The 11 best political podcasts of 2019

Michael Barbaro, The New York Times

  • 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. 

1. “Pod Save
America
” by Crooked Media

Pod Save America podcast art

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. 

2. “Intercepted with
Jeremy Scahill
” by 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

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. 

3. “Code
Switch
” by NPR

“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

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.  

4. “Red Scare” by
Anna Khachiyan, Dasha Nekrasova, and Meg Murnane

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. 

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.  

5. “Political
Gabfest
” by Slate

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. 

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
.” 

6. “The Fifth Column” by
Michael Moynihan, Matt Welch, and Kmele Foster

“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. 

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.

7. “The
Daily
” by The New York Times

the daily nyt podcast

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.

8. “The
Lawfare Podcast
” by Lawfare


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. 

9. “In
The Thick
” by 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

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.   

10. “Stay Tuned with
Preet
” by WNYC Studios

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. 

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.  

11. “The Joe Rogan
Experience
” by Joe Rogan

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.

SEE ALSO: 24
podcasts picked by industry leaders, successful executives, and
business school professors that are almost as good as getting an
MBA


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The 11 best political podcasts of 2019