Last Updated: July 19th
Political news is monopolizing the world at the moment. Enter the political podcast — a chance to dive deep, to explore ideas, and to exhibit nuance in an incredibly unnuanced time.
We’re picking the best political podcasts from both sides of the aisle. Focusing on podcasts from one side or the other would be perpetuating the vacuums and bubbles that far too many are stuck in. Whether you believe in the rhetoric of the hosts and guests or not, there’s value and information to be gleaned from each. The discussions are valid, the work is important, and we all need to listen to one another a little more.
The Federalist Podcast piggy-backs off the online conservative magazine of the same name. Host Ben Domenech covers topics ranging from the political to the pop culture from a conservative POV. This is an old-school brand of conservatism that places importance on their values and country over the blind allegiances you find plaguing the fringes of the right and left.
Start with the episode in which co-hosts Katherine Mangu-Ward and Mary Katharine Ham discuss Dwayne Johnson’s presidential prospects. It’s a great way to ease into a conservative podcast with a familiar theme if you’re coming from the left.
POD SAVE AMERICA
Co-hosts Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor all worked for President Obama as either speech writers or political spokesmen or advisors. Each episode of Pod Save America takes on the political news of the moment. So there are often up to three episodes a week giving an in-depth and jaunty left-leaning analysis of what’s happening in the White House and around the political world right now, often with a guest who has direct contact with the story.
Start with the most recent episode to get a feel for the feel of the show through the lens of what’s happening right now in American politics. If you like it, you can scroll back through the episodes and get some more perspective on American political events.
LEFT, RIGHT, AND CENTER
Left, Right, and Center has a great premise. They put three people in a room — one from the right, one from the left, one centrist — and get them to talk out the recent political events happening around the world. It’s the perfect example of piercing the bubble and starting conversations across the aisle with adept analysis from people in the know.
Start with recent episodes to get a real feel for the format and hosts. From there, you’ll find a long list of weekly episodes to choose from.
Michael Barbaro hosts The New York Times’ podcast The Daily. The show offers short (20ish minute) episodes that hit on the biggest political stories of the moment and brings in an expert reporter to give a quick and very in-depth take on that breaking news. There isn’t any real political left or right here, it’s more about the information behind the stories so that the general public can get a better purchase on what’s happening and a translation of all that political jargon.
There are five episodes per week to choose from. So, jumping in with the most recent one is probably your best bet here. If you dig the format, go back and listen to the archives or just keep on listening every day as new eps drop.
THE POLITICO NERDCAST
Politico’s Nerdcast podcast, hosted by Scott Bland, covers the White House and all things politics. The show doesn’t necessarily lean left or right since Bland invites co-hosts and guests onto the show who sit on both sides of the aisle. And it’s in those guests that the show shines, with deep cuts and analysis of what’s going on in Washington right now.
Start with the April 21st episode where the topics of local elections, money in politics, and Bill O’Reilly’s downfall are discussed at length. Aside from that, there are weekly episodes to choose from.
THE BERNIE SANDERS SHOW
This is the hardcore left’s podcast. Senator Bernie Sanders invites guests onto his show to help him “fight back against Trump.” Sanders’ podcast is the voice for science, progress, and what some would call “the resistance.”
THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM
…And this is the hardcore right’s podcast. The Glenn Beck Program is your one-stop depot for all things conservatism. Beck has seemingly shed his Alex Jones-y conspiracy theory days and is now offering an olive branch across the aisle for reconciliation between the left and right, while still holding his conservative values close to his heart.
This is another podcast where you can jump in anywhere that piques your interest. However, we recommend starting with the most recent episode where Beck welcomes Republican Senator Ben Sasse who penned an open letter denouncing Trump to his constituents. The two discuss many topics of the day and the whole mess we all find ourselves in vis-à-vis Trump.
WHAT IN THE WORLD?
Let’s lighten things up a little bit. What can be overwhelming about the above podcasts is the intense amount of jargon and insider bent that comes with political podcasts. What In The World? finds podcast czar Adam Tod Brown and fellow comedian Quincy Johnson II hashing over politics, current affairs, and worldwide stories in an immediately accessible way. It’s a great place to find some political news wrapped in constant jokes about said news.
Start with this recent two-part series that looks at the nine nuclearly armed states and what their stand is on using those arms. It’s witty and informative. From there you’ll find episodes asking Trump voters if they feel remorse yet and deep dives into how economic sanctions work.
THE JOE ROGAN EXPERIENCE
The Joe Rogan Experience is more than any single genre of podcast. It’s a menagerie of ideas, concepts, conversations, deep dives, silliness, comedy, and cannabis with a little whiskey thrown in every now and then for good measure. Rogan has some of the hardest hitting guests from every field you can think of on his show for long talks on varying subjects. Expect to put in up to three hours on some episodes. But know that each minute is a worthwhile endeavor as Rogan is adept at keeping his guests on track and doesn’t hesitate to call out bullshit when he hears it.
With over 1,100 episodes to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Since this list is about politics, start with Rogan’s interview with Alex Jones. It’s a batshit crazy, cannabis and whiskey-fueled dive down deep conspiracy rabbit holes and offers a spellbinding glimpse into the “character” that is Alex Jones.
CHAPO TRAP HOUSE
Political commentary can often carry a seriousness with it that makes it inaccessible to many people. Chapo Trap House shatters that barrier with a satirical humor they call the “Dirt Bag” left. Hosts Will Menaker, Matt Christman, Felix Biederman, Amber A’Lee Frost, and Virgil Texas take on issues from an empowerment POV that looks at politics as an actionable cause we all should be engaged in, while filtering it all through a lot of jokes.
It’s tough to call the best spot to jump into a political podcast. Politics are constantly moving and dictated by the 24-hour news cycle. Of the 200+ episodes available for free, we’d say start with something recent like the crews’ take on James Comey. Or, sift through the archives and find a topic that piques your interest.
The Pollsters offers a refreshing and very bi-partisan look at the numbers that drive politics, policy, and even pop culture. Hosts Margie Omero and Kristen Soltis Anderson take a stance on the left and right of the political aisle (respectively) to look at how polling is changing the shape of our political system. The show is a great place to get a handle on how polling works and, maybe more importantly, how it manifests in reality.
You can really jump in anywhere with The Pollsters. Recent episodes about Comey, Stormy Daniels, guns, and even Oprah are all great entry points.
THE WEEDS PODCAST
The Weeds, over at Vox, takes deep dives into serious issues. Hosted by Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, and Matthew Yglesias the podcast is a long-form look at what’s happening in politics right now and why it should be on our radar. This is political commentary as entertainment and it’s essential for a more comprehensive view of what’s happening in Washington.
With a well of over 200 free episodes available, you can drop in on any political topic that jumps out at you. A recent episode on farm bills, food stamps, and the state of the opioid crisis is also a great way to introduce yourself to the podcast.
SLATE POLITICAL GABFEST
Slate’s Political Gabfest is the gold standard of political discourse in podcast form. Hosts Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz tackle the biggest political stories of the day on a weekly basis with informed and balanced takes on what (and maybe who) is going down.
Jump in anywhere amongst the 200+ episodes. Though, you may want to try the most recent episode first to get an idea of the format and voices.
The Trumpcast (also part of Slate’s slate of shows) is an in-depth look at all things related to the rise and administration of Donald Trump. Each episode takes a look at the different facets of the Trump White House or his history as more and more comes to light about the man. It’s a fascinating look at the past, present, and possible future of all things Trump.
This is one of the rare occasions where we’d recommend starting from episode one — which is aptly titled, Democracy Spawns a Tyrant. There are 300 episodes to get through from there. By the time you catch up, you’ll have a masters in all things related to the Donald.
NPR POLITICS PODCAST
NPR’s Politics Podcast offers a concise take on the political news of the day. Episodes tend to be 20 minute quick dives into what’s breaking right now with weekly, longer episodes rounding up recent news. The approach is clear reporting of what’s going on with experts brought in for further context. It’s a great place to get informed.
With 300 episodes available for free, which spans years of political news, you really should jump in with the most recent episode and then filter through the archive for insights into topics that interest you.