What better way to follow the election’s by getting into political podcasts? It’s no secret to my friends and family that I’m a big political buff, and this year’s election has been like no other due to the rollercoaster ups and downs. The podcast format is near-perfect for political discussion, as it gives the hosts much more time to delve into specific topics than a typical five-minute segment that your typical news broadcast would otherwise offer. While this list will be greatly different in 2017 when the election’s over, it will have been a great run this year. So without further ado, see below for the best political podcasts of 2016.
1) Keepin’ it 1600
This year’s breakout political podcast hit has no doubt been The Ringer’s Keepin’ it 1600. With only 30 episodes to date, this podcast has quickly become a go-to for anyone interested in the election. Hosted by former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, and former Obama communications advisor Dan Pfeiffer, the two have great insight and commentary on this year’s craziness. With help from past experience being highly involved with Obama’s 2008 campaign, they have a unique eye into the going-ons into Hillary’s and Trump’s campaigns. They also are not afraid to keep the media honest with commentary on the various media outlets like Fox, MSNBC, and CNN (even though Pfeiffer currently works for the latter). The two are also keen to laugh at the hilarity of Trump’s various campaign antics. Guests have included Republican strategist Stuart Stevens, and journalists Jessica Yellin and Jonathan Martin. With our without guests however, the quality is always high. With their biting commentary, eagerness to share past experiences, combined with the comedic riffing, Keepin’ it 1600 is the best political podcast of 2016.
2) Slate’s Political Gabfest
Slate’s Political Gabfest is a great number two to Keepin’ it 1600, and is highly deserving as a number two list as a best political podcast. Hosts John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon, and David Plotz each Friday take you on the recap of the week with their own commentary. It should be noted that John Dickerson is also the host of CBS’s Face the Nation (their weekly Sunday “Meet The Press”-style show), and he is really just a national treasure all around. Dickerson has deep historic knowledge of politics, and is also just a class act and it shines through in this podcast. His personality compliments well between the liberal bleeding heart of David Plotz and the judicial know-how of Emily Bazelon. Each week they focus on recapping the week, followed by one or two topics that are sometimes unrelated to elections altogether (typically Emily weighing in on a State or Federal court ruling). Their personalities compliment well, and they also are not afraid to debate one another’s points. It should also be noted that every so often they have live shows, which in my opinion, don’t carry so well as much as the studio shows – unsurprisingly, three people debating politics on stage is not compelling to a live audience. However, on average, the show quality is quite high, making their show number two on the best political podcasts list of 2016.
3) The Axe Files
If you were not following elections during 2008 and 2012, you may have missed out on the personalities that were involved in his Obama’s election campaign. David Axelrod, who was the Chief Strategist for Obama for both his campaigns, and was also the Senior Advisor to Obama from 2008-2011, is as insider as you can get to the White House. He is also, in my opinion, an extremely reasonable political consultant, in that he deeply respects both sides of the debate, and he’ll engage with his guests, no matter if they are Republicans or Democrats. Since his time in office, he’s started an Institute of Politics and the University of Chicago, and his a featured commentator on CNN. His show is a standard interview-style show, and guests have included radio host Hugh Hewitt, Senator Al Franken, musician Paul Simon, and former Attorney General Eric Holder. The reason I rank this show so highly is because Axelrod is a very deft interviewer, and often spends as much times with his guests understanding their past, and trying to get at the reasons for their political leanings today. While it is highly dependent on the quality of guest, Axelrod holds the show on his own, and for that I rank it one of the best political podcasts of 2016.
4) FiveThirtyEight Elections
If you haven’t heard of Nate Silver, he is polling analyst and personality that correctly called the 2008 and 2012 elections via his blog FiveThirtyEight. Originally his own blog, in 2008, and then via the New York Times in 2012, he was hired by ESPN in 2015 (via Bill Simmons). FiveThirtyEight, since being acquired by ESPN, has ramped up their efforts, not only with politics and pop culture as well. This podcast is a sometimes-biweekly look at the current polling and “state of the race” for this year’s election. Hosts Nate Silver, Clare Malone, ‘whiz-kid’ Harry Enten, and Jody Avirgan break down the week with a humorous but interesting insights. The podcast quality is very high, and it’s worth it if only to hear Harry Enten’s voice and to guess his age before googling it yourself (hint: it’s not what you think, at all). They also have live shows from time to time, and their live shows are actually of quite high quality, as they keep the humor turned up (unlike Political Gabfest, above). A very high recommendation for the best political podcast of 2016.
5) No One Knows Anything
If you thought Buzzfeed was good only for memes and listicles, you’d be quite surprised to hear that they’ve invested heavily in their reporting teams over the last couple election cycles. This year, their election team has been delivering extremely high-quality podcasts by their journalists, and it’s always a surprise to see who turns up. A few weeks ago, for instance, featured Katherine Miller and McKay Coppins (who has been blamed for the rise of Trump via his amazing feature found here from 2014) discussing if and when parties can radically change. The last podcast featured Tarini Parti and Rosie Grey on the ground in Pennsylvania and North Caroline to investigate the ground games of Hillary and Trump’s campaigns. While they don’t tend to post every week or on a tight schedule (unlike Keepin’ it 1600 or the FiveThirtyEight Elections podcasts), when they do they are of very high quality. This is usually due to the fact that they are publishing actual journalistic stories and featurettes, rather than just the typical three-people-in-room-bullshitting around, to their credit. A very strong political podcast and I would absolutely include this on your playlist each week.
6) The Run-Up
The Run-Up is a New York Times podcast, and is relatively new at that (their first episode was on August 9, 2016, and have only had eight episodes thus far). However, it’s shot up the list as the best political podcasts of 2016, due to the quality of their show. While each show is dedicated to the election, the episodes dedicate themselves to a different facet of the election. Episodes have been centered around narcissism, faith, race and rhetoric. The host and guests are of high quality, and they clearly dedicate themselves to creating high-quality episodes featuring guests related to the topics at hand. It’s a very strong podcast and definitely worth your listening time.
7) Radio Free GOP with Mike Murphy
If you haven’t been following the election closely this year, you probably will not have heard of Mike Murphy. Murphy is the out-spoken political consultant that ran the Super PAC of Jeb Bush’s failed campaign. His Super PAC was one of most well-funded, having coffers of $100 million (or more), and to say that Jeb’s campaign failed was an understatement – more like a crash and burn. Murphy has since gone on to host his podcast Radio Free GOP, and his experience this campaign gives him insight and perspective onto the goings-on of the election this season. I’m always interested in what he has to say, even if I disagree with him often. Guests have included journalist Robert Costa of the Washington Post, and Trump’s Senior Advisor Roger Stone. With this podcast, it’s clear that Murphy is angling for a Rush Limbaugh-style show after the election season, so it’s a little “radio-showey” for me, but it doesn’t distract that he’s a host with unique experiences and insight into the election. For that, it’s a strong recommendation for one of the best political podcasts.
8) Common Sense with Dan Carlin
Dan Carlin is most well-known for this popular podcast Hardcore History with Dan Carlin. If you haven’t heard his show, or are new to podcasts, stop reading this and listen to the podcasts that are available right this second. If you are familiar, or are looking for more Dan Carlin, tune into his show Common Sense, where he discusses the month’s news with a 30,000-foot perspective only Carlin can offer. His podcasts are very infrequently updated (only once a month, uncommon when compared to the others in this list), however the show quality is extremely high. He approaches subjects purposefully without the ‘hot take’ that we’re all used to in today’s media, and when approached this way it’s actually refreshing to hear. One of the very good political podcasts for 2016, and will no doubt carry on forward past this year as a strong contender as well (unlike, for instance, our next offering).
Are you absolutely obsessed with the 2016 phenomenon that is Donald J. Trump? If so, I’ve got a podcast for you! Jacob Weisberg of Slate hosts a daily podcast (yes, daily) about everything Trump. While the episodes are typically short and sweet (typically 15-20 minutes), they are of high quality. They start with a comedian reading Trump’s tweets over the last 24 hours, and then delve in to the topic at hand. Weisberg is often interested in telling a story or interviewing a guest with a perspective on the Trump news of the day, no matter how bombastic or ridiculous it is. While it’s not for everyone – I mean, it’s got to be exhausting following this every day – it’s still part of the interesting political podcasts that are worth checking out every so often, depending on the guest of the day. I also think we should pitch in for some therapy and vacation for Jacob after the November election is over and done.
10) NPR Politics Podcast
Our last, best political podcast of 2016 is the NPR Politics Podcast, hosted by a number of NPR talking heads, recapping the news of the week. While this might be your standard roundtable-bullshitting that a podcast usually features, the hosts are at ease with the discussion on hand and are interested in keeping the topics nice and light. While it might not be as interesting as the above podcasts, it’s still worth a listen if you’re big into political podcasts like me.
What Other Political Podcasts Are You Listening To? Give Feedback!
What political podcasts are you interested in hearing more about? Are you upset I didn’t include our friends Vox and Ezra Klein in the list, even though he’s a snore? Feel free to recommend your own. As always, thanks for reading!