The other day I got a chance to meet Jesse, co-host of the Grab Them By The Pod podcast. If the name gives any indication, yes, this is a political podcast aiming to be a straight shooter in an environment that can be anything but.
Jesse, a lobbyist by trade, offers a unique experience and insight into a world that is largely misunderstood by the general public. Why do politicians act in the way they do?
We got a chance to discuss the state of political podcasts, why the podcasting medium lends itself perfectly for political commentary, and how everything changed on November 8th when Trump was elected.
Discover Pods: How did your podcast get started?
Jesse: I’ve hosted another podcast for the last 2.5 years, but really wanted to start a second one with my best friend, Kevin. He was always interested, but with two kids, it was hard for him to find the time.
Then came November 8, 2016.
Whether you are liberal, conservative or in between, things got a little nutty after the election. And, no pun intended, emotion started to trump rationality. I spent a decade in Washington, DC working in Congress and as a lobbyist. Kevin is a teacher, but he’s always been politically active. Politics has always been a passion of ours and this seemed like the perfect time take our experience and funnel it into something creative.
DP: I wrote the other day about the connection between podcasts and talk radio especially in the political realm. Why do you think politics over sports, news, or any other genre tends to flock to podcasts?
Jesse: When I worked in DC, we used to say that you could swing a cat by it’s tail and hit a lobbyist. That’s because, for every issues out there, someone is fighting for it. The same can be said about podcasts, political podcasts in particular. Everyone has a point of view and, usually, wants to listen to a podcast that agrees with their ideology. That’s what we’re trying to break – living in an echo chamber. A conservative who watches Hannity or a liberal who watches Maddow – they’re just hearing what they want to hear. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that. It feels good to be around people that feel the same way as you. But are you growing? I’d say no. You need to understand the other side before you can move forward. They aren’t the enemy; they’re the loyal opposition.
DP: It seems like the election was the tipping point for a lot of content creators, not just podcasters. Do you think it was simply the polarizing nature of the campaigning combined with the surprise results or was there something else that sparked a lot of people’s latent activism?
Jesse: People hate politicians. To a certain degree, it’s as simple as that. While part of it comes from ignorance of the political process, a lot of it comes from poor politicians. Elected officials tend to stay past their expiration date. That’s due to a lot of factors, most notably congressional districts that have been gerrymandered into safe districts.
There are also a lot of people out there who are desperate for a change and, because of that desperation, they elected someone who I’d consider to be style over substance. One of the things we stress on Grab Them By The Pod is that people can have different points of view; people can have different ideologies; that’s what makes the world go round. But we have to be able to put away partisan politics and call out politicians who make irresponsible statements and policies. That goes for Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, Libertarians and every other political party under the sun.
DP: Why did you choose a podcast over other mediums?
Jesse: I have a good amount of podcast experience, so it seemed like the obvious platform. Plus, where else can you reach some many people so quickly? We’ve been friends for 17 years and it shows. We’re not just talking heads, we’re real people who have had real experiences. I like to think of myself as the play-by-play guy, while Kevin does color commentary.
DP: What’s unique about your podcast?
Jesse: There are a lot of Trump podcasts out there, no doubt. There are even more political podcasts. But we’re not just giving our opinions from the outside looking in – we’ve been in the backrooms of Senate hearings and seen what really happens when the cameras are off.
We also like to pride ourselves in being unbiased. Sure, we have our own point of view and opinions, but we don’t demonize the other side. We actually try explain WHY politicians do the things they do. You may disagree with us, but I’m pretty sure you’ll respect us.
DP: Have you received any extremely negative feedback from followers of either political party?
Jesse: We’ve received a few negative tweets, but nothing crazy. It’s usually people who are upset that we’ve called out President Trump over what we consider to be his irresponsible and/or false tweets. We aren’t criticizing for the sake of criticizing, which is the modus operandi of partisan hacks. We see a problem, back it up with facts and respond – that’s really the way it should go. We’re open to debate. Heck, I was a lobbyist – I love to debate! But it’s all about respect and that’s something that you see dwindling on social media. We often just ignore the negative tweets, not because we don’t want to have a discussion, but because it will inevitably just deteriorate as twitter arguments tend to do. However, send us an email and we’d love to discuss it on the air!
DP: Why do your listeners keep coming back? What’s next? Where do you want to take your podcast?
Jesse: We’re still a new podcast with only nine episodes out so far. But we’ve seen consistent growth day by day. I think we bring the perfect blend of knowledge, experience, wit and goofiness. These are very serious topics, but that doesn’t stop us from dropping a Wayne’s World reference every now and then. We also seem to gain more followers during Sean Spicer press conferences – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions there.
DP: What are your favorite 5 podcasts?
Jesse: My favorites are all over the place and it’s hard to list only five. If I had to pick, I’d go with:
- Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
- FiveThirtyEight Politics
- Bring Me Your Torch
- Comic Geek Speak
- Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast
DP: Anything else you want to add?
Jesse: We’re not anti-Republican or anti-Democrat – we’re against bad politicians. What is a bad politician? Well, I’d argue that it’s a little more complicated than what the average citizen would tell you. The only way to really understand what I’m trying to say is to listen to our podcast…and to subscribe…and to tell your friends!
DP: Where can listeners find you?
Jesse: Everything you need to know about us can be found at https://www.grabthembythepod.com. There, you’ll find our links to iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more. You’ll also get the opportunity to see my handsome mug, which should be reason enough for anyone to stop on by!