Tuning In To History

October 22, 2018

A little more than a year ago I wrote a post about a few of my favorite podcasts for insight about the constant political swirl we’re living in.

I still listen to those podcasts, but lately I’ve been looking for more historical context about how we got here and where things might be headed if we ever find our way out of what seems like constant chaos. The past couple years feel unlike anything I’ve lived through and I wonder how we’ll look back on this period in ten or twenty years. Or, what will a person born five years from now read or hear about the political events we’re experiencing today? It seems like we’re in the middle of a significant political era and I like to think history can provide a reference to help us understand how this might shake out.

If you’re in the same boat I have a couple more podcast recommendations for you.

The first, which I highly recommend no matter your political leanings, is Slow Burn. The first season explores the Watergate scandal. Over eight episodes, Slow Burn explains the events that led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974 and, in ways that are strikingly relevant today, the politics surrounding the special prosecutor’s investigation and Nixon’s attempts to discredit and shut down that effort. One of the great things about Slow Burn is that it doesn’t attempt to place or explain the Watergate scandal in relation to what is happening now—it focuses only on events that happened in the early 70s and allows listeners to make connections themselves. I don’t mean to say that the Mueller investigation will unfold or end in the same way as Watergate, but the first season of Slow Burn is eye-opening to say the least.

Season two of Slow Burn examines the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal of the late 90s that ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. In addition to again deftly explaining the relevant events, Slow Burn sheds light on the political fight surrounding the Starr report and effort to push Clinton out of office. You can’t help but see the parallels to today’s political climate. Also, historical context aside, these podcasts are incredibly well-written, tell greats stories, and I guarantee you’ll walk away knowing a lot more than you did before.

The other podcast I recommend is Why Is This Happening?, hosted by Chris Hayes. This one isn’t focused on specific, historical political events with modern parallels. Instead, Hayes tries to make sense of what’s going on right now by exploring the history and context underlying a range of issues we face in this country. From the history of the housing crisis, the impact of the decline of social infrastructure, the myth of America as a meritocracy—to name the topics of just a few episodes—this podcast can help you gain a better understanding of many of the social issues underlying the current political environment.