Keeping Track: 5 Essential Political Podcasts For Right Now

Keeping Track: 5 Essential Political Podcasts For Right Now

1.) Slate’s Trumpcast
Delivering precisely what its title promises, Trumpcast is a weekly podcast that recaps and analyzes the constantly recycling avalanche of news and controversy swirling around Donald Trump, his administration, and its opponents. Often there are several episodes released a week – a sign of the manic nature of the current administration so far — and host Jacob Weisberg, who is chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group (which includes the indispensable Slate blog) is adept at asking the right questions of his guests and filtering Trump’s weekly actions and outbursts into an easily understood narrative with the attendant consequences starkly defined. A recent live episode (released February 8th) featuring Virginia Heffernan, and Dahlia Lithwick, and the always-excellent Jamelle Bouie is an especially great place to start.

2.) Slate’s Political Gabfest
Helmed by Emily Bazelon (NYTimes Mag), John Dickerson (CBS’s Face the Nation moderator), and David Plotz (Atlas Obscura CEO), Slate’s Political Gabfest is also a weekly news rundown that benefits from the interplay of its three hosts. Episodes will generally tackle two to four headlines, and the hosts are adept at nimbly stitching the connections between, say, Trump’s alarming slandering of the judiciary and the fate of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, offering thoughtful takes on how one affects the other. At once intellectual trenchant and darkly witty, Political Gabfest is comprehensive and insightful, and offers an impressive balance of hard-boiled realism and progressive critique.

3.) Pod Save America
First appearing as Keepin’ It 1600, an election-focused podcast distributed by Bill Simmons’ The Ringer blog, Pod Save America is the post-election iteration of the semi-weekly show hosted by former Obama staffers Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. The show’s perspective is unrepentantly progressive, which is largely what makes the show so valuable and so unique. As former White House insiders, the hosts know how policy is formulated, how legislation is crafted, how good will and public approval is garnered – and thus the quartet have a unique vantage on the manipulations of Trump and potential game plans for resistance from the Left. Pod Save America thus serves as both a catharsis – the hosts aren’t afraid to vent outrage and dismay – and an inspiration as Favreau, Lovett, Pfeiff, and Vietor regularly return to the discussion of what liberals and progressives can do to resist Trump.

4.) Hard Nation
An improv comedy podcast masquerading as the weekly political talk-radio show of fictional pundits Mark Hard and Pete Hard, played by Mike Still and Paul Welsh, Earwolf’s Hard Nation has likely done the best job of crafting the kind of piercing satire that truly reveals both the danger and absurdity that the Trump administration represents. The show is at its best when the wildly inaccurate diatribes of Mark Hard, who Still plays as a bloviating conservative in the Rush Limbaugh mold, are undercut by the acidic stage-whisper dismay of the liberal Pete Hard, whose regularly delivery of an exasperated “Oh my god” has practically become a catch-phrase. Still and Welsh have  designed the show as a livewire send-up of Trump and his Orwellian team of bullshitters, and the show’s chief brilliance lies in just how funny it manages to be while actually plumbing the grotesque horror of the administration, and vice versa. Each episode features a fellow improv comedian appearing as some newsworthy figure, with Jen D’Angelo holding the MVP title so far for her understatedly batty performance as Ivanka Trump.

5.) FiveThirtyEight Politics
As should be expected from a podcast attached to the famous stats-and-analysis blog FiveThirtyEight, FiveThirtyEight Politics finds hosts Nate Silver, Jody Avirgan, Clare Malone, and Harry Enten breaking down the current political climate with methodical precision. Unsurprisingly, polls, numbers, probabilities, and precedent frequently undergird the conversations, making FiveThirtyEight Politics the most dense and clinical of the shows on this list. But that (largely) “Just the Facts” approach also makes for a valuably scientific counterpart to the more impressionistic likes of Pod Save America. Especially useful are discussions of, say, who precisely would feel the brunt of certain proposed policies, or how best to understand poll results or estimations of turnout and crowd-size (especially useful following the Trump inauguration and the Women’s March). Think of it as an especially entertaining and well-delivered “Footnotes” section to the week’s news.

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Half Cloth

Independent Music & Arts Criticism

1 Response

  1. Nothing wrong with these, but I’ll add some that may be more and/or less strident than your choices.

    The Weeds – People love or hate (or love to hate on) the hosts and publication behind The Weeds: Matt Yglessias, Ezra Klein & Sarah Kliff. But the podcast tries to be as factual as possible, as funny as possible, while dealing with real policy esoterica (plus Trump).

    Pod Save The World – Tom Vietor talks strictly foreign policy and its historical roots. For those of us that didn’t read Latin American History in Uni, this is seriously enlightening and much less activist than the related pod above–not that that’s superior.

    Also, The Daily by the NYT. One morning podcast per weekday with daily concerns about what’s going on. It’s more journalism and narrative than activism/advocacy, but it’s only like 15 to 20 min per day.

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