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The 11 best political podcasts of 2019

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  • Podcasts exploded in 2019, with politics-themed shows at the front of the pack.
  • You can find everything from interviews with top policymakers and analysts to meticulously produced deep dives into the news.
  • Below, we’ve included the political podcasts we couldn’t stop listening to this year, including “Pod Save America” by Crooked Media, “Code Switch” by NPR, “The Daily” by The New York Times, and others.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

If the golden age of television is, in fact, coming to an end, at least we’re still in the golden age of podcasts. Between Spotify’s $230 million deal for Gimlet and seemingly every celebrity starting their own show, 2019 was the year of the pod. 

This was in no small part due to our undying appetite for politics, with questions of governance, power, and old-fashioned palace intrigue seemingly permeating every genre, from news to comedy to interviews. This year, we’ve chosen our 10 favorite political podcasts, ranging from newcomers to veteran shows that built the industry. Even if it means listening on 3X speed, these are all shows worth checking out to stay informed on the constant barrage of the news cycle. 

Pod Save America podcast art

“Pod Save America.”

Crooked Media


The former Obama staffers spun their Ringer show “Keepin’ it 1600” into the massive podcast network/event business/political machine Crooked Media after the 2016 elections. The enterprise is now home to over a dozen different shows, but the flagship one remains “Pod Save America,” hosted by the original “Keepin’ it 1600” bros: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor. 

Twice a week, they discuss current events, interview policy experts and pundits, and generally make us wish we were having as much fun as they are. The other Crooked Media shows veer into comedy, activism, and occasionally sociological analysis of the state of America. Favreau, Lovett, and Vietor each have separate shows on the side, and they’ve recruited heavy-hitters such as DeRay Mckesson and Ana Marie Cox to have their own programs. The podcasts inspire the type of warm, hopeful feelings that their old boss tried to inspire — not always appropriate for the chaotic times, but an escape when things feel too dire. 

"Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill"

“Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill.”
The Intercept


Jeremy Scahill takes a markedly different approach than the Pod Save America hosts. Scahill is a Polk Award-winning investigative journalist famous for his war coverage and work on the pioneering show “Democracy Now!” He went on to found The Intercept with Glenn Greenwald in 2014, an online news publication that covers global abuses of power through national security, migration, the environment, and everything in between. 

Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill.
The Intercept


Scahill brings his investigative and adversarial approach to his weekly podcast “Intercepted,” which he started in January 2017. Each episode, Scahill brings on different guests, from The Intercept journalists to high-profile thinkers and experts to highlight key issues happening around the world. On one recent episode, Scahill hosted the legendary activist Naomi Klein to talk about her new book on the Green New Deal. On another, Scahill speaks with the mother of Reality Winner, the first whistleblower charged under Donald Trump, currently in prison for allegedly leaking NSA documents (to The Intercept). The Intercept also has another podcast, “Deconstructed,” hosted by the British journalist Mehdi Razan that offers an alternative take on American and global political news. 

“Code Switch” began in 2013 as an NPR blog — with the inaugural post written by former HuffPost editor Gene Demby — with frequent contributions to NPR’s stable of shows. In 2016, Code Switch launched its own podcast, hosted by the founding team members Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji. 

Shereen Marisol Meraji

Shereen Marisol Meraji.
NPR


The show focuses on themes of race, ethnicity, and identity, working to tackle pervasive cultural questions through a combination of conversation and analysis. The show is driven by its sharp commentary, engaging hosts, and open approach to listener education. Topics often use lighter subjects to help explain deeper societal questions, like the role of “Dora the Explorer” in pushing for multicultural children’s programming. Other episodes don’t shy away from controversial topics, from Israel to Black Lives Matter. Nothing is taboo, but the hosts and guests use levity and empathy to welcome in a wide audience.  

Chapo Trap House” came on to the podcasting scene in March 2016, half a year before the US political status quo collapsed. Their brand of DIY, sardonic, and above all else, unapologetically leftist commentary soon became mainstream, with a thriving Patreon page and a number of other shows following in their steps. One of these was “Red Scare,” which similarly blended an ironic brand of humor with political punditry. 

"Chapo Trap House"

“Chapo Trap House.”
Chapo Trap House


Unlike “Chapo Trap House,” though, which is hosted by all men minus cohost Amber Frost, “Red Scare”‘s hosts are all women. The show frequently addresses themes of feminism and capitalism, skewering the “Lean In” brand of feminism represented by the Sheryl Sandbergs and Audrey Gelmans of the world. “Red Scare” recently hosted a live show at Brooklyn’s Union Hall with the infamous influencer Caroline Calloway, demonstrating how politics and culture are entirely inextricable.  

One of the longest-running political podcasts, “Political Gabfest” started in December 2005 with hosts John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon, and David Plots talking about the Iraq War and the nomination of Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito (how far we’ve come). The three cohosts have gone on to different full-time jobs: Dickerson is now a correspondent at “60 Minutes,” Emily Bazelon is at The New York Times Magazine, and Plotz is the CEO of the off-beat travel publication Atlas Obscura. 

"Political Gabfest"

“Political Gabfest.”
Slate


Almost 15 years later, they’re still hosting “Gabfest,” releasing a weekly podcast that combines news commentary, interviews, and, of course, informal banter. Each episode focuses on three different subjects. A recent show discussed Trump’s move to abandon the Kurds and the recent Democratic presidential debate before having on the Yale law professor Daniel Markovitz, who has been making the podcast rounds recently with his new book, “The Meritocracy Trap.” 

“The Fifth Column” is hosted by Vice News’ Michael Moynihan, Reason’s Matt Welch, Freethink’s Kmele Foster, and produced by Business Insider’s own politics editor Anthony Fisher. The podcast, which has been running for over 150 episodes, brings on top commentators from across the political spectrum in media and politics for heterodox converations about how breaking news and ongoing political debates are covered. In a recent episode, host Moynihan spoke with New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe about his new book “Say Nothing” on the troubles in Northern Ireland, which was just nominated for a National Book Award. 

"The Fifth Column" podcast

“The Fifth Column.”
“The Fifth Column”


In another episode, the hosts interviewed Coleman Hughes, a college student and writer for the controversial publication Quillette, who testified opposite Ta-Nehisi Coates at Congress on the issue of reparations. In December 2018, the show staged a live recording at NYC’s Comedy Cellar with guests Michael Barbaro of “The Daily” and Jody Avirgan of the “30 for 30” podcast.

the daily nyt podcast

“The Daily.”
The New York Times


New York Times national politics reporter Michael Barbaro first started a podcast called “The Run Up” in August 2016, focusing on the months before the election. The month of Trump’s inauguration, he began recording “The Daily,” which was an immediate hit. About two million listeners tune in every day to the 20-to- 30-minute episodes, which often break down the immediate news of the day while focusing on a deeper reported story, usually involving another New York Times reporter. 

A recent episode of the show focused on the Iowa Caucus, while another explored the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi with the NYT reporter (and host of the podcast “Caliphate“) Rukmini Callimachi. “The Daily” also does more ambitious multiepisode shows on subjects including vaping and Syria. With the success of “The Daily,” the New York Times branched into a TV spinoff show called “The Weekly” earlier this year, which airs on Fox and Hulu. The New York Times also produced a podcast around Nikole Hannah-Jones’ 1619 Project on slavery in America, and “The Daily” has aired five episodes of the show.

Founded by the journalist Benjamin Wittes and two law professors in 2010, Lawfare began as a wonky blog focusing on national security in partnership with the Brookings Institution. During the presidency of Donald Trump, Lawfare took off as readers became interested in otherwise inside baseball legal analysis. In a note to readers in February 2017, Wittes wrote that “Lawfare’s traffic last month exceeded traffic in January 2016 by an almost mind-boggling 1,101%.” Lawfare’s podcast predates this, with the first episode airing back in 2012. It often airs multiple times every week, hosted by different Lawfare writers including Wittes, David Priess, Margaret Taylor, and Molly Reynolds. 

Episodes focus on different Lawfare investigations, issues of national security and terrorism, and the legal questions surrounding the myriad investigations of the Trump administration. The show features the kind of high-level conversations you would expect out of a leading think tank, often featuring top scholars and analysts. In other words, a great way to sound smarter than your friends. 

"In The Thick"

“In The Thick.”
Futuro Media Group


Like many of the other podcasts on this list, “In The Thick” began in 2016. Its aim was to offer more diverse representation in the election coverage, with the tagline “journalists of color tell you what you’re missing from the mainstream news.” The podcast is hosted by Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela, who are both producers and directors at Latino USA, a nationally syndicated radio show on NPR. 

Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa.
Maria Hinojosa


Latino USA and “In The Thick” are both part of the Futuro Media Group, which also includes the digital media site Latino Rebels. “In The Thick” often explores political questions through identity and ethnicity, bringing new voices to issues that are otherwise excluded. It also doesn’t just focus on US news — a recent episode discussed the ongoing protests in Chile. Guests include activists, journalists, actors, and politicians.   

Preet Bharara was cruising along as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, one of the most powerful legal positions in the country (as made famous by Paul Giamatti in “Billions,” rumored to be at least slightly based on Bharara). He was even in the conversation to become attorney general after Eric Holder stepped down. When Trump was elected, he initially asked Bharara to stay in the position before Jeff Sessions ordered Bharara to step down in March 2017, along with the rest of the US Attorneys from the Obama administration. Bharara immediately became a political icon for the Democrats, aided by his own tweets bashing Trump. 

"Stay Tuned with Preet"

“Stay Tuned with Preet.”
Cafe Insider


He went on to start his own podcast, “Stay Tuned,” in September 2017, which typically run twice a week for over an hour. On the show, he talks about salient political issues and interviews guests such as George Conway, wife of Kellyanne and avowed Trump critic. Bharara also hosts episodes of the podcast “CAFE Insider” with NYU law professor and former New Jersey attorney general Anne Milgram, which are less than 20 minutes and also cover ongoing political news.  

When the comedian, sports commentator, and mixed martial artist Joe Rogan first launched his podcast in December 2009, it seemed like it would follow in the footsteps of early shows like “WTF with Marc Maron” and “The Adam Carolla Show,” which combined comedy with free-flowing interviews. Over the past 10 years, though, “The Joe Rogan Experience” has transcended all other genres to become a (somewhat cultish) community dedicated to questions of consciousness, wellness, and politics.

Rogan positions himself as curious, which often means having on guests that other shows would avoid, like conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. More often though, this means that Rogan’s show skews libertarian — or “freethinking” — with guests like Democratic candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, journalist Tim Pool, and members of the “Intellectual Dark Web” like psychology professor Jordan Peterson. In one memorable episode in August, Bernie Sanders came on the show, which received over 10 million views on YouTube.

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