The popular podcast “Pod Save America” stopped in Ann Arbor as part of their North American tour Friday night, where they put on two consecutive shows. The podcast featuring four of former President Barack Obama’s staffers has grown in popularity in recent months, particularly among young liberals.
In an interview with the Daily prior to the shows, the hosts discussed the importance of encouraging young people to get involved in politics and pushing for positive change.
Jon Favreau, host and former Obama speechwriter, said he hopes the podcast helps to inspire young people to participate in politics in any way.
“I think we are just trying to get young people to be excited about politics, be hopeful about politics. Try to let them know that it’s worth getting involved,” Favreau said. “Obviously, Donald Trump is president and things can be pretty bleak, but I think we’ve all been on campaigns and been in politics for a while, so some of the experiences we bring are letting people know that even though sometimes you lose and politics is frustrating and it seems like nothing is ever going to change, when people get involved, good things can happen.”
Addressing recent racist incidents and subsequent protests on campus, Jon Lovett, co-host and another former Obama speechwriter, said he believes there is merit in pressuring the University of Michigan administration but also believes it is important to ensure the students feel safe on campus.
“I think there’s two parts to it. I think aiming some of the outrage at the college itself and at the University itself and pushing for a strong response is a really good idea,” Lovett said. “But ultimately it’s about everybody speaking out for a culture which treats people with respect and where people don’t feel as though … they can start writing racist things and think that that’s acceptable.”
Tommy Vietor, co-host and former National Security Council spokesman, encouraged students to get involved in whatever way they can and highlighting political groups such as Indivisible, Swing Left and College Democrats.
“I think after Trump got elected, people understood again what is at stake in these campaigns,” Vietor said. “The next step is helping people figure out how you can get involved, because it sounds complicated and it sounds hard but it’s actually really easy.”
Lovett noted it is a unique time to be a student with Trump as president, but he again emphasized the need to get involved.
“This is a really dark time. It’s actually a really unique thing to be coming of age and starting to really follow college a lot for the first time and see Donald Trump as president, that’s never happened before,” Lovett said. “And I think it can be discouraging because he’s our worst person, which is unfortunate. But at the same time there’s been this outpouring of activism that we’ve never seen before … People are engaged and active, and it’s not a silver lining, I don’t think that’s the right term for what’s going on, but there has been an equal and opposition reaction to what has been going on with Trump and being a part of that is important.”
During the show, the group discussed recent events including healthcare, new contraceptive guidelines and the newly uncovered links between white supremacy and Breitbart, a conversative media outlet. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., also appeared in the middle of the show for a brief interview.
The Trump administration announced Friday it was rescinding Obama-era birth control mandate, which required employers to cover contraceptives in insurance plans. Ana Marie Cox, host of “With Friends Like These”, said the decision is important not just in the day-to-day impacts it will have, but also in the message it sends to women.
“It’s consequential no matter what,” Cox said. “Because it sends a message to women primarily that you are not worth as much as men.”
On the same issue, Stabenow said she was disappointed in the decision and doubts Congress will take any action to reverse it.
“It’s terrible, and it’s just one more nail in the coffin in terms of trying to kill the ACA,” Stabenow said. “Unfortunately, the House and Senate, being in Republican hands, we are not going to be able to turn that around.”
Discussing the recent Buzzfeed article detailing direct links between white supremacist groups, Brietbart and Milo Yiannopoulos, former Senior White House Advisor, Dan Pfeiffer, co-host and Obama’s former communications director, expressed the danger in allowing publications with relations with white supremacist groups to be considered normal conservative media.
“Brietbart, which hangs out with Nazis, is in direct contact with them, as in rates Nazism, is now considered a mainstream conservative publication,” Pfeiffer said. “Mainstream media outlets cannot understand this because they have to immediately treat whatever is happening on the left as equal.”
On the subject of her rumored opponent in 2018, Robert Ritchie, better known as Kid Rock, Stabenow said she also played guitar in college and suggested a musical debate.
“I actually worked my way through college playing acoustic guitar,” Stabenow said. “We may have to have dueling guitars, but we will wait and see. I love music and it could be very musical.”
Following Stabenow’s interview, Lovett imitated a game poking fun at Kid Rock and a specific tweet, which mocked Washington elites and praised his local state. Lovett asked his cohosts in the game to guess how much different items in the photo cost. Lovett concluded that the point of the game was that he believes Kid Rock would “campaign like Kid Rock but govern like Robert Ritchie.”
In the interview with the Daily, Lovett also stated his support for Michigan football ahead of the Michigan State game on Saturday.
“Obviously, I support the team from the campus that I am currently in. I am going to run for office,” Lovett said. “I support the Michigan team, the Wolverines. I love Harbaugh, the whole Harbaugh family.”
Ritam Mehta, an LSA senior, wrote in an interview with the Daily he is a fan of the podcast because of the lighthearted, yet important discusion of politics.
"I think the show was a really good episode of the podcast. It includes a lot of good news analysis and talk about current events, which is why I like listening to the pod," he wrote. "I also kind of idolize those four guys, especially Jon Lovett, who literally got a White House job because he's funny."