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Progressive legislators turn to podcasts to spread message

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Democratic legislators in both chambers have decided to take the airwaves in what has recently become a much more conventional method of communication: podcasting.

Kansas City Democrats Rep. Lauren Arthur and Jon Carpenter launched their podcast, Podgressive, releasing the first episode on Soundcloud Sunday. Arthur and Carpenter discussed the national, state and local-level politics in Kansas City. It can be heard below.

The idea came to the two from their conversations over the course of their time in the General Assembly. Carpenter said those conversations showcased an inside perspective on the legislative process and they wanted to share that with others – especially the perspective of millennial progressives in what has politically become a decidedly conservative state and country following the 2016 elections.

“We have a unique perspective as a couple of Democrats who are in a pretty red state right now, but we’re kind of in the blue bastion that is Kansas City,” Carpenter said. “It’s a fascinating time in politics and kind of a troubling time at the national level, so I think we have thoughts we’d like to share with folks about what’s going on.”

Carpenter added the duo plans to have guests, including other politicians and those from other organizations and industries, and even games on the podcast in the future.

Arthur is also part of another podcast called “Heads Up! Missouri,” which features four other female Democratic lawmakers. Sens. Jill Schupp and Kiki Curls, and Reps. Deb Lavender, and Rep. Tracy McCreery discuss legislation and Capitol culture.

After catching an episode of The View, the thought came to Schupp to create something akin to the show, to promote ideas from women in politics.

Sen. Jill Schupp
Sen. Jill Schupp

“Even though we may be the majority of people in the state, we’re certainly the minority in the Legislature,” Schupp said. “We want to make sure our voices here are heard and even though most of us tend to be progressive in many of our views, we don’t always share the same perspective on a variety of issues.”

Their podcast has been running since session started, and has thus far featured guests like Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh to talk about project labor agreements and Sharon Jones of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys to discuss tort reform.

Sheela Lal, the research director for the liberal advocacy organization Progress Missouri, hosts her own podcasts and has donated her time and audio editing and recording skills to produce Heads Up! Missouri. She’s also an avid follower of podcasting culture and says the impetus of millenials, especially progressives and liberals, to become members of the podcasting community. Though it has yet to really take off at the state level.

“Podcasting really blew up a couple of years ago, and I think as more people have access to it, they want to do more political or niche work,” Lal said. “At the state level, I know Better Georgia [also part of the Progress Now network, like Progress Missouri] has a podcast and there are people in California doing this, but state level podcasts aren’t as popular because they’re drowned out by the national conversations.”

While the two podcasts seem to be at the forefront of a possible trend, Carpenter is optimistic Podgressive will become the next big thing, even more illustrious than The Missouri Times’ own #Moleg podcast.

“I can say unequivocally that this is going to be the best podcast in history,” Carpenter said.

“It will be huge,” he added with a certain president’s inflection.

Benjamin Peters contributed to this report.