Podcasts Help Listeners Learn Politics

Groucho Marx once wisely said, “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Humorous, but it totally still applies to the bonkers state of our politics today. I don’t blame you in the slightest if you are already finding keeping up with the state of the presidential race to be daunting, but it’s our civic duty to get to the polls next go-round. One of the easiest ways to both preserve your sanity and to learn what you need to know about domestic political developments is by listening to podcasts. Here are a few of the best to listen to on the treadmill, on the way to class, in the library or anywhere you have a pair of headphones.

“The Daily”

The New York Times’ “The Daily,” which publishes 20-minute episodes every weekday, is typically a deep dive into The New York Times’ best reporting of the day. After hosting 2016 election podcast “The Run-Up,” former Times reporter Michael Barbaro pivoted to the audio space, where he examines one or two major stories per day and interviews Times reporters covering the biggest headlines around the world. Some recent notable topics covered by “The Daily” include negotiations over a peace deal with the Taliban, the wildfires in the Amazon, the Group of 7 summit in France and song playlists at presidential campaign rallies. The podcast also featured an excellent, deeply-reported series this summer on the rise of nationalist, far-right parties in Poland, Italy and Germany.

“The Argument”

Another sterling addition to The New York Times’ library of podcasts is “The Argument.” Every week, three Times opinion columnists debate the latest news from across the political spectrum: Michelle Goldberg (liberal), David Leonhardt (moderate) and Ross Douthat (conservative). Their discussions are valuable because learning how the other half thinks can help you argue your perspective much more coherently, and the three columnists often find a surprising amount of common ground. In addition, Goldberg, Leonhardt and Douthat take turns ending each podcast with a non-political recommendation — from books to the best frozen yogurt shops in New York City.

“The Weeds”

While most podcasts tend to stick to a more cursory survey of the main headlines in the political world, Vox’s podcast “The Weeds” dives deep into the finer details of policy. Their pitch is that the “weeds” is where politics becomes policy, which has the power to shape our lives. Twice a week, Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein and a handful of Vox writers dig into domestic issues as diverse as international trade, Federal Reserve policy, immigration, housing and healthcare. They have also taken trips “into the weeds” with presidential candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Julian Castro. 

FiveThirtyEight Politics”

If you’re interested in the numerical and analytical aspects of election politics, FiveThirtyEight’s podcast might be for you. Twice a week, Nate Silver and his team of data journalists dive into the latest political news and issues as well as the quantitative aspects of elections and polling. The podcast will also publish “exit interviews” with Democratic candidates as they leave the race, having started with Rep. Eric Swalwell.

“Lawfare”

Produced in cooperation with The Brookings Institution, “Lawfare” is dense and esoteric. But it is also one of the best sources of information about foreign policy, election security and constitutional debates. “Lawfare” also published coverage of the Mueller report that was second-to-none.