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April 10, 2021
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ColumnsPopped Culture

Column: Out-of-touch politicians desperately try to connect with voters

If dystopia is career politicians talking directly into the ears of their constituents for hours on end, then we’re living it.

Recently, a slew of out-of-touch politicians has been using podcasts in a desperate attempt to connect with voters. The podcast industry, which has doubled in listeners since 2016 and was worth over $11 billion in 2020, is expected to grow massively in the coming decade. Additionally, the success of political podcasts on both the left and right — like “The Majority Report with Sam Seder” and “The Dan Bongino Show” — is proving that a huge market for political commentary exists.

We are living through an era of postmodern politics and far-wing populism. When Donald Trump came along in 2015, he forever changed the aesthetics of politics. Even I must admit, watching him take to the debate stage and neuter the Republican Party was a great feeling. His vicious, predatory attacks on a broken political system gave him wide-reaching, emotional appeal. The anti-establishment bomb-throwing that led him to eventual victory had riled up decades of hidden frustration in both parties. All of this left the political elites doing damage control on their approval ratings and personability. So, they took to podcasting.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton runs “You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton,” probably because titling it “The Hillary Clinton Show” would be too on the nose. Former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama both host Spotify original podcasts called “Renegades: Born in the USA” and “The Michelle Obama Podcast,” respectively.  Numerous Democratic candidates for president in 2020 have at some point hosted podcasts, like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Julian Castro, Cory Booker and Tulsi Gabbard.

The Republicans also have their fair share of podcasters. Senator Ted Cruz, alongside conservative commentator Michael Knowles, hosts “Verdict with Ted Cruz.” Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw has “Hold These Truths with Dan Crenshaw.” Trump’s lackey Rudy Giuliani runs the ironically titled “Common Sense.” Former Vice President Mike Pence has recently announced that he will also be diving into the podcast frenzy in the coming months.

The fundamental problem with these podcasts is that politicians, with the exception of a very few, aren’t really all that interesting. They spend most of their days in Washington, leaving them little time to connect with real people. Additionally, politicians are probably the most dishonest lot in America. So, to prevent their show from being a lifeless hour of boring lies, their solution is to have “special guests” who are more engaging than themselves.

Take a recent episode of Clinton’s “You and Me Both,” titled “Hope.” Clinton, a retired 73-year-old establishment Democrat living comfortably, doesn’t have the lived experience or demonstrate enough sincerity to warrant an episode about hope. So, she brings in Amanda Gorman, the 23-year-old Harvard graduate who delivered the show-stopping poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration. When Clinton chimes in, her insights pale in comparison to Gorman’s. Gorman — a refreshing, impassioned young person — has much more compelling takes on the world than someone whose ties to Big Money are part of “The Hill We Climb.”

Cruz’s podcast is no better. Recent episodes consist of Cruz and co-host Knowles going off on President Biden’s “radical” agenda, despite his plans being anything but radical. Most of what Cruz shrieks about is what he already says on the floor of the Senate. The realization Cruz can’t get through his thick skull is that nobody, not even Republicans, wants to hear 30 minutes of him flapping his wet jaw about his fantasies of defunding Planned Parenthood. He should save these despicable tirades and brutish lies for the next time he holds up lifesaving healthcare in the Senate.

Many other politicians’ podcasts follow a similar formula — bring in a guest or have a co-host more qualified for a podcast than themselves, interview them for 30 minutes and then wrap up. Despite podcasts being a creative medium, there is no artistry, or originality to them

The politicians defining this era, like Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, don’t need a podcast to win. The popularity of their policy proposals does the work for them. Trump wanted to build the wall, deport immigrants and deregulate the economy. Ocasio-Cortez wants universal healthcare, a Green New Deal and a federal jobs guarantee. Love them or hate them, their populism is successful in the age we live in. They didn’t need hours and hours of tedious podcasting to make their case.