The US and Australian political systems could not be more different. So when mayhem breaks out in the US, as it is now, and did throughout much of 2020, it’s often hard for us to understand what is actually going on.
Following the news on TV and on social media is a quick way to get the facts. But they’re often useless if you don’t know the background behind what’s going on and why things are like this in the first place.
If you’re looking to get a better handle on what’s going on in US politics, there are a number of options that won’t just spew boring political jargon at you. Here are some suggestions:
This book is a nonpartisan look at all the most important issues in American politics – like health care and climate change. It also breaks down which political party is on which side of each issue and why making it a perfect primer for those on both sides or who have no affiliation at all.
Can He Do That?
An often asked question during Trump’s presidency, this podcast comes from The Washington Post. It explores the powers and limitations of the American presidency with each episode asking a new question which is looked at in the context of historical and current events.
Showtime’s TV documentary The Circus has been tracking U.S. politics since the 2016 presidential election. The Circus brings in political insiders, such as Jennifer Palmiere who served as the White House Director of Communications, to discuss the current state of affairs with both important political players and everyday Americans. It’s a great breakdown of how Americans feel about politics in their country. Episodes are currently streaming on Stan and the new season is returning next week.
Planet America is Australia’s easy answer to US politics. ABC News runs the program with hosts Chas Licciardello and John Barron. They discuss the latest in American politics and explore it in an Australian-friendly way. New episodes are kicking off on January 22, 2021 on the ABC and ABC iView.
The West Wing
If you’d rather get your information through some scripted drama, The West Wing is a great place to start. The show looks at the inside processes of the White House and what each of the staffers in the system does. It’s written by Aaron Sorkin and stars Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney and Martin Sheen. The West Wing is fictional but is still an entertaining way to understand some of these political ideals. You can find episodes on Stan and Binge.
Whose Vote Counts, Explained
The Explained series on Netflix has churned out a useful series of interesting explainers on various topics. This special Whose Vote Counts, Explained series explains the voting system in America. For Australians, where our voting system is very different, this is a great way to understand how the often confusing American voting system works.
A Promised Land is a recent political memoir from former president Barack Obama. Naturally, the book is skewed to Obama’s point of view, but it still gives great insight into the political landscape of America from a former president. Presidential memoirs have been written by many presidents, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, and they are an interesting access point into the world of US politics.
The NPR Politics Podcast
The NPR Politics Podcast is a daily update from NPR’s political reporters on the happenings of the day. because so much goes down in America every single day this podcast is a great way to keep on top of what’s happening. The episodes mostly sit under 30 minutes as well for quick and easy listening.
If you’re looking for some more accessible less serious looks at US politics, Hamilton The Musical and Veep are some other lighthearted options.
The political system in America is completely overwhelming at the best of times. Hopefully, some of these suggestions make your path to understanding that much easier.