If you are on the hunt for some political podcasts to listen to, Vurbl has collected just what you need! This list of some of the best political podcasts 2020 has to offer is packed with some true gems. With a highly anticipated presidential election coming up later this year, it’s a better time than any to keep informed about the goings-on in the White House, Congress, and beyond. While there are seemingly hundreds of this podcast genre to choose from–whether partisan political podcasts or unbiased political podcasts–many are negatively affected by an overload of anger and lack of context or useful information. We’ve found some podcasts that will both illuminate and inspire. Keep reading!
#1: Left, Right, and Center: Podcast Review
One of the most balanced political podcasts we’ve discovered, Left, Right, and Center is one of the longest-running political shows. The show premiered on the radio in 1996 at KCRW. It continues on the radio to this day as a weekly hour-long broadcast and has also been distributed as a podcast for years.
The Hosts: Rich Lowry and Josh Barro bring decades of political journalism and research experience to the table between them. Lowry wrote Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years and Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Rail-Splitter Saved the American Dream–and How We Can Do It Again, and currently is a columnist for the National Review. Barro is currently a business columnist for New York Magazine and was a politics editor for Business Insider.
Format: While Lowry takes the right side and Barro holds court as the center’s POV, a wide array of guest hosts appear to represent the left. Often this is Elizabeth Bruenig, opinion columnist for the New York Times. This regular panel discusses the week’s political news, often followed by a round-robin interview with an invited guest on a specific subject.
Why You Should Listen: The spirit of Left, Right, and Center is nowhere better displayed than in the last segment of most episodes. Here, the co-hosts take turns to rant about whatever they like, sharing opinions whether evidence-backed or not. As one of the best political podcasts 2020 can give us, this one truly demonstrates our freedom of speech.
Listen to Left, Right, and Center
Rating: All Ages
#2: Congressional Dish: Podcast Review
Launched in late 2012 by Jennifer Briney, Congressional Dish is a non-partisan effort that is one of the best political podcasts of 2020. Most episodes look at a specific issue, often a bill, that Congress is dealing with, and offer research, insight, and observations from a rational point of view.
The Host: Jennifer Briney started Congressional Dish because, as a budding student of politics, she became aware of just how much of the inner workings of Congress–and the passing of laws in general–that the people of the United States were completely unaware of. Briney’s passion for education and unraveling the often very intricate machinations of the legislative process comes through with every word.
The Guests: From members of Congress to lobbyists to Lori Wallach, an expert on international trade and Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Briney has featured many knowledgeable insiders on Congressional Dish over the previous 8 years.
Why You Should Listen: One of Briney’s biggest pet peeves is the terrible influence money has in politics. She herself avoids funding her show with ads and relies on listener donations. This view is also covered in the excellent episode 200, How to End Legal Bribes, in which Briney interviews the National Counsel of Wolf-PAC, Sam Fieldman about ways to end money’s political reign constitutionally.
Listen to Congressional Dish
Rating: All Ages
#3: The Majority Report: Podcast Review
On-air since 2004, The Majority Report is one of our longest-running entries in this top political podcast list. It’s also a unique combination of fair reporting (though from a more liberal perspective) with some satire thrown in for good measure. This podcast definitely falls in the partisan category but makes some effort to look at issues from various perspectives.
The Host: Sam Seder took over as host from Janeane Garofalo a couple of years into The Majority Report’s run. Like his predecessor, Seder is a comedian, actor, and writer with distinctly liberal leanings. He brings a touch of humor that is reminiscent of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah that livens up the more traditional interview-based format.
The Guests: From democratic socialist Shahid Buttar to the Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal and comedian Andy Kindler, Seder welcomes a variety of guests across the political spectrum (though leaning mostly left). Together they discuss some top stories and some stories that need more attention from the current week.
Why You Should Listen: Episodes generally run in the hour-plus range, with some hitting 2+ hours. But with well over 2,000 episodes near-daily episodes in the backlog, it would take years to listen to the show in its entirety. Seder covers a never-ending variety of topics that are always timely.
Listen to The Majority Report
Rating: All Ages
#4: Throwing Shade: Podcast Review
As the most unapologetic progressive political podcast on our list, Throwing Shade has been helping to raise awareness on all issues related to LGBT and women’s rights. Though serious at its core, this is all tempered by hot takes on pop culture events and personalities and all filtered through the very funny POVs and boundless energy of the hosts.
The Hosts: Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi may not be household names, but they are close to legendary in podcasting circles. They met while performing with the Upright Citizens Brigade, and went on to start Throwing Shade to promote understanding of issues important to them. Using wit, charm, and a hefting dose of side-splitting adult humor, they are certainly making headway.
The Guests: For one of the best political podcasts 2020 has in store for us, Throwing Shade is, at most, fifty percent political issue or tangentially political issue discussion. It is the POV of the show and its hosts that place it firmly in the political genre, however. Gibson and Safi are given a boost by interesting guests, including fellow comedians Lauren Lapkus and Paul F. Thompkins.
Why You Should Listen: Entertainment Weekly called this podcast “the perfect combination of silly, intelligent, cynical, and charming.” This is wholly accurate if you are left-leaning, and you will likely find a lot to love about the show if you consider yourself part of the broad middle. Even if you are a tried and true conservative, we recommend you give Throwing Shade a chance just based on sheer entertainment value alone.
Listen to Throwing Shade
#5: Stay Tuned with Preet: Podcast Review
As part of the WNYC Studios podcast slate, Stay Tuned with Preet is a standard-bearer of the search for truth and justice in the modern political climate.
The Host: Preet Bharara is a former U.S. Attorney for New York who was fired from his post by President Trump. He also co-hosts another popular WNYC podcast, Cafe Insider. Though Bharara’s personal alignment is distinctly progressive, his primary goal is to cut to the heart of matters, looking for root causes of corruption and other troubles that plague our political landscape.
The Guests: Bharara pulls together a true army of experts in politics, sociology, law, and international relations that he can engage with. Some of these people include Atlantic writer George Packer, law professor Steve Vladeck, and civil rights leader Cynthia Deitle.
Why You Should Listen: Our host goes out of his way to keep Stay Tuned from becoming too dry or too serious all the time. Aside from regularly answering listener questions–some of which he handles perhaps too graciously–Bharara has also invited the likes of well-liked comedian Mike Birbiglia to the show.
Listen to Stay Tuned with Preet
Rating: All Ages
#6: In the Thick: Podcast Review
Common people don’t always get all the coverage we deserve from the mainstream media. All too often, much of what isn’t featured comes down to issues and events that affect minority groups and causes that aren’t monied by big business. This imbalance is what the In the Thick team hopes to counter with their candid, lively, enlightening roundtable discussions.
The Hosts: Julio Ricardo Varela and Maria Hinojosa share hosting duties for In the Thick. Hinojosa is a veteran political journalist who has produced and anchored NPR’s Latino USA show. Varela founded LatinoRebels.com, which has been a force for good in the ongoing fight against institutional and societal bigotry.
The Guests: In the Thick includes guests that rarely get the airtime they deserve and gives them the forum to be heard and become part of the active debates that United States citizens are having. Islamic faith leader Dawud Walid from Michigan, climate activist Jennifer Allen, and LGBTQ champion Imara Allen have all been part of the show.
Why You Should Listen: For the sheer scale of the issues faced and the spirited way in which the In the Thick crew goes about its work, this deserves to be ranked among the best political podcasts 2020 has to offer us.
Listen to In the Thick
#7: Pod Save the People: Podcast Review
Though this political podcast of 2020 can be classified as staunchly liberal, the thoughtfulness and reasoned approach taken by its hosts to social justice and political news is the very definition of humane. Part of the Crooked political podcast and media network, Pod Save the People is regularly lauded for shedding light on issues that are often underreported by the mainstream media.
The Hosts: DeRay McKesson is a political activist with a fighting spirit that doesn’t allow him to back down from any issue that bothers him or plagues others. He is joined by like-minded co-hosts Brittany Packnett, Sam Sinyangwe, and Dr. Clint Smith III. Smith, an award-winning poet, is a most welcome addition to this formidable team.
The Guests: Pod Save the People boasts one of the most dynamic and varied series of guests in the political podcast genre. From city council members and mayors to senators, congresspeople, entertainers, business leaders, esteemed educators and even celebrity chefs (like Roy Choi!), the show is packed with expertise and strong viewpoints.
Why You Should Listen: Pod Save the People is similar to In the Thick in many ways, and just as with the hosts of that show, McKesson and his co-hosts strive to cut through the political fog created by corporate and media collusion that is bent on directing the public’s attention to areas that benefit those entities. You will come away from Pod Save the People with a desire to help stoke the fires of change.
Listen to Pod Save the People
#8: Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan: Podcast Review
Falling under the banner of The Intercept brand, Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan tackles the United States political landscape from several strong points of view. This passionate approach makes this one of the most engaging political podcasts of 2020.
The Host: Mehdi Hasan is an award-winning journalist and Al Jazeera broadcaster whose outspoken views are the heart of Deconstructed. As a British national and a Muslim who immigrated to Washington, DC, Hasan breaks down U.S. news and political happenings with keen vision and the meticulous hands of a cancer surgeon searching out the last vestiges of a tumor.
The Guests: Personalities like Ryan Grim, Soledad O’Brian, Glenn Kirschner, Michael Moore, Ilhan Omar, and many others have joined Hasan in his quest to lay bare the shortcomings of government and its representatives.
Why You Should Listen: Hasan is unafraid to dive headfirst into the biggest challenges facing the United States in the modern-day. While he is solidly progressive in his philosophy, our host makes it his mission to critique the policy and actions of people on both sides of the aisle.
Listen to Deconstructed with Mehdi Hasan
#9: The Argument: Podcast Review
Striving for the balanced political podcast angle, The Argument is a New York Times podcast. This show brings together opinions from both liberal and conservative leanings to offer meaningful debate and insight that fills in context and meaning around the latest national news.
The Hosts: Frank Bruni and Michelle Goldberg, both accomplished journalists and writers, take up the liberal side. Bruni took over former co-host David Leonhardt’s position early in 2020, though you will find Leonhardt on over a year of episodes prior to that point. Fellow writer Ross Douthat often co-hosts to offer the conservative and GOP viewpoint on issues, a position that is sometimes substituted with other noted conservative thinkers.
The Guests: While the co-hosts are usually more than able to hold down the debate-filled fort most of the time, they are regularly joined by other journalists, especially fellow NYT staffers and columnists. The team will also welcome guests from beyond the NYT’s borders, such as Vox founding editor Ezra Klein.
Why You Should Listen: Some of the shows on this list of most engaging political podcasts 2020 gives us can definitely be classified as “infotainment”. The Argument, however, takes a somewhat more measured and analytical approach. The hosts are really trying to make sure listeners are treated to a balanced set of opinions.
Listen to The Argument
Rating: All Ages
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