GOFFSTOWN — On Sunday at Saint Anselm College, former Obama Administration staffers and hosts of the political podcast “Pod Save America” Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor and Jon Lovett brought their contemporary brand of political commentary to the Granite State for a conversation hosted by the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
The White House aides turned progressive media darlings have rocketed to renown among Democratic circles in the wake of the 2016 election.
While the crew began with just a single weekly podcast called “Keeping it 1600,” they are now the owners and operators of “Crooked Media,” a private media company that produces 10 podcasts, with its leading show “Pod Save America” reportedly averaging 1.5 million listeners an episode.
During their one-hour appearance moderated by NHDP Executive Director Amy Kennedy, the trio took questions on everything from the role of the electoral college and politics of gun control, to their experiences inside the Obama White House.
But by and large, questions of the 2020 Democratic primary dominated the discussion.
Saying that electability of a presidential candidate is “difficult to define” Favreau challenged the audience to look for a candidate who can excite the largest swath of potential voters.
“Who can build the biggest broadest coalition, not just who can reach out to people in the middle, but also fire up the base and perhaps inspire people to come out and vote who haven’t paid attention or participated in politics,” said Favreau.
Lovett said he saw the large field of 18 declared Democratic candidates as a positive way to drive policy conversations about issues like health care and climate change, but cautioned that a drawn out primary fight could cause more harm than good.
“As we get further along, the thing that a candidate who can’t win does by being on stage is taking time away from that conversation and its impact,” said Lovett.
While the Trump Administration has been a boon for political news and commentary, Crooked Media stands out from the pack for the emphasis it places on driving activism among its fan base.
In the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, the organization worked to raise more than $1 million for Democratic candidates, partnered with progressive advocacy groups to get listeners to confront Republican candidates at in-district town-hall meetings and generally encouraged fans to be active in local politics by phone banking and canvassing door-to-door for progressive candidates.
“No one’s pretending we’re not biased — we all worked for Obama,” said Vietor when asked where the organization fits into the modern day media structure. “We are progressive, but I think we try to be more entertaining and substantive than your average cable news block. But then incorporate a component of activism.”
As progressives look toward the possibility of getting President Trump out of the White House, Favreau pointed to Obama’s tenure as a warning to politically active Democrats who may be inclined to rest easy whenever Trump leaves office.
“Barack Obama got in there, there was a financial crisis, he passed the Affordable Care Act and then in 2010 we lost Congress,” said Favreau. “People didn’t show up in 2014, we are living with the consequences of the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections today, still.”
On the same subject, Lovett said he hoped that the post-Trump era would continue to present opportunities for engaged Democrats to shape the course of the country’s future rather than just resisting the policies of the Trump Administration.