unapologetically angry queer feminist writers, Jill Gutowitz and Carmen Rios. I’ll be honest, they had me at “professional fuckboy Paul Ryan.”
These two are incredibly smart and knowledgeable about politics themselves, but they also bring in impressive expert voices, as well as comedians to dive into current news items. My only complaint is that there aren’t many episodes, and I want more of this podcast in my life.
The Rachel Maddow Show
Did you know that the audio for The Rachel Maddow Show is available in podcast form? Well, it is. I feel like this is all I need to say.
Remember when the ACLU of West Virginia filed their scathing amicus brief against that coal industry baron on behalf of John Oliver? This podcast comes from that branch, and is hosted by Jamie Lynn Crofts. Civil Fights gives you some legal insight into current politics, and they do so with humor. There’s only a handful of episodes available, so it’s a light commitment with big rewards.
Are subscribed to The Skimm? Personally, I start every day with the lighthearted, yet entirely informative newsletter. It’s a great roundup of current pressing stories, often filled with Mean Girls quotes and wine recommendations. Now, they’re branching out into podcast territory–or, as they’re calling it, “audio product” territory. Like their newsletter blurbs, these are super brief summaries of single issues. The most recent, for example, is 10 minutes on Fentanyl and the opioid crisis. You’re not going to get all the information you need, obviously, but these are great if there’s an issue everyone’s talking about that you need a basic intro to.
These are my own favorite political podcasts. What did I miss? Tell me what you’re listening to that helps you understand the world around you.
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