My Favorite Political & Left-leaning Podcasts

I listen to an unhealthy amount of podcasts each week. My interests change and I shift which ones I consume over time, but for the last year or two it's been virtually nothing but politics and left-leaning themes. I'm not ranking them, but Chapo Trap House is far and away my favorite of this lot. All of these have something to offer, though. I would encourage you to check all of these out. Some are more serious, some more funny, but all are high quality.

Chapo Trap House

The original dirtbags of the left. I think they get an undue amount of controversy surrounding them sometimes. If you actually listen to what they're saying, it's not crazy or outrageous at all. They want the working class in power, and they won't compromise on that. End of story. Their reading series where they read aloud an article, usually some sort of opinion piece from a conservative ghoul, are always great. Matt's knowledge of theory and history is extremely impressive. Will is one of the most inspiring orators you will find on this side of political spectrum. Virgil's political wonkery can't be matched. Felix is absolutely hilarious. Amber is praxis. Chris is alright.

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Citations Needed

Citations Needed is probably the most consistently educational podcast I've listened to. They do an unbelievable job of taking abstract concepts and simplifying them and breaking them down into their individual components, deconstructing their arguments and premises. They criticize the media and their tropes from a lot of different angles with historical facts and truths. I think the phrase is overused in the day and age of Trump, but they really do speak truth to power. I really can't speak highly enough of this show.

There's so many great episodes to pick from. Most of them are timeless, so I would just find a topic that sounds interesting to you and give it a shot. A recent one I particularly enjoyed was Episode 94: The Goofy Pseudoscience Copaganda of TV Foresnics, which dives into the myths perpetuated by shows like CSI and Law and Order, and how fallible the "science" behind a lot of things that we take for granted to be true.

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Political Gabfest

Political Gabfest is from the Slate network of podcasts. I think the discussions on Gabfest are usually fairly nuanced, even if the hosts don't veer too far in either the left or the right. Not to say that it's centrist garbage that cheers on the establishment, it's far from that. That being said, you can certainly find more cutting political commentary. It's good, easy listening, and their Cocktail Chatter segment at the end of each episode always yields interesting tidbits. As a side note, David helps run Atlas Obscura which is an absolute treasure trove of awesome stories and articles.

This is definitely a weekly update style of show, so I'm not sure how useful of an exercise it would be to go back and listen to old episodes, but you won't be missing out on any lore, backstory, or tons of inside jokes by just downloading the latest and give them a listen.

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538 Politics

As much as I've grown to disdain a lot of the punditry and inane talking points you often hear from mainstream talking heads, it is somewhat refreshing to make a case for the cold hard numbers. I like to joke about the 538 models just being "Nate Silver's black box" but I think at the end of the day he's doing his best. The tendency to waffle by the 538 crew is tiring, but I'd rather listen to these guys than a single minute of most typical newscasts. On the whole, it's usually worth your time. And since this is still a living document for now, I just want to give Nate some more credit, for correctly pointing out that everyone wants to get excited about who finished second and third in the New Hampshire primary that wrapped up last night, instead of throwing some respect on Bernie's name.

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Left, Right, and Center

This is one of my favorites, and it's been a favorite of mine for quite a while now. Their tagline perfectly encapsulates what it's about: "your civilized yet provactive antidote to the self contained opinion bubbles that dominate political debate", and they do an excellent job of sticking to it. Rich Lowry makes me want to bash my skull in with pretty good consistency, but Barro and Bruenig are good at mediating. I'd say that maybe fifty percent of Rich's arguments are presented in good faith, which isn't bad for someone who is an editor for National Review.

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Opening Arguments

I will admit that this podcast irritates me a lot more today than it did when I first started listening. They're pretty deep in the tank for Elizabeth Warren so that shades some of their discussions. Thankfully, most of the time they're getting into the nuts and bolts of our judicial system. Thomas is incredible at asking the right questions and Andrew not only explains in great detail, but gives context for literally everything he's talking about.

I don't always make it to the last 15 minutes of the episode when they have a "Thomas Takes the Bar Exam" segment where they go through the bar exam for lawyers one question at a time. It's really interesting how archaic some of the questions feel and how common sense others do. I always enjoy listening to this cast even if I think they're a little too centrist when it comems to their political takes.

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Red Scare

I'm still relatively new to listening to this one. It's not really politics, or comedy, or anything too in particular. It's two women who shoot the shit and talk about a lot of different things. It feels a little New York-centric sometimes, which is fine, but there's just some threads of discussion I can't really relate to. Their takes are interesting, some (not me, but some) people would say problematic. From what I've listened to, I can't say I agree with that characterization. If you're looking for something a little off the beaten path and want to listen to some nuanced discussion I would check them out.

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All The President's Lawyers

This is another law-focused podcast. It feels a little more "buttoned up" compared to Opening Arguments, you're not going to get ridiculously detailed deep-dives into topics, but it's still quite good. This show is focused more exclusively on Donald Trump and the legal issues surrounding him, his presidency, and administration. Josh Barro hosts this one (in addition to Left, Right, and Center) with former federal prosecutor Ken White. They're both smart, funny, and keep the discussions substantial. The episodes usually clock in at about thirty minutes long.

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Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill

Another relatively new addition to my weekly lineups. Intercepted usually deals with one big story each week, told by Jeremy Scahill along with a guest. This show is incredibly well produced, one of the best around in my opinion. Intercepted is good, folks. It's parent website, The Intercept, is also good. This podcast has sort of a "Citations Needed" feel to it in that they cut through the media narratives, and try to deliver something of substance. Jeremy Scahill largely succeeds at that. Highly recommended.

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Grubstakers is the podcast about billionaires. Each week is spent talking about a different billionaire and how they were able to extract wealth from the working class. I'm only being a little sarcastic, as you'll quickly learn from listening to this show that nobody ever made an honest billion dollars. Full stop. They don't approach things from a leftist perspective necessarily, but they are pretty anti-capitalist, as one could imagine after seeing how depraved the billionaire class actually is. They strike an excellent balance between serious discussion and comedy. Even if you disagree with their personal politics there is still a lot of good stuff to be gleaned from this one.

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