Political discourse on cable TV is great, as long as you're into talking heads in opposing camps yelling over each other while competing for the best sound bite during 30-second verbal shootouts. If you're trying to stay informed on the commute to work, political radio offers the options of an echo chamber on the right or an echo chamber on the left—each with more commercial breaks than content.
Podcasts, however, have changed all that.
The long-form structure of podcasts allows for real dialogue on complex issues without the censorship, time limitations, or oversight from corporations and advertisers that burden traditional news media. Whether you lean to the left or the right, whether you're libertarian or socialist, whether you're frustrated with the recitation of talking points on the cable news networks or simply looking to expand your mind while staying informed, there's a podcast for you.
Here are 20 of the most engaging, compelling, and popular podcasts from all over the political spectrum.
Published by Slate, "Political Gabfest" is an informal, off-the-cuff, and often irreverent discussion between hosts John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Emily Bazelon. The podcast, which "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert personally recommended to his audience, was also voted "Favorite Political Podcast" by iTunes listeners.
The writers and editors of The Federalist web magazine sit down to discuss everything from politics and religion to news and culture in the publication's namesake podcast. Hosted by Ben Domenech, the discussion features regular guests David Harsanyi, and Mollie Hemingway, who address "controversies in America from a contrarian point of view," according to the podcast's homepage.
Four former aides to President Barack Obama—Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor ,and Jon Favreau—host this popular podcast. The crew welcomes everyone from activists and journalists to comedians and politicians to join the discussion.
Pop culture, politics, and policy are always up for debate on "Left, Right and Center," which is produced by KCRW. The aptly named show features one left-leaning host, one conservative host, and one that acts as a neutral referee.
"The Pollsters" features two prominent polling professionals: Democrat Margie Omero and Republican Kristen Soltis Anderson. Although they sometimes interview outside experts, the pair generally spends their podcast time interpreting polling data to put a fresh spin on the biggest stories of the week.
"NPR Politics Podcast" gives listeners the inside scoop on current events and news stories through candid conversations between National Public Radio's top political reporters. The show, one of the most popular politics podcasts on iTunes, also offers quick takes on daily news and roundups of the week's news.
Presented by the New York Times, "The Daily" is unique for its rapid-fire format. Unlike many long-form podcasts with several days between episodes, this podcast, hosted by Michael Barbaro, condenses the news into 20-minute chunks five days a week. The podcast is ready for listening by 6 a.m. each weekday morning.
"On the Media" examines the week's most important stories with a skeptical eye on how the media presented those stories. Dedicated to free speech, the First Amendment and government transparency, the podcast, as well as the award-winning radio show on which it's based, examines the hidden narratives embedded in the news stories, delivered to the American public 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
On the side of the political spectrum opposite from Ben Shapiro is Sam Seder. His "The Majority Report" podcast is a 40-minute version of his live show by the same name, which includes interviews, commentary, and news roundups from a liberal point of view.
Unlike the majority of political personalities whose brands are firmly cemented in right or left identity, Dan Carlin is difficult to pigeonhole politically. His podcast, "Common Sense With Dan Carlin," is an outside-the-box political examination that, by Carlin's own admission, is certainly not for everyone—and eventually upsets everyone.
"The Debrief" is a podcast produced by global news giant Al Jazeera. Featuring in-depth analyses on everything from the war in Syria to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it's a one-stop shop for deep-dives into the most important political stories from the farthest corners of the Earth.
The Economist is not only one of the oldest publications in America, but also one of the most politically neutral—or at least unpredictable in terms of the people and policies it has supported over the years and generations. One of its podcasts, aptly named "The Week Ahead," examines the issues that are likely to shape the coming week.
"What's News" is produced by the iconic Wall Street Journal. The podcast, which is updated twice every day, mirrors the topics covered in the column of the same name, which includes news about financial markets, the economy, politics, and business.
"Nerdcast" is delivered by seasoned Politico reporters, but the name comes from the fact that the show is made for and by political wonks. From the granular details of commission reports that most people will never read to in-depth analysis of the latest polling data, "Nerdcast" is all about the political minutiae that you can't get from scanning the headlines.
The flagship podcast of center-right news site Ricochet, the publication's namesake podcast is hosted by James Lileks, Peter Robinson, and Rob Long. They, along with a range of guests, discuss the most compelling issues of the day and week.
Escape the left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative political vortex with the "Reason" podcast. A product of the long-running libertarian publication Reason, the podcast is hosted by the publication's journalists, as well as a bevy of guests, who examine the news from the perspective of the publication's mantra: "free minds and free markets."